Arsenal narrowly lost 1-0 to a thanks to a Diego Costa goal, in a game they largely dominated with ten men after a straight red card to captain Mertesacker for a professional foul on the aforementioned Spanish international.
We look at three major things we learnt from the events that played out in that game, and how they affect Arsenal’s chances at claiming the title this season.
1. Arsenal can hold their own with ten men
When Per Mertesacker made that lunging last man tackle on Diego Costa, dread must have washed through the Emirates crowd, when the expected red card was shown, it was confirmed, Arsenal had collapsed and it would be a whitewash at the Emirates.
The fans must have prepared their hearts for a heavy defeat when a few minutes later Diego Costa capitalized on poor defending to prod home. But it wasn’t to be, although the gunners did not succeed in taking any points from the game, but they were dominated the game, and were largely the better side, even with a man down. But for some profligacy, they might have taken a point or even all three with the way they played.
This Arsenal team showed a resilience that bodes well for the future, they are showing a vast improvement from the Arsenal of old that would completely collapse at the loss of one player. And improvement on performances like this would put them in pole position for the league title, to say the least.
2. Wenger is becoming a tactical cult hero
Wenger has begun to focus more on tactics towards the end of his career and the game against Chelsea was no different, when Mertesacker was sent off, Wenger removed the last person any average Arsenal fan would have thought of bring off for Gabriel. But a tactical viewer would very easily have seen why Giroud was sacrificed.
Giroud for all his good form is the slowest person in Arsenal’s attack, and can only play in one position. Removing any other person in the midfield would have meant a shift to 4-4-1, which would have allowed Chelsea the chance to dominate Arsenal’s midfield and subsequently the game entirely, but removing Giroud meant Arsenal kept their 4-2-3-0 shape, the midfield was balanced, they only lacked a striker, which wouldn’t have been much of a problem given that the two wingers Walcott and Campbell are both strikers also.
And the plan worked, if the players had done better, it would have been to perfection. Chelsea couldn’t dominate the game, and Arsenal ended up creating more chances than them.
3. Mertesacker should only be used against targetmen
Mertesacker’s pace has never been his strength, and with age its decreasing even further, his red card against Chelsea to an extent was not his fault, pace is natural and not acquired, so we can’t blame him for being slow, he thought he could use the advantage of his long legs to get the ball, and he would have, but Costa was faster and pushed it away from his reach while also deceiving the referee with a dive.
Gone are the days we didn’t have good options on the bench, now there is Gabriel Paulista. It’s time Mertesacker started playing only against physical sides, and not against strikers who can expose him with pace. I don’t see why Mertesacker should be risked against Barcelona’s attack, and if Paulista would be the one to play that day, he better start getting enough minutes in the Premier League against quick sides.
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