The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “For Arsenal the future has been postponed once again. This defeat was all too familiar. It was reminiscent, for instance, of the 3-1 beating here by Manchester United in the second leg of last season’s Champions League semi-final. There was a pointed resemblance, as well, to the 4-1 drubbing when Chelsea themselves last came to the Emirates in May.”
Daily Telegraph, Jason Burt: “Arsenal’s title hopes took a significant, possibly fatal blow as they were brushed aside by the power and threat of Chelsea which was epitomised by a frightening performance by Didier Drogba.”
The Times, Oliver Kay: “There are wins, there are conquests and then, perhaps once or twice over the course of a title-winning season, there are resounding statements that indicate that a team bear the hallmark of champions.”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “Sitting on the bench at the end of the game, having wreaked havoc on Arsenal, Didier Drogba spent the last five minutes signing autographs for the home fans. And if you think that was humiliating for Arsenal, it was nothing compared to the game itself.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “On a soggy afternoon in north London, Chelsea surrendered plenty of the ball to the home side but when it came high into our box or the shots were unleashed, Terry and Carvalho were a towering presence in recording a fifth straight league clean sheet.”
Going into the game I was fairly confident this Chelsea team had the beating of Arsenal. I just had one of those feelings; we were playing too well, Arsenal are missing a few players through injury, and barring any cock-ups I saw a 2-0 or 2-1 result for us. I woke up looking forward to the game, in fact I’ve been looking forward to it all week, especially as our next few games are against weaker opposition. Arsenal haven’t lost in the league at home since the Chelsea game in May so I thought today’s game should be a good barometer as to where we are in terms of a championship winning team.
Over the past few seasons we have been able to out-muscle Arsenal, and looking at the team sheet I think I could see Ancelotti had decided to play to that strength: Ballack and Deco had made way for the faster and younger pair of Mikel and Joe Cole. Lampard also made a welcome return, but apart from that the team was as expected, with Ivanovic keeping his place while Bosingwa is injured. Personally I think he has done enough to keep that spot even when Bosingwa is fit again, and looks strong defensively and going forward in the games he has played at right-back this season.
As the game kicked off Arsenal dominated the opening spell, keeping Chelsea pinned deep in their own half. Arsenal had two or three darts down the left where Arshavin was having some joy against Branners, and Terry and Carvalho had to combine to keep Eduardo from going through against Cech. Chelsea had a couple of chances as well, with Drogba wrongly called offside and Anelka getting a bit of a tug in the Arsenal box from Sagna which looked like a penalty. It was pissing it down though, so it may have been a bit of a slip from Anelka. No-one really appealed much.
After half an hour Chelsea had absorbed most of Arsenal’s attacks, but Fabregas had controlled much of the game up until now and Chelsea’s best route so far looked like a ball over the top or down the wings. We started to play our way into the game, with Essien and Lampard taking the ball from the back and trying to bring people into the match, but it was difficult as Arsenal kept a high line and Chelsea’s back four were quite deep, meaning our space to play was in our own half. As Terry pushed up field trying to pick a pass he released Ashley Cole with a perfectly weighted through ball for Cole to square into the box. Drogba was in between two Arsenal players on the edge of the six yard box as it came in and he side footed on the volley, fading the ball into the top corner of Almunia’s goal.
“Come on Chelsea! Get in! Fuck you Arsenal!”
For some reason I have begun the habit of shouting loudly at the TV when Chelsea score in a tight game, and I was at top volume today. Ashley Cole must have felt like yelling similar sentiments at the Arsenal fans who’d been booing him all game. It’s hard to believe he thought he wasn’t appreciated at Arsenal, isn’t it?
The goal had come after Chelsea had just started to get the better of Arsenal, and straight from the restart we made sure to keep concentration and soon got a second. It was very similar to the first, but this time with Vermaalen providing the finish instead of Drogba from Cole’s cross, and again the ball went straight into the same top corner. It was slightly unfortunate for Arsenal, but in truth Chelsea’s directness was proving more effective than Arsenal’s passing. For all the territory Arsenal enjoyed they hadn’t asked enough questions and Cech only had one save to make all half.
At the beginning of the second half Arsenal predictably came out and tried to nick an early goal. After a bit of a goal mouth scramble where Chelsea defenders got in four or five last ditch tackles the ball bobbed up for Cech to catch, Eduardo fouled him and Arsenal had a goal disallowed. After this early flurry Chelsea played good controlling football, imposing their game on Arsenal. Arshavin was one of many Arsenal players starting to get frustrated and tried to bully Cech as the keeper was kicking out of hand. Silly gestures like this just seemed to reinforce Chelsea’s will to win and in reply to Arshavin Drogba made sure he collected the clearance when it eventually came from Cech, laid it off to Anelka, collected it again and smashed a shot which had Almunia scrambling after a deflection off Lampard. Two thirds of the game had gone and Chelsea were coasting.
