Thursday, October 31, 2013

Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2 (4th Round of Capital One Cup)

The media was very quick to jump to conclusions that Arsenal cannot beat big teams as they couldn't wait for the opportunity. All the negatives were inflated out of proportion, while the positives are hardly talked about.

At Arsenal Playa Flamenca Supporters Club, we are obviously disappointed with the result. Losses always take something from your heart and when it's against Chelsea, it hurts. However, everybody knows that the Capital One Cup has always been Arsenal's lowest priority and we have more important three games coming up in the next 12 days. Some of the members argued that the substitutions were too late, while others thought Giroud and Özil could have been left on the bench to keep them fresh against Liverpool and free from injury. One thing we all agreed was that we needed rotation. We knew that Chelsea have an advantage over us in terms of depth in the squad and it was proved.
 Both sides saw a number of changes in their starting line-ups from the weekend. For Arsenal, only Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, and Laurant Koscielny kept their places. In fact, we expected more extensive deployment of youngsters as Wenger spoke about Serge Gnabry, Isaac Haydon, Gedion Zelalem and Thomas Eisfeld in his pre-match conference. Ryo Miyaichi started on the right wing, while Nicklas Bendtner took the lone-striker position. Serge Gnabry failed to pass fitness tests through a knee problem, while Zelalem and Eisfeld were ruled out due to the lack of match-fitness and a back injury, respectively.

Emmanuel Frimpong found himself in trouble before the match after posting an alleged racism claim on the Twitter. After the match, Wenger explained that the Ghanaian said his tweet was a joke. Frimpong was mysteriously ruled out of the squad the day before the match due to the shortage of "competition" (how can a player gain match-fitness without being given playing time?). In his post-match conference, Wenger also played down Frimpong's exclusion from the squad, by stating that Frimpong was in fact listed as a 19th player for this game, but when he was called up in the morning, he was sick. U-21 players, Haydon and Yenarris, were left on the bench.

What we have learned from the game. (1) We desperately need a quality striker. Bendtner's performance was woeful. He could not hold up the ball. His off-the-ball moves were very poor. His movement was so slow. In fact, Arsenal looked most dangerous in the first half when Ryo played through the middle (although the Japanese international's finishing left much to be desired). The Dane had a mere 28 touches in 67 minutes, while Olivier Giroud made 14 touches in his 23 minutes-plus-stoppage time appearance.

(2) The Ramsey-Wilshere central midfield partnership does not provide the right balance of defence and attack. The combination limits the both players' attacking capability. But we didn't have any option in this game because of Flamini's injury and Arteta's suspension. Haydon was out of his depth against West Brom in the holding midfielder role, while we are not sure that Yenarris would have coped with Chelsea's attack. Fortunately, this conundrum should be solved before the next game when Arteta is available again. Flamini's return from his groin injury cannot come soon enough for us.

(3) We have a selection headache for the left-back position. Nacho Monreal's discontent has been well documented, having had to spend most of time on the bench due to Kieran Gibbs' current form. Our preferred left-back has been the Englishman, but the Spaniard presents very strong competition after his commendable performance this night.

(4) On the other hand, Carl Jenkinson is not totally reliable as Bacary Sagna's deputy yet. His positioning was questionable again in this game after the previous round of Capital One Cup. He can be easily dragged into the centre. Poor Ramsey had to cover him so often. Jenkinson was regarded as a sole culprit for the first goal, but we think that Fabianski and Wilshere might have also had a hand in it. Confusion among the three was to blame, but very few deny that Jenkinson had a terrible game. Crossing has been regarded as one of his strengths over Sagna, but it was also all over the place this night.

(5) Theo Walcott's pace has been sorely missed. Against a well-organised defensive-minded team, we need Theo's pace to get behind the defence line.

(6) There was not as much as the media want to talk up between the two sides. On the contrary to the SkySports match report, Arsenal had livened up themselves after conceding the first goal. We applied pressure on Chelsea defence in the beginning of the second half and Özil and Giroud's introductions sparked Arsenal's revival. The stats indicate Arsenal's slight dominance in overall possession of 53% with a slightly better passing success rate of 86% against Chelsea's 84%. Chelsea had 14 shots on target, of which 3 were on target, while Arsenal registered 12 shots with 1 on target. It was a tight game as Wenger described it. It could have gone either way but the result was decided by tiny details as usual. We were punished by the lapse of concentration and we didn't have a moment of individual brilliance that matched Mata's sublime shot.

(7) Koscielny and Vermaelen can play together. These two are so similar (similarly too adventurous) that the fans have not been so keen on the paring so far. However, this game proved that the partnership between these two is a feasible option.

Some say that the exit from the Capital One Cup competition is a blessing in disguise. It's true that an opportunity to win one of the silverware this season has gone, but at least the exit means that we have no mid-week fixtures in the last two weeks of a busy January (and a week in December). Also, we have Theo, Poldi, and the Ox to come back, which should add our depth in the squad soon.

Oh, and how hypocritical Mourinho is. He criticises the opponents' time-wasting in one game, but it is OK for his three players to simultaneously start having cramps and lie down on the ground.

It is more important than the result of this game that Arsenal will show a great response against Liverpool on Saturday evening. Hopefully, our first XI will do just that.

Player Rating

Fabianski: 6
Could do nothing to stop Mata's goal. Apart from the two goals, he only made a comfortable catch. 

Jenkinson: 5
Very poor game.

Koscielny: 7
Made 4 interceptions especially high up on the pitch and darted forward.

Vermaelen: 7
Made 8 clearances and 1 last-man tackle. Solid.

Monreal: 7
Created a good goal-scoring chance from his own interception. Defensively solid as well.

Ramsey: 6
Made 4 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 3 shots off target. Not at his best. We thought he would be given a breather for this game. Taken off in the 82nd minute.

Wilshere: 6
Made a couple of good runs. 

Rosicky: 7
Was at the heart of Arsenal attack, and had a generally good game

Cazorla: 7
Completed his first 90 minutes since his return from injury. 

Miyaichi: 5
Had a glorious chance to score in one-on-one situation with the keep after getting behind the Chelsea defence, but failed to convert it. Made some good runs on the right wing, showing his pace in the first half when Arsenal played long balls. In the second half, he was often muscled out by Chelsea defenders and was replaced by Özil in the 64th minteu. 

Bendtner: 5
Little quality, no commitment. 


Özil: 6
Replaced Ryo in the 64th minute. Showed his class in flashes. 

Giroud: 7
Made a difference immediately after coming on the pitch in the 69th minute, drawing the first save of the match out of Schwarzer.

Park: 5
82nd-minute substitute for Ramsey. Made 8 passes and 10 touches with a 100% passing success rate. No notable contribution.

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