This match had been billed as a battle of two heavyweights, but what we saw was two boxers cowering in their corners afraid of getting hurt. Chelsea came for a point and got it, thanks partly to Mourinho’s defensive tactics but also due to Wenger’s overly-cautious approach to the match. What should’ve been a hard earned draw for Chelsea was anything but as they were rarely threatened and enjoyed the better of what few goal chances there were in a dour encounter.
Starting Rosicky ahead of Cazorla showed the manager’s mindset as he went for the more aggressive, hardworking Czech ahead of the latter’s creative skills. Wenger’s mantra was ‘we must not lose tonight’ and this seemed to permeate into his player’s performances as we put on a sloppy, nervous display. Twice in the first half we played back passes straight out of play for corners and failed to hit the target until the 85th minute. Indeed, we only opened Chelsea up once in the whole match, 12 minutes from time, when the unusually poor Ramsey released Giroud only to see the off-form striker slice horribly wide with just Cech to beat.
I remarked last week that it would be interesting to see how we reacted to the Man City defeat. Unfortunately, “not very well” is the answer. There was no rhythm or tempo to our play on an intensely frustrating night. The home fans took it out on Mourinho, calling his side “boring, boring Chelsea” but Wenger wasn’t much better in truth. He didn’t try to win the game from the bench at all — so desperate was he not to lose — as he failed to make a single substitution to try and shake his troops from their lethargy. In a similarly impotent performance against Everton he made a triple substitution with 20 minutes to go which saw an improvement, but last night he wasn’t brave enough to even make even one.
I love you big guy, but for me you’re a great back up striker, not the main man
The ref didn’t help matters either. Mike Dean was determined not to make any big decisions and ignored anything controversial. He didn’t even book Mikel when the Nigerian should have seen red for his over the ball tackle on Arteta. Moments later, when Walcott was clearly fouled in the area, he dismissively waved it away. The last thing you need when playing an aggressive team intent on being physical is a weak referee, but Dean even let Ivanovic get away with raising his boot to Ozil’s face in a forceful challenge that was dangerous and deserving of a yellow card. We didn’t even get a free kick.
That being said, at least Chelsea’s aggression was borne of a desire to compete physically, whereas we didn’t seem to relish that side of the battle. We badly missed Flamini’s spikiness and tough tackling in my opinion — the rest of the team are too bloody ‘nice’. For example, when a Chelsea player went down injured with us in a good position, Ramsey kicked the ball out of play much to the annoyance of the Gooner faithful and even Giroud, who ran 20 yards to berate him. “DON’T BE SUCH A FUCKING PUSSY, RAMSEY!” I screamed at him. Would Chelsea have kicked it out if the boot was on the other foot? No bloody way. We need to grow a pair, get stuck in more and be streetwise if we’re going to compete with the bigger sides this season.
Speaking of which, everyone seemed to agree that Arsenal’s true colours would be shown by Christmas once they’d faced all the top teams. Well, the results are in. We’ve beaten Liverpool (h) and Spurs (h), drawn with Everton (h) and Chelsea (h) and lost to Man City (a) and Man Utd (a). A mixed bag, though four of the six were at home which means we have some tough away games in the second half of the season. All in all not the disaster many were predicting, but not really enough to make a convincing case for us winning the title either.
Mind you, none of the other contenders have stamped their authority over the rest either and just two points separate the top four. As I’ve said before, I can’t see us winning it, but I’ll happily take 3rd/4th place and a world class striker in the summer.
Merry Christmas and thanks for reading.
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