It was a cagey start as we kicked off that afternoon in Stamford Bridge.
You have two teams both playing the same formation, very strong in attack and light at the back intending to get at each others neck for 90 odd mins …what do you expect?
A classic school boy’s game indeed.
I have said before I am not a fan of the 3 man defense. I don’t think it’s a piece of cake and for a team to adopt it and implement it well would demand a very high level of structural discipline. But as 90 mins passed by yesterday, I felt for the first time in a long time, that there is a glimpse of discipline, at least defensively in this Arsenal side.
I do not want to jinx our performance and the reason I write this is majorly due to Wenger forcing my hand to ‘expect the least’ from Arsenal – a measure I have adopted with open arms, in order to protect myself from getting frustrated.
In my preview regarding the key factor(s) in this game, I had cited :
The key, however, will be to defend strongly when Chelsea attack – be it counter-attack or normally. Kante will be hungry to nick the ball of any of our midfielders to start countering so nullifying him will help us immensely. Ozil needs to step up and maybe draw Kante out of his natural position in order to allow Ramsey & co better passage. Xhaka needs to be more aware and another lackluster performance by him can actually see him benched in the future. Players need to maintain their shape, even if they lose the ball. The Barcelona pressing system is something which won’t work very well against Chelsea becuase they prefer to distribute the ball and attack in numbers, so it’s better if we preserve our energy till it’s needed and not run the risk of losing our basic formational structure.
(Wow, I just quoted myself)
Chelsea did not have any response on Sunday. Sure, they had one real chance in the first half with Cech blocking Pedro, but apart from that, we did tame the champions at their own backyard. Are there areas where we could improve?
Definitely, but the performance we displayed could have won us this game if Lacazette had converted his chance because overall, we were the better team – something we have not been against Chelsea for a while (at least at Stamford Bridge, the Wembley victories are debatable)
The back 3 kept their shape and the entire midfield helped out. Xhaka had his periods of clumsiness and making me want to kill myself but apart from that, this was actually the first time Arsenal had a successful complete defensive formation since their win against City in 2015.
In the second half, we should have led but Lacazette missed a sitter. He did not have a good derby, the french-man. We know he can finish and he has a very clean technique of hitting the ball but today his head was someplace else.
Luiz was sent off in the 87th min as the referee showed him a direct red. In my opinion, I feel that the card was fair because Luiz’s attempt to get the ball back was pathetic as he lunged with his studs exposed on Kolasinac’s calf. Yes, Kolasinac was not injured but you can’t wait for players to have their legs snapped in order to lay some foundations with respect to reckless tackling. I will confess, as much as I love Arsenal I have always hated their ineptness in dealing with the top 6 of England.
I will confess, as much as I love Arsenal I have always hated their ineptness in dealing with the top 6 of England.
Sunday has given me some hope and optimism.
We may have not won but fans won’t be too sad. In fact, most Arsenal fans (myself included) did not think we would even get a point today, but not only did we get a point but also we almost beat Chelsea (the true wonder of expecting the least).
Its performances like these, are what I have missed at Arsenal. Until yesterday, I had very little hope that Arsenal would be better defensively – that we would finally be playing as a TEAM against our rivals and have a well-disciplined approach towards the game. Credit to Wenger for communicating this to the players on Sunday. It was a good response to the Liverpool debacle, a very good response indeed.
Can they perform like this consistently over 38 games, is something I hope to see but there is no doubt about the possibility or the potential they can reach if they play according to a game-plan and maintain team discipline.
I think I’ve said enough, expect us to lose at Doncaster this week…