Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal – Them and Us

Each time I’m asked to write a match report I find myself considering the same thing. The writing of the report itself – the gristle, bone and viscera of the game. The teams, the players, an elementary attempt at some sort of tactical analysis and a few personal opinions. With Chelsea FC though nothing is ever that straight forward and invariably I feel compelled to contextualize any thoughts I might have. In other words, give a quick debrief on whichever catastrophe is swirling around Stamford Bridge this week. So here we go.

Ashley Cole has been awarded a contract extension worth a variety of sums depending on who you believe. Quite right too. God only knows who we’d replace him with. He’s a proven winner and still one of the best left-backs in the world.

Frank Lampard, so far hasn’t been offered a similar extension despite the consensus of opinion being that he’s still good enough to warrant another year’s wages. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Lamps still at Chelsea next year. Could depend on who the manager is.

Interim manager Rafa Benitez has had the least successful start to a reign of any Chelsea manager appointed by Roman Abramovich. Not exactly popular with supporters anyway, this has become one of many hot topics for most Chelsea fans. Many want him out. Some because they hate him, some because they believe he is no more than a mediocre coach. Plenty of disagreements about the behaviour of a “proper” fan at a football match. Right to boo or a “plastic” supporter? Support the team or show the board that you aren’t happy?

Who knows. All I know is it’s never dull supporting Chelsea. Never has been. Never will be. Doesn’t matter how much money Roman spends. You’ll never change Chelsea. There’s always a balls-up just around the corner. That’s why we love it. Would we rather be Arsenal?

The Team

Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole; Lampard, Ramires; Mata, Oscar, Hazard; Torres.

The Game

Three points were a must. For both sides but with the most unpopular man in West London coming under increasing pressure after a run of poor results at home and United already almost out of sight, a win would go a long way to shoring up our Champions League spot and restore some confidence to the team.

Things could hardly have started better. Dominating possession and pressing Arsenal all over the pitch. Mata gave us an early lead after a superb piece of control and a wonderful finish. Ramires fouled Coquelin in the build-up but the fact is Arsenal weren’t at the races for 45 minutes. To be fair to them they had a decent chance before Mata gave Chelsea the lead but Giroud spurned the opportunity. How different the game game might have looked if a certain Dutchman were still on their payroll.

Lampard scored his 195th goal for the club from the penalty spot after Ramires was brought down in the box by Szchezny. Replays may have showed Ramires made sure he went over the big Pole’s outstretched limb but live it looked a stonewall penalty and once given the goalkeeper should’ve been sent off. One fortunate decision each but 2-0 Chelsea.

The atmosphere inside the ground was brilliant throughout the first half and with Ramires and Lampard completely dominating the midfield Hazard, Oscar and Mata had ample opportunity to keep the Stamford Bridge faithful happy. Vermaelen had Torres in his pocket but that wouldn’t have surprised anyone that hasn’t been in a coma for the last three years. He’s been in more pockets than a Romanian gypsy operating in the West End. It really does seem that while some supporters are critical of the booing of Torres we can all agree that he’s finished. The only people that I can find (on Twitter mostly) that still have any affection for him are young, female and may have an interest in him that goes beyond his ability in the box. The fact that Demba Ba has been able to come on for the last nine minutes of a game and show him up twice really tells you all you need to know.

I actually felt quite relaxed at half-time. It was bloody short-lived though as we were out-fought, outplayed and second to everything after the break. Mata had a poor (by his standards) second half. Hazard and Oscar were unable to influence the game. Lampard, who had showed great drive in the first half faded. Ramires put in a huge shift but when you’re under pressure and struggling to retain the ball Obi Mikel’s simple passing and upper-body strength are probably what’s required. Unfortunately he’s on a different continent. I might suggest that our consistency has suffered in his recent absence (suspension/injury/AFCON) and I’ll be very glad to have him back.

The game was summed up for me afterwards by an Arsenal-supporting friend “you were good first half and we were shit, we were good second half and you were a bit shit but your lot can defend and your best players are better than our best players. Giroud and Torres should both be in the Championship.” I thought that summed things up pretty succinctly.

Rafa will never be popular but he is the subject of much debate. If he’s responsible for the poor displays isn’t he as responsible for the good ones goes the argument. That’s a logical position. It makes sense but what really characterizes his tenure is inconsistency. From the sublime, to the ridiculous and back again. Beat Stoke 4-0 away. Lose 1-0 to QPR at home. Yesterday’s game was a microcosm of that form. That’s my problem with Benitez so far. Sure at times the players haven’t been good enough but we know they can be good enough. The phrase “top-down, winning mentality” was mentioned by one of you, Tony (GrocerJackUK) or Jonny (KaiserJonny) I think, regarding what Mourinho would bring if reappointed and I couldn’t agree more. After so much upheaval it’s surely the most sensible thing to do.

