Monday, April 23, 2012

Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0

Under the normal circumstances, a draw against Chelsea wouldn't have been too bad, but Saturday's result was disappointing for a couple of reasons: (1) we should have been able to beat a weakened Chelsea side and (2) all three points would have cemented our position for a top-three finish.

Not just the result, but our performance was frustrating as well. Again, too many players were not at their best. Arsenal started the game in a cagey way. Passing was negative, going either backwards or sideways, and the pace was slow. After the defeat by Wigan, their aim seemed to have been not to concede an early goal rather than to score one. Apart from the last five minutes of the first half, we never found our rhythm. However, overall, we had better chances, hitting the woodwork twice and dominated the game with 56.7% possession. Unfortunately, both sides lacked quality in the final third on Saturday (I cannot believe I said this with RVP playing upfront) and it wasn't an exciting game.

We are surprised to hear that Wenger had expected an open game, based on his assumption that Chelsea wanted to win as much as Arsenal did. It was widely known that Roberto Di Matteo would be resting a few key players with the priority given to the Champions League and Drogba was reportedly injured (Surprise, surprise. He is now fit for Tuesday night's clash with Barcelona). It was obvious that Chelsea would park the bus in front of goal and look to attack on the break, just like they did and will do against Barcelona.

We were not happy with Wenger's decision to replace Rosicky at the time as he looked the only person that could offer a creative spark. However, after the match Wenger revealed that the Czech Republic national team captain woke up sick that morning and played through illness. Wenger had no choice but take him off as the midfielder conceded at one stage that he could not run any more.

Another talking point among the fans is once again the inclusion of Ramsey in the starting line-up. He was often caught in possession as he tended to dwell on the ball too long. Obviously he wasn't comfortable playing in Arteta's place.  However, we have to admit that he worked hard to track back and win the ball back. He played better later when he moved to a more advanced position after Diaby's introduction. Ramsey is so out of form. To keep playing him out of position does not seem to do him and his confidence any good at the moment. As soon as Diaby or Coquelin has regained their full fitness, they should take Arteta's place, with Ramsey used as a sub for Rosicky.

On the more positive note, our defenders, particularly Koscielny, played well. He is easily our Man of the Match. Keeping a clean sheet was one of few positive results coming out of this game.

The gap to the fourth-placed Newcastle has now diminished to only three points and we have played a game more, which means we have to keep an eye on other results, as well as winning all the remaining three games (Wenger reckons we need to win at least two). However, with Newcastle still to play against Manchester City, depending how the title race pans out after next week's Manchester derby, there is a strong chance of Newcastle dropping points. Also, Newcastle and Chelsea will have to play each other. Great news over the weekend was Tottenham's loss to QPR, which meant the gap to the north London rivals slightly extended to six points. In this context, a point taken from Saturday's Chelsea clash may look more like a point gained rather than two points dropped.

Our next game is against evil Stoke, whose sole mission is to stop their opposition playing football (What's the point of having Stoke in football?). We have failed to break down the stubborn opposition defence in three games (against QPR, Wigan and Chelsea) recently and haven't been at our best for the last two games, which is a worry. Wenger told his team to relax and play their football, but Stoke will do everything to stop us playing our football without doubt. Although the next game is unlikely to be an exciting one, we just have to get the result we want this time.

Player ratings

Szczezny: 7
With Chelsea registering only two shots on target and their finishes not clinical enough to threaten our goal, he had little to do, but he was pretty solid.

Sagna: 7

Koscielny: 8
Impressive performance. His tackle to deny Sturridge's shot was well timed and proved to be crucial.

Vermaelen: 7

Gibbs: 7
Worked hard, going forward and as well as coping with Chelsea's counter attacks.

Rosicky: 7
He was the only player that could offer some creativity. Replaced by Diaby due to illness in the 65th minute. Hope he can recover by the next game.

Ramsey: 5
This was his 100th game for Arsenal. Considering the fact that he spent 10 months on the sidelines and he is only 21 years old, it is impressive, indicating Arsene Wenger's faith in him. He scored 9 goals in 100 games (to put it another way, during the course of his 100 appearances for Arsenal, nine unfortunate celebs have died).

Song: 6
He battled hard and won the ball only to give it away. His defensive display was impressive, but his passing let him down.

Walcott: 5
Replaced in the 60th minute. Apparently, it was him who insisted to stay on after he sustained a hamstring injury. His season for Arsenal is almost certainly over. Losing a player at this stage of the season is always a blow without doubt, but not as big a blow as the loss of Arteta. He has been very inconsistent of late and we have the Ox, Gervinho and Benayoun (and Santos as seen in this game) as wingers.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 5
Made occasional runs, one of which led to a free-kick, but other than them, he was almost anonymous.

van Persie: 5
Hasn't scored from open play for 7 games. After scoring against Wolves for the first time in four games, he stated that the goal "drought" hadn't bothered him at all because he believed that goals would eventually come as he had had chances to score during those four games. Now it is a worry that he cannot score when he has chances. In this game, he had a few chances to score, which he would have buried a few weeks ago. With his chief assist provider, Walcott, now sidelined, RVP's goal scoring form is in serious doubt. Wayne Rooney has closed the gap on the top scorer table to just a goal after his double strikes this weekend. Hopefully, RVP will add more to his goal tally and end the season as the Premier League's top scorer.


Gervinho: 6
60th-minute substitute for Walcott. Made an impact when he came on. Some good link-up play with RVP.

Diaby: 5
Came on in the 67th minute for Rosicky. His display appeared to be somewhat rusty. He was booked and some of his passes were poor. Hopefully, he will step up his game over the next three games and fill the void Arteta left. 

Santos: 6
Made an impact, by making runs on the flank.


Mike Dean: 4
He brandished too many yellow cards. We should have been given a penalty for Cahill's push on RVP in the box.

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