Sunday was a depressing day all round and there is no escaping it. However, we are not out of it yet and if Chelsea can play at that same tempo against ManUre, then I reckon they will drop some points. However, our biggest problem is that our form is now terrible - 4 points from 5 games is desperately bad. Unless we get 3 points at Bolton then we are out of it for sure.
Watching the Chelsea game on TV, the strongest impression I got was that we simply can't deal with Chelsea's physical game, and Drogba in particular. I don't know if he raises his game against us, as this is not the first time, but Drogba's scoring record against us is pretty impressive. Not to mention the countless headers and knock-downs that he creates that led to chances for Lampard and Ballack. He is by no means a silky Arsenal-style player, and I wouldn't want him at Arsenal, but I had to admire the fact that he almost completely dominated Toure and Gallas with his physical presence. When Anelka was introduced as an added distraction, our defence was simply all over the place. Drogba also smashes the ball towards goal when he gets a chance. Our boys politely tap it at the keeper most of the time.
A lot of the post match press has focused on Gallas' captaincy and its the usual Daily Mail led crap. But for me, the weak link at the back on Sunday was the mighty Kolo Toure. Now lets be straight - King Kolo is a legend and I love him to bits, but he struggles a bit against a big powerful centre forward who gets a lot of ball in the air. On the ground, Kolo's pace and technique mean he is a match for almost anyone, but in the air its a different matter. His missed chance from a corner in the first half is also perhaps telling - 6 yards out with the keeper to beat, Kolo's header was half hearted rather than thunderous.
Is Big Phil up to the job instead? Well maybe. On the positive side, I firmly believe that Phil and Gallas is our strongest pairing at centre back. On the negative side, Phil's form against Drogba is also pretty poor (Carling Cup final last year springs to mind). However, Phil is probably the only centre back we have who would have relished the challenge of splitting skulls with Drogba for every header. Instead, Drogba was virtually unopposed for most of the second half on Sunday.
Its been commented in previous seasons that Arsene's substitutions can be suspect. For me Sunday was a return to that past - with Sagna injured I didn't see the logic of bringing on Diaby. Instead, had Big Phil been installed alongside Gallas, Kolo could have switched to right back. That would have been a pretty powerful back line that may just have weathered the storm. Moving Eboue to right back just made us defensively weaker. I suppose that Arsene was gambling on winning the game, but that's hindsight for you.
Lastly, and I don't have a solution yet, our midfield remains lightweight. They are so much better at the physical stuff this year, but the four who started on Sunday - Cesc, Flam, Hleb and Eboue - weighed about 5 stone between them compared to the muscle of Lampard, Ballack and Essien. Lampard alone weighs more than our entire midfield. Even Joe Cole looked strong and stocky compared to our lads. Plus Makele maybe small, but he is nails defensively. When we were 1-0 up we simply didn't have the strength to defend deep against that power. The inclusion of Rosicky (assuming he ever leaves his sick-bed) does not solve the problem at all, so its hard to say who should be left out, or who should be brought in. The obvious candidate is Gilberto, but his season has been poor. He is also not a long term solution.
I am not saying for one minute that Arsene needs to change his philosophy and bring in some thugs, but on the day it was Chelsea's brawn that won them 3 points, not their technique, and that's been a long standing problem for us.
I just hope that Bolton don't do the same to us. Otherwise its rain-coat and bitterness time......