Yesterday wasn’t really a day for moaning though. We best Arsenal. Gained a little ground on United. Kept pace with City and extended our advantage over the other teams seeking to secure a Champions League spot for next season, and as I chatted to the Arsenal friend after the game I realised that for all the moaning about the board, the owner, Torres, Rafa, Frank’s contract, the booing etc I’d much rather be us than them. Chances are we’ll obtain another couple of big players in the summer. Possibly Falcao, possibly Fellaini. We already have some of the most exciting attacking players in the league. Mourinho will be looking for work while we’re looking for a manager and we’re Champions of Europe. What have Arsenal got to look forward to? Pinching Yanga-Mbiwa off Newcastle and desperately trying to claw their way into the top four. Things could always be worse.


Juan Mata’s goal.

Frank Lampard’s penalty.

Gary Cahill’s last ditch clearance.

Ashley Cole’s new contract.

and finally…

“Robin Van Persie, he left cos you’re shit!” ringing around Stamford Bridge.

Up the Chels.

Press Reports

The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “Chelsea have spluttered amid the poisonous atmosphere allowed to fester in this stadium over recent weeks but Arsenal’s visit provided an antidote of sorts. All that rancour was forgotten amid the distraction of a rumbustious derby, the dissent at Rafael Benítez’s mere presence more a grumbling than bellowed protest. Victory against local rivals has strengthened Chelsea’s position in third. Any respite is to be cherished.”

The Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Wilson: “Familiar problems were evident, not least in the form of Fernando Torres but it was still critical for Rafael Benitez to record what has been only his second win at Stamford Bridge since replacing Roberto di Matteo in November. An added bonus for Benitez of Frank Lampard scoring in the 16th minute was that even the usual chants for Di Matteo were forgotten.”

The Independent, Jack Pitt-Brooke: “Arsenal’s famous ‘self-sustaining model’ can look fairly exposed at Chelsea, a club with the opposite problems. Here at Stamford Bridge there may be too much what Arsenal lack – purpose, ambition and ruthlessness – but perhaps not enough of the patience which Arsenal seem to be drowning in. Not everyone would hold up Chelsea as a perfectly-run club but they have won two Premier League titles, four FA Cups and one Champions League since Arsenal lifted anything.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “Stamford Bridge is smiling once again after two first-half goals proved enough to win this London derby against an Arsenal side who came back strongly after the interval.”


6′ Mata 1-0
16′ Lampard (pen) 2-0
58′ Walcott 2-1

There are 27 comments

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  1. mark_25

    Excellent stuff Ryan.

    First half was excellent with Ramires and Oscar finding themselves again but second half they reverted to their Southampton displays.

    It’s a bit rich Arse fans complaining about Ramires.  I’d never witnessed a player sticking his leg into an opponent in order to fall over the opponent, before seeing Robert Pires do it.  He and Arsenal invented it!  On the basis players from each team are conning the ref either all clubs take unified action or all clubs quit moaning.

    I didn’t hear any booing yesterday aside from when Torres got substituted.  Scoring on 16 minutes kyboshed the RDM chant but maybe the absence of booing is relevant.

    I’m worried about Torres’s hair cut because I thought all is strength was in his hair …

    • Davi

      “It’s a bit rich Arse fans complaining about Ramires.  I’d never
      witnessed a player sticking his leg into an opponent in order to fall
      over the opponent, before seeing Robert Pires do it.  He and Arsenal
      invented it! ”
      So because you hadn’t seen it before, it had never been done? You want to go back 10 years to call Arsenal hypocrites? When Pires dived it was wrong, when Cazorla dived it was wrong, and when Ramires dived it was wrong. Just admit it.
      I think a draw would have been a fair result overall, but Chelsea got that bit of luck and won the game. It happens, I suppose.

      • mark_25

        Never been done that blatantly on Sky TV with 400 cameras to dissect it.  Yes, Arsenal invented cheating!

  2. Blueboydave

    Very nicely summed up, Ryan.

    I’m still wrestling with what was Mad Rafa’s maddest act of the day:

    1) spending the entire game in the dug out in sub-zero temperatures with snow falling constantly, dressed only in his suit;  or

    2) claiming afterwards in a quote I saw somewhere on the Beeb website that Torres had been key to our game, because supposedly his runs made space for Mata.

    It was soon after the end of the game I read the quote, so perhaps his brain was still frozen from his Geordie-like act in (1) and that may also be why he took so long to make the substitutes that were so clearly needed much earlier in the second half.

    Mark, Pirez may have invented the dragged-over Ieg technique for a soft penalty, but surely Rooney has perfected the art more than any other current player – with a nice variation yesterