Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Blue flag turns to white for surrender

I can hardly speak this morning, the combination of a sore throat and a bit too much shouting last night has left me this silent way, still like many of you this morning, I cannot stop grinning, last night was by far our best home performance of the season and it was a statement of intent. The fact that we didn't expect to win made it all the more satisfying, ending a terrible losing run against Chelsea in terrific fashion.

A massive reason for our change in fortunes was Arsene's selection. I cannot overstate the importance of starting with Djourou at the back, also the inclusion of Walcott on the right flank changed the whole shape and balance of the team for the better. Song also stuck deep on the whole and this gave the back four a shield, added to this was the never ending scrapping that Wilshere did in the midfield, it is undoubtedly something that we have lacked at times.

We started the brighter, Van Persie had a great opening which let his match rustiness show, we had good shouts for a penalty ignored by the pouting Clattenberg, who seemed intent on giving us very little overall. Terry somehow escaped the book for a terribly cynical foul, only Clattenberg could explain how he let him get away with that. Then a rather key moment, Drogba picked up the ball after a misplaced pass in the midfield, he strode forward and hit a firm low fizzer, it nipped narrowly wide, maybe it is this kind of moment that has gone against us in recent games, last night it went our way and it was the first goal that made all the difference.

The midfield bustled, Song was back to his ox-like best, Wilshere grew as the game wore on, so did Cesc. Theo was rusty initially but he threatened more and more as the minutes past, there were some early hints of the damage that he would cause later, we had so much more balance with him running that groove on the right flank. Djourou was Drogba's keeper, he was aggressive, never delaying in his attempts to make the Ivorian's night an uncomfortable one, he was strong as well as being extremely perceptive with a couple of fantastic sliding interceptions when Chelsea threatened to break clear. I should also mention RVP who had by far his best game since his return from injury, he found space and linked up things neatly, as well as getting stuck in to anything that moved in a blue shirt.

The opening goal was crucial, Chelsea are suited to sitting back on a lead and the fact that this opener forced them to come our of their shell was key in the way in which they fell apart in the second half. Some neat passing in and around the Chelsea box saw Cesc tripped, probably a penalty, but Clattenberg played on, probably hoping that Song would miss, he did not, he slammed the ball into the bottom corner, have that Chelsea, have that JT, have that Ashley. At that moment I think we then believed we could do it, had we conceded first I am not sure we could have recovered.

Few of us expected Chelsea to crumble at the beginning of the second half, but this is precisely what they did. We have Chelsea no room to breath in the midfield and this is what catalysed the second half goals. The second goal saw Essien pressured into an error which released Theo in the inside right position, he was calm and clear headed, he took his time and sqaured the ball to Cesc for a simple tap in. The third saw Theo nip in to intercept, he played the ball to Cesc who returned it with interest, Theo's finish was top notch, he made it look far easier that it was, Cech had not a chance. Chelsea did get a goal back through an Ivanovic header from one of many incredibly soft free kicks gifted to them by the generous Clattenberg.

The goal we conceded was a bit disappointing on several fronts. Firstly I think it showed that Fabianski will never dominate his box as a Szczesny would, the ball travelled a long way and was met by Ivanovic only a few yards out, Fabianski could and probably should have done more. Secondly our defensive line dropped too deep and allowed Terry/Ivanovic to drift dangerously close to the goal, although Terry was offside and Ivanovic borderline offside, we should have held a more disciplined higher line to play them both offside.

Still after Chelsea's brief moment of hope, we held firm and never really looked like conceding a second, despite Clattenberg's continual donation of soft free kicks to Chelsea in our defensive final third. The attitude, work rate, ethic and commitment of all eleven players was there for all to see. Chelsea ran out of ideas and were reduced to hopeful punts in Drogba's general direction, players like Malouda, Kalou and Essien had been made anonymous by some excellent defensive performances, both individually and as a unit. Walcott's presence pushed Cole deep and massively reduced Chelsea's left sided threat. The better chances fell to us, Nasri missed with just Cech to beat, Diaby dallied when he should have struck early with his left foot, Rosicky hit the post when flagged 'offside' despite being onside.

A big big win for many many reasons. Firstly it gives us belief that we can beat the best and that we are good enough to do this. Secondly it shows the manager that we do need to play with our brains a little bit more, we played sensibly yesterday, we didn't allow Chelsea the opportunity to kill us repeatedly on the counter, in fact we did that to them; sometimes one must not throw the kitchen sink at the opposition, one has to be a bit cagey, one has to be patient to get that pivotal first goal. Thirdly the work ethic of the team and the way in which we gave Chelsea no time to settle on the ball was key, Wilshere and Song were instrumental in this. Fourthly it should not be understated how key Theo Walcott was in all this, his pace and hugging of the right flank gave us a shape and threat that we often lack, his presence pushed Chelsea onto the back foot from the off. Great win, I don't care if I can barely whisper a word this morning, it means so much to beat Chelsea, we must not forget that it wall all mean nothing if we cannot build on this and pick up some more points on our travels before City visit us in just over a week's time. Come on you Gunners!

7 comments:

Rokabox said...

Great victory, I guess the key was pairing Dijuru with one of the other French centre backs and of course axing Arshavin. Plus cliche had a good game and arsenal took their chances v.well

chandler said...

Great Win. Arsenal sends another manager packing. One point I have heard alot about Djourou and he was awsome but for me Koscielny was everywhere stopping most everything. On the goal he lost his marker but as the blog mentioned maybe the goalie could have got it maybe that chelsea russian guy was offsides. Koscielny was immense.

1979gooner said...

agreed. Koscielny had a decent game too. Arshavin needs to up it doesn't he? Not consistent enough of late.

Uncle Mike said...

Home computer not working, cable company didn’t carry the game, and a blizzard nasty enough to make Boris Johnson tremble in fear meant that a state of emergency was declared here, so I couldn’t go out and watch it somewhere showing it.

But when I saw the result on my phone’s Internet connection, my smile was bigger than any snowplow. We finally beat the Chavs!

Scoring first. I thought that would be critical the first time around against Chelsea, and against Man U, and we didn’t do it either time and lost. I thought it would be equally critical this time, and it was, and we got it, and hopefully that gets into the Chavs’ rocky heads.

1979gooner said...

Mike,

saw the snow on the news! that looked like proper snow!

Rhinogooner said...

I'm certainly encouraged by the performance.

Chelsea were there for the taking...and we ruthlessly put them to the sword. That's an improvement.

For me, the key to the result was our work rate. We pressed Chelsea when we didn't have possession. And that nullified their threat while allowing us to recover possession in dangerous areas.

It's the way we should always play. The way this team has the ability to play. But for some reason seems too lazy to play. Or overconfident.

There is no doubt in my mind, we are talented enough to win the title. But do we have enough desire and mental strength?

That's the piece of the puzzle we've not displayed often enough.

The players can't pull out the pipe and slippers now just because they were able to overcome a top team. They have to use this as a spring board to build on for the rest of the season.

Drew said...

A tremendous win on Monday. I couldn't be happier with the performance. Theo was absolutely the right choice, even if he was just there to keep Cole in his half. Huge credit to Wilshere for going into challenges with Drogba, Mikel, and Essien.
It's more than a little harsh on Fabianski to say he could have gotten to the free kick. Yes the ball traveled a long way, but the trajectory was flat and the ball was hit with speed. Not even the saintly younger Pole would have gotten that one.