The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: "If Arsenal were in crisis then the anguish has now passed to Luiz Felipe Scolari. The Brazilian does have his grievances since the visitors’ equaliser, the first of Robin van Persie’s goals, should have been ruled offside. Scolari’s Chelsea had already seen Liverpool take three points at Stamford Bridge, to say nothing of defeat by Burnley in the League Cup, before the arrival of Arsenal. All the same, there is sympathy for the manager. In part, he is a victim of changing times. This is no longer a club of unlimited resources. So long as the fitness of the presently suspended Didier Drogba is in question, Scolari has, in Nicolas Anelka, a single proven striker at his disposal."
The Times, Martin Samuel: "Luiz Felipe Scolari blamed the officials for the defeat and hoped for an apology this morning, but if Mike Dean, the referee, and his assistants do express regret, they should add that they are also sorry that Chelsea had only one shot at goal all match, did not create a chance after Arsenal’s first goal, had their best striker in the stands because of his own foolishness and have only one way of playing, which the rest of the Premier League would appear to have worked out."
The Independent, Sam Wallace: "It was not so long ago that Stamford Bridge was regarded as the kind of stadium where all away teams – famous or humble – came to lie down and die. But yesterday it was the Arsenal players who took their leave bare-chested and belligerent, tossing their shirts into the crowd and generally swaggering about the place as if they owned it, which, for one afternoon, you could say that they did."
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: "In the mad world of modern football, someone is always under scrutiny yet the increasingly harsh focus on Scolari appears ludicrously premature. Chelsea remain top of the Premier League, certainly until Liverpool host West Ham on Monday, and have scored more and conceded fewer than anyone else. Some crisis."
Official Chelsea FC Website: "Two goals in four minutes, the first conceded in the second half in the league this season, undid a half-time advantage given by an Arsenal own-goal."
- The performance in the first 60 minutes. There’s sure to be a lot of gnashing of teeth and over-reaction to this defeat from some fans, but there’s no denying we were the better, more dominant team for the first hour. We outplayed Arsenal for long spells, and if it wasn’t for a poor decision by the linesman who can say that we wouldn’t have gone on to take all three points. The Gunners looked fragile after we took the lead and another goal would probably have finished them off, but once again our ineffectiveness in the final third was very much in evidence, so much so that we failed to create a single scoring opportunity in the second half.
- It was an enjoyable game to watch – well, for the first hour anyway. Arsenal were so far behind in the title race that they came to win, they didn’t just stick ten men behind the ball and hope to nick a point. Thus the match was played at a fast tempo, was end to end and thoroughly entertaining.
- John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack. They dominated central midfield for much of the opening hour which allowed Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa to bomb on down the wings. It was from one such attack that we took the lead: Bosingwa’s pinpoint cross into the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ left Johan Djourou, under pressure from the busy Salomon Kalou, little option but to play the ball, which he did into his own net. It was a deserved lead. We continued to dominate right up until the 60th minute, only for Robin Van Persie to score an out of the blue quick-fire double, the first of which was clearly offside (a fantastic finish though). His second strike just three minutes later seemed to knock the stuffing out of us. Scolari’s decision to replace Mikel with Florent Malouda with 20 minutes remaining didn’t do us any favours; in Mikel’s absence it was Arsenal’s turn to dominate midfield and they could have scored another if it wasn’t for some brave goalkeeping by Petr Cech, while our already limited goal threat evaporated to nothing.
- We were one-dimensional again, and we didn’t score. Without the likes of Joe Cole, Michael Essien and especially Didier Drogba to call upon (Drogba has been Arsenal’s nemesis since arriving at Stamford Bridge), Scolari’s options were somewhat limited. It’s very worrying that we couldn’t find the net against a team that has looked vulnerable defensively in recent weeks. Fans and pundits alike talk of Scolari needing a plan B, but without the necessary players at his disposal it is very difficult for him to come up with one (I believe that given a fully fit first team squad to choose from Scolari would reveal himself to be more tactically astute than he as so far demonstrated). I don’t believe the solution to our current problems is dropping members of the youth team in at the deep end and expecting them to deliver; Scolari clearly doesn’t think they’re up to the job anyway if he isn’t including them in match day squads. That said, it was good to see Miroslav Stoch given his first team debut, even if it was forgettable.
- Deco. Aside from a few clever touches and passes, he was hugely disappointing particularly in the second half when he was caught in possession time and again. The bright start to his Chelsea career is quickly becoming a distant memory.
- Twelve points dropped at the Bridge this season. But we remain top of the table, at least until tomorrow night when Liverpool play West Ham at Anfield. Franco and Steve, we’re relying on you to do us a massive favour!
- The unswerving belief in our ability to recover a deficit is gone. There was a time not so long ago when going a goal down at the Bridge was seen as nothing more than an inconvenience.
- Petr Cech: Made three good saves in the first half but couldn’t do anything about either of Van Persie’s strikes. There’s been a noticeable lack of blunders this season too – 7/10.
- Jose Bosingwa: Brilliant in the first half, but looked a bit vulnerable defensively after we went behind. Plays with a nonchalance that’s probably not suited to chasing a game – 7/10.
- John Terry: Relatively untroubled. An ugly-looking two-footed tackle on Bacari Sagna earned a yellow card; fortunate not to be sent off? – 7/10.
- Branislav Ivanovic: Pretty good. The quiet man of the team. I like that he just gets on with the job with a minimum of fuss. Was left exposed after Mikel was substituted but did what he had to do to keep Arsenal from scoring a third – 7/10.
- Ashley Cole: Subjected to the usual abuse from the away support, but didn’t let it bother him. Provided the attacking width on the left – 7/10.
- John Obi Mikel: Did a fine job protecting the back four. Unlucky to be substituted, but you could see Scolari’s reasoning – 7/10.
- Frank Lampard: Missed two good opportunities, otherwise another solid display – 7/10.
- Deco: Nowhere near his best. Caught in possession too many times – 5.5/10.
- Michael Ballack: Not yet back to his best following a spell out injured. Otherwise neat, tidy and composed – 7/10.
- Salomon Kalou: His indecision and final ball continue to let him down, but other than that he had a good opening hour. Scolari switched him to play alongside Anelka in the first half, and only an over eager linesman prevented him from having more shots at goal – 6.5/10.
- Nicolas Anelka: Played reasonably well but the fact that he failed to trouble Manuel Almunia says it all – 6.5/10.
- Florent Malouda (sub): Replaced Mikel with 20 minutes to go. Useless – 4/10.
- Miroslav Stoch (sub): His first team debut. Replaced the disappointing Deco with nine minutes of the match remaining, which was too little time to make any significant impact – 5.5/10.
Man of the Match
A difficult choice, but I’m going to give it to Jose Bosingwa.
Because of my current state of health and mind I’m going to use a quote from Martin Samuel’s match report to sum up:
"[We] lost … because [we] lacked imagination and were little threat to Manuel Almunia in Arsenal’s goal. [We] lost because Deco has gone completely off the boil, Michael Ballack is feeling his way back after injury, and Frank Lampard cannot do it all on his own. [We] lost because, without Ricardo Carvalho, [we] are defensively vulnerable. [We] lost because Scolari is in desperate need of plan B. [We] lost because, with Didier Drogba suspended, there was no impact to be made from the bench. [We] lost because Van Persie and his striking partner, Emmanuel Adebayor, presented more of a challenge than Nicolas Anelka and Salomon Kalou …"
I’m going back to bed to sleep off a rapidly developing hangover.