The Independent, Jason Burt: “Big games define big teams, Arsène Wenger reminded us before this encounter. They also define big players and Chelsea may have to again cope without John Terry after their captain suffered suspected ankle ligament damage in a spiteful challenge by Emmanuel Eboué as his side lost to Arsenal for the first time since February 2004.”
The Times, Martin Samuel: “Emmanuel Eboué kicked John Terry out of the game before Joe Cole avenged his team-mate by doing the same to Eboué. Even Arsenal’s winner, scored by William Gallas, the Arsenal captain and former Chelsea defender, had something of the bar-room brawl about it, with the way Gallas manhandled Tal Ben-Haim out of the way before heading Cesc Fà bregas’s corner past Petr Cech, who had come for the ball but failed to get it, a rare error for him.”
The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “[Chelsea’s] willpower is undiminished but that is not enough. They had all their forwards on the pitch by the end; all of them, that is, except the one who is irreplaceable. Didier Drogba is in convalescence from knee surgery, bound for the African Cup of Nations and seemingly disenchanted. It sometimes seems that the Ivorian had no sooner signed for Chelsea than he was in the mood to put his name to a transfer request.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “A Derby crammed with sound, fury and significance ended with everyone grasping for breath, with Arsenal regaining the high ground of the Premier League and with serious question-marks over Avram Grant’s ability to inspire Chelsea against the leading sides without the heavyweight talent that is Didier Drogba.”
- It was an entertaining game. We did okay without the likes of Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and Ricardo Carvalho. Up until Petr Cech’s uncharacteristic mistake (and William Gallas’ sly two-handed push) Arsenal never really looked like scoring. Second half we did our best to get back into it and at least gave Manuel Almunia something to think about, but ultimately Drogba’s absence was sorely felt. Rancour between the two sets of players ensured that it was never dull.
- John Mikel Obi. Outstanding. By some distance our best player and my Man of the Match. A midfield general and future Chelsea legend. Put Frank Lampard to shame.
- Ashley Cole. The barrage of abuse and vitriol heaped upon him by the home fans seemed to spur him on. There’s no doubting that he was targeted by Arsenal players. I am starting to wonder what warrants a red card these days.
- Andriy Shevchenko, Alex, Tal Ben Haim and Paulo Ferreira. I thought Shevchenko did okay under the circumstances. Alex was towering in defence and Ben Haim did better than I expected – he wasn’t at fault for the goal because Gallas pushed him out of the way. Ferreira impressed me; he’s one of the best crossers in the team.
- Petr Cech’s gaffe. He might not flap as ineptly at another corner all season, but there’s little doubt that this rare howler will cost in the long run. He went on to prove what a great keeper he is with some superb saves that kept us in the game and gave us the chance to get something from it. Predictably, we didn’t have the necessary fire power to rescue him. Prior to this game he was unbeaten in all seven played against the Gunners.
- Injury to John Terry. Apparently nothing was broken by Emmanuel Eboué’s studs up challenge. But, it looks like Terry will miss a number of games over Christmas with at least ankle ligament damage. Still, the football gods (or Joe Cole, depending on your point of view) ensured that Eboué left the pitch on a stretcher. It goes without saying that we might struggle somewhat during the busy festive schedule without our first choice centre-back pairing and striker.
- Avram Grant has lost his first two games against the top two teams. Jose Mourinho didn’t lose to Arsenal during his three years at Chelsea, and only lost to Manchester United once. Grant has lost to both teams in the space of three months, albeit away from Stamford Bridge. While it’s far too early to treat this statistic as significant, I’m of the opinion that Mourinho would have got at least a point from this game. Last season Arsenal took the lead in all three fixtures yet we managed two draws and one victory. Grant will not win over the majority of fans until he’s proved himself against the big guns. Wednesday’s Carling Cup game against Liverpool is looking increasingly important.
- Shaun Wright-Phillips’ miss. I take it back: Salomon Kalou deserves to start ahead of Wright-Phillips.
Man of the Match
John Mikel Obi.