Arsenal brought on Walcott and Vela to try to inject some pace; Eduardo who was replaced had a pretty mediocre game. Ancelotti did his normal sub at the seventy minute mark, this time Deco on for Joe Cole. I don’t really see what Deco adds to the team a lot of the time he comes on, and this time his contribution was to slow down a counter attack until Arsenal got back before giving the ball away. I definitely prefer a more physical, direct game that is the English style to the slower, continental build up Deco is so good at. I guess the point of a player at the top of the diamond is that he can afford to be a bit more profligate with the ball, and with the other three exerting physical dominance over this Arsenal side we kept winning the ball back in midfield. The commentary summed it up: “Are Chelsea the best team you have seen in the Premier League this season Robbie?”
“They’re certainly the strongest.”
With about ten minutes left the cameras showed the first Arsenal fans leaving – I couldn’t see the away fans but I could hear them asking Gallas what the score was. This was followed up by an equally loud rendition of “You are shit, You are shit, You are shit, You are shit” aimed at the Arsenal team (I usually watch the games on Sopcast and I always enjoy hearing the colourful chanting they usually edit out on Sky). The taunting seemed to act as a catalyst for Fabregas’ frustration and he brought down Essien who was in the act of marauding through the Arsenal team (not for the first time in the game). Drogba placed the resulting free kick past Almunia and the victory was sown up.
Chelsea were great, containing Arsenal, dominating the game and making the Gunners look poor. We played with quite a deep back four, which I guess isn’t unusual away, but it prevented Arsenal having any space to play their passing game except in front of us, and with them playing in our half we scored the first two goals because Ashley Cole had space to run into. Our defence was magnificent as well which it hasn’t always been this season, all the back four look solid. The defence relies on great concentration and positioning from the ‘diamond’ in front of them, and I noticed on two occasions when Arsenal had kicked off following a goal that within twenty seconds we’d won the ball back and gained a foul, allowing us to control the pace of the game and regain the initiative.
- Cech – 7/10 – Dealt with a few crosses comfortably, punching or catching them, but wasn’t asked to do much.
- A. Cole – 9/10 – Got loads of abuse and replied with faultless defending and two assists. I hope he wasn’t badly inured when he limped off near the end as he really ripped into Arsenal and provided a source of the goals yet again.
- Carvalho – 8.5/10 – Back to classic Riccy, throwing himself into tackles and making some good interceptions and blocks.
- Terry – 9/10 – Great game from JT, played a beautifully weighted pass with his left peg to help set up the first goal and made some good challenges, particularly one in the second half. I think he looks in some of the best form of his career at the moment, which is good for Chelsea and England with the World Cup coming up.
- Ivanovic – 8/10 – Soon settled into the game and looked good defensively. Maybe didn’t do as much as he sometimes does going forward but I’d still pick him over Bosingwa.
- Mikel – 7/10 – Came in for Ballack and had a good game. Misplaced the odd pass though.
- Lampard – 8.5/10 – Fabregas started the game as the brightest player but Lampard and Essien soon dominated him. Some lovely passing and ball winning from Frank.
- Essien – 8/10 – Epitomising the Chelsea performance Essien wanted the ball more than Arsenal’s players and used it more intelligently. Harsh to give him an eight perhaps but I thought others stood out a little bit more.
- J. Cole – 7/10 – I didn’t think Joe or Deco were very effective today, but at least Joe showed his usual energy and won the ball a few times.
- Anelka – 8.5/10 – ‘Le Sulk’ has now won me over as he puts in a good performance week after week. He scored a vital goal on Wednesday and the way he drops off and links up with other players in the team is becoming an important feature of our play.
- Drogba – 9/10 – So good he makes Senderos cry, even when he’s on the bench. My Man of the Match – he was unplayable at times and Arsenal must hate the sight of him. Scored the first, pressured Vermaalen into an own goal, and wrapped it up with a peach of a free kick.
This was classic Chelsea of the Abramovich era. We contained Arsenal and physically pummelled them, showing a greater will to win and some great discipline. Just take a minute and consider the size of our players: Terry, Ivanovic, Mikel, Essien, Lampard, Drogba. The closest Arsenal have got to a heavyweight is Vermaalen. How can a team expect to win when the over half the opposition side is stronger and bigger than every player in their side? The only way is to play better football, but against Chelsea that is extremely difficult and Arsenal stumbled. I think we have added to the Mourinho will to win under Ancelotti with a physical dominance that we have struggled to capitilise on in previous teams containing Robben, Duff, Wright-Phillips, or, dare I say it, Makelele? I’ve got to wrap it up now as it’s getting late, but to sum it up I thought today we steamrolled Arsenal and still had another gear to go into.