Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chelsea 3 Arsenal 5

What an amazing game of football it was. With the tempo, intensity and openness of the match, and quality and commitment of the players on  both sides, the game was highly entertaining and compelling to watch. It was a good day for football fans all around the world. On top of that, we had all three points to take home.

Who would have predicted the scoreline? My hopeful prediction was 2-1 to Arsenal, but if you asked me, I would have taken a draw. Scoring five goals, including RVP's hat-trick, against currently third-positioned Chelsea and winning by two goal margin to improve our goal difference was the icing on the cake. OK, we are still 12 points behind Man City, but we are definitely in the mix for the top four finish now.

The frailty of the defence was not a problem particular to this season, but it has been a cause for concern this season that Arsenal have often lacked fluency in their attack, which forms the key part of the Arsenal brand. Arsene Wenger said that the free-flowing football would come back once confidence was back and he was right once again. Arsenal were their old selves again.

Arsenal midfield, Arteta-Ramsey-Song, seemed to have finally found the right attack/defence balance and understanding. In our previous post, we wrote that the current system of playing Arteta alongside another attack-minded midfielder did not get the best out of Arteta, but it certainly gets the best out of the other attacking midfielers as Rosicky and Ramsey have shone in their respective last two matches.

Another thing we have been talking about in this blog is "man at post". Since we brought up this issue, three players were seen to rush to take their position on the line on one occasion when a free-kick was going to be taken, so we thought Arsenal have finally decided to place players at post. However, Chelsea's second goal could have been easily avoided if there had been a player at the near post, even though Mertesacker failed to get in front of Terry. It seems that only Arteta has been aware of this issue, but Arsene Wenger and his team should address it because it could improve their set-piece defence significantly. Even Arteta was behind the line and if he had stopped the ball it would still have been a goal.

When you compare the two sides in each department, Arsenal's superiority was obvious up front and in the midfield: especially RVP vs Torres and their strike partners. However, the victory over the strong Chelsea side was brought by an excellent team performance rather than individual brilliance. Arsenal came from behind twice and even after conceding the late equaliser, they put themselves together and kept going. Has Arsenal's newly rebuilt team finally gelled together? We like to think so.

It is difficult not choose RVP as the Man of the Match for the obvious reasons, but we would like to choose Gervinho instead because his work rate was phenomenal. This is another evidence that Arsenal are now defending as a unit.

The following are our player ratings:

Szczeny: 7
Some good saves and stops, including the brilliant save of Lampard's free-kick. However, rushing out of the box to foul on Ashley Cole was a huge mistake, which could have cost us three points. Incidentally, he tweeted after the match that he didn't know why he had stayed on the pitch. He shouldn't have done that, when all the fans were defending him by saying that the referee's decision for the yellow card rather than red was a correct one.

Djourou: 7
He made a few mistakes in holding the defensive line, but other than that, he played OK, with some good passing and going forward.

Mertersacker: 6
Some good match-saving tackles and clearances, but he was guilty of Chelsea's second goal.

Koscielny: 8
He didn't put a foot wrong all through the game, while he gave a solid support for Santos, which enabled the Brazilian left-back to go forward more freely in the second half.

Santos: 7
He struggled to contain runs from Bosingwa and Mata on that side and looked vulnerable in the first half, but he not only coped with them very well in the second half, but also scored a good goal with composure and accuracy. Since he joined Arsenal two months ago, he has scored two goals to date, which equals Clichy's total goal tally in his entire Arsenal career. With Gibbs and Santos in the squad, we hardly miss Clichy.

Ramsey: 8
The signs of his confidence coming back were already in display in the game against Stoke. In the last couple of games, he has made fewer sideways passes than before and more creative, defence-spliting passes. His pass to Gervinho, which eventually led to Arsenal's first equaliser, was inch perfect. He also had a few chances to score himself.

Arteta: 7
He played the role he was given very well.

Song: 8
As usual, he made some crucial tackles and provided vital supports to the back-four. The turn he made prior to his pass that set up RVP's third goal was an example of his skills.

Walcott: 8
He tormented Ashley Cole all afternoon with his pace. His goal was superb from getting up quickly and beating four Chelsea players with quick feet to the powerful and precise finish. Who said Walcott hasn't got trickery required for a winger nor clinical finish for a central striker? (

Gervinho: 9
He was perfectly aware where RVP was when he received the ball from Ramsey and passed to RVP selflessly. As seen in the Stoke game, his strike partnership with RVP seemed to have began establishing. He also worked hard defensively. Going forward and tracking back, on the left wing and right flank, he was all over the pitch. Gervinho has been learning in every game and improvements are now apparent.

Van Persie: 9
Having an in-form striker was a big difference between the two sides. RVP continued his great run of the form, with three exquisite goals. The captain led his team to get over the disappointment of conceding goals and come back strongly.


Jenkinson: 6
Came on at 76th minute for Djourou, who seemed to have been injured as he was seen with an ice pack in his hand after the match.

Rosicky: 7
Came on at 79th minute for Walcott. He was lively going forward.

Vermaelen: N/A
He was brought on as an 88th-minute substitution for Gervinho in order to prop up the defence and probably have a little runout (and show he was not actually injured).

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