PL: Match Report – Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal – He Who Shall Not Be Named.
Trust me when I tell you, it will have been a lot more painful for me to have written this match report, than it will be for you to read it. And on that basis, you owe it to me to see this blog through till the end. You and me, together.
After the match, I spent a few minutes on twitter. To be honest, I thought the tweeps on my timeline were fairly measured. Sure, there were some over-reactions. But all things considered, they weren’t too over-reactiony, to be fair.
Then I made the mistake of checking back in later that day. Holy shit. The Night Of The Long Knives was on. Brother against brother, Gunner against Gunner. People calling each other stuff. Accusations flying.
Enough pre-amble. Let us rip the plaster off this hairy leg. Let the match report begin…
This was to be a match-up of uncomfortable pairings for Arsenal.
Wenger vs Mourinho tactically.Wenger vs Mourinho mano a mano. Cesc vs Ozil. Matic vs Flamini. Hazard/Costa vs Arsenal’s defense.
Of all of those, perhaps Flamini fared the best. I take that back. Arsene manhandled Mourinho on the sideline. That was most excellent.
The first twenty minutes of the match were cagey enough. Jabbing back and forth, but no really solid punches landed. Cause for optimism, though, for an Arsenal that had conceded multiple goals by the same point in last year’s fixture. The initial period’s most notably moment was when Alexis’s thigh collided with Courtois’s head. As the keeper fell to the ground his arms flopped down limp. To then hear commentators debating whether he might be a little concussed, and to have the Chelsea medical staff delay long enough for the player to regain full consciousness tells you that it is farcical nonsense that anything has changed on this topic. After playing on for another 14 minutes, the player himself had to request to come off, replaced by Cech, a goalkeeper wearing a permanent helmet. It shouldn’t take a continuing concussion for a player to get off the field. This needs to change.
Arsenal were playing 4-1-4-1, Flamini holding, Jack and Santi in front of him. Ozil and Sanchez starting from the wings. It was combined with a high line at the back, Per and Koz pushing up high and compressing the midfield of Fabregas, Oscar and Matic.
It was working in the sense that we were very much holding our own, arguably looking the stronger, except in the final third. But around 20 minutes, things were about to kick off. Cahill lunged in, studs up, with an ankle breaker on Alexis, but came away with only a yellow. With Mourinho and Wenger having a ring-side seat of the dirty foul, it wasn’t long before those 2 were squaring up to each other, and Wenger went physical. I wasn’t alone in shouting out “Eye-gouge the bastard.” As it was , Arsene gave him a pretty good shove, and it was clear there would only be 1 winner. Mourinho backed off and hid behind the referee’s assistant.
But the temperature in the game was rising. On 21’, Chambers got his customary yellow out of the way, after fouling a Hazard who was getting ominously lively. And so, on 26’ when Hazard came slaloming towards our box after swatting Santi aside, Chambers had to hold back on the challenge on the edge of the box, allowing Hazard to bear down on Koscielny, but his wizardry took him past the stretched centerback, and his dragging leg guaranteed the penalty he sought.
In a tight and even contest, this match would come down to a few moments. This moment of brilliant skill gave Hazard his penalty which he tucked away arrogantly. And Koscielny received a yellow for a last man tackle. On another day…
Strangely, we were still very much in the contest. It was a game of a few key moments, and Arsenal was about to have theirs. On 29’, Wilshere bursts through into the box but his touch off his wrong foot is desperately heavy and the space is gobbled up by Cech advancing. In a game of a few moments, this would have made it 1-1. And this game would be decided by a few big players taking those few chances.
This chance came through clever play through the middle. IT would have to, because we provided no width. Chambers had his hands full with alternating offensives from Hazard and Costa. Sanchez wasn’t in position to get in behind. Which left a largely isolated Welbeck…isolated.
Why Chamberlain wasn’t on the pitch, ordered to channel Theo’s ghost, and get in behind Chelsea’s back 4, well, smarter minds than mine will have to explain.
And in Ozil’s defense, apart from playing out of his natural position, once more you can legitimately say he had nothing and no one ahead of him, for most of the match. HE NEEDS RUNNERS. Let me repeat, HE NEEDS RUNNERS.
Let’s fast forward through the various incidents. It was give and take before and after halftime. On 54’ Szczesny has his Cruyff-turn moment of the game which as always he survives, and all is forgiven on 57’ when another moment of Hazard wizardry results in a low cross into our box which comes off Flamini’s shin and straight inside the near post with no time for Szczesny to react, and yet, he did. Amazingly he adjusted his hand to deflect it out. Or more correctly, his wrist.
And so it went with each team having a 5 or 10 minute spell where they had the upper hand but no end product. But Arsenal lacked a difference-maker on the day. Wilshere had 3 or 4 poor moments in the first half. His second half was better. Ozil was anonymous (I look forward to his highlight reel as always.) Sanchez was frustrated and frustrating.
As for Chelsea, their difference-makers: Hazard is the player Arsene said he most regretted missing out on in recent years; Fabregas is a player we turned down because we didn’t need him; and Costa is a loathesome shit who is good at football.
Perhaps a late surge after some clever substitutions would sway the result back towards the Gunners? On 69’, Ox finally gets on the field in place of a disgruntled Santi. Ox would do well in his 25 minutes, but it would not move the needle for us. The more fateful substitution would be made by the Forces Of Evil. And it would be an intervention by Mikel on 77’ that would turn over the ball to Fabregas, and that which we had feared since the summer transfer window transpired before our eyes. Cesc, having already raised his periscope before receiving the ball, banged a 40 yarder over the top, where Costa burst through our high line, and masterfully chested the ball ahead to run onto it and chip our keeper. Szczesny got caught betwixt and between. Neither sweeper nor keeper.
Understandably, they could not bring themselves to mention He Who Shall Not Be Named. He Whom We Didn’t Need.
It would appear that Darth Vadar skillfully brought on Obi Mikel whereas our Princess Leia’s substitutions appeared to make little sense.
With Harrison Ford currently out with a hamstring injury and Chubakka sold to Barcelona and now playing for West Ham, leaving only Luke Skywalker with his dodgy ankles running around our midfield, it would appear that the Force is not strong with us.
To be fair to Arsenal, it was a far improved performance, and the difference between the teams at Stamford Bridge was just a few moments, all of them for Chelsea. Had we not squandered so many points coming into this match, we could simply vow revenge at the Emirates. But that may be too little, too late.
To be fair to Chelsea, the match went exactly as they had architected it. They have our number. Mourinho has stated in the past, he’s happy for a team like us to have the ball and look good, since the team in possession is the one most likely to make a mistake. And both their goals came on the counter from turnovers (by Alexis.)
Taking a step back, we’ve got Chelsea Away out of the way, as well as games against Everton, City and Spurs. We will get another crack at Chelsea in April. Maybe, we will be better then.
The season is yet young and as is our Sisyphan trial, we must return to roll the rock up the table, only for it to roll back down to 4th.
Still, as Prometheus used to say as he looked over at Sisyphus, “You lucky bastard! At least you aren’t chained to a rock each day while an eagle pecks out your liver only to have it grow back every night.” (That would be Spurs.)