Arsenal’s lunch time visit to Stamford bridge has arguably been their worst performance this season. Coming on the back of what many (including me) believed to be a 1-0 derby win borne out of resolve and dogged defending over Spurs, this game turned out to be the direct opposite.
In the game at Spurs, Arsenal, despite having the better midfield (technically speaking) could not control the midfied and were constantly overrun by Spurs’ midfield. Hence, we resorted to playing on the counter and with the benefit of hindsight, I realize we won’t have needed to defend that much against Spurs if our midfielders had been effective in their creative assignments.
Today’s game however, the story’s different. Wenger’s only mistake was in selecting Santi Cazorla instead of Mattieu Flamini. In all of the last 4 games that Santi played against the Blues, he’s never really gotten out of the blocks, not to talk of influencing the game and today was no different. Constantly bullied, harried and harassed by David Luis, Matic and Ivanovic, I’m of the opinion that Wenger should have seen this coming.
That aside, you must begin to ask the players questions in order to explain this shambolic performance and the first on the guillotine is Giroud.
Samuel Eto’o only ever had one chance in the game and he punished Arsenal at the first time of asking. I’ve distanced myself from those who constantly deride our French model-cum-striker but Olivier has got to take chances like the one he had in the first minute of today’s game if he really wants to be taken seriously. You wonder if he had put the ball in the back of the net, then the result would have been different.
Then there’s Gibbs and Podolski; both on the pitch for less than an hour, I wonder where they were for the first and second Chelsea goals. The combination of both players were so good down the left for Arsenal defensively and offensively last season but their shifts today, though short were nothing short of disastrous.
Next up, Santiago Cazorla. The Spaniard, know for his awesome ambidextrous ability was caught in possession too many times today. Like I said earlier, he probably shouldn’t have started the game but since the boss put faith in him, he disappointed the fans and was robbed by Matic in the buildup to the second goal.
Mikel Arteta has been hailed as the picture of composure in the Arsenal midfield and indeed as the leader in Arsenal’s locker room but today, the Arsenal vice-captain didn’t lead. Himself caught dallying on the ball one too many times, I feel he could have done more to prevent the fourth Chelsea goal and overall coerce the Arsenal midfield into action.
Also in the mix is Laurent Koscielny, the second half of Arsenal’s “solid” defensive partnership this season. If I could talk to Koscielny right now, there’s only one question I’d ask him, and it’s this: “What were you staring at that made you allow Schurrle to take that shot?”
I think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain succeeded in trashing all the good work he’s done for Arsenal and for himself over the past two months in just one afternoon. Handling the ball from a shot that wasn’t even goal bound, giving up a penalty when we were 2 goals down, getting the team reduced to 10 men and playing some awful passes as he struggled to makeup for his mistakes. I’m sure Hodgson must be rethinking the young man’s possible inclusion on the plane to Brazil.
For the rest of the team, save for maybe Tomas Rosicky, nobody showed any kind of determination of signs of wanting to win and there’s no way you can blame Wenger for that. A determined squad would have wanted to win this game (Wenger’s 1000th game in charge) for the man who’s given them all the chance to play at this level but they all let him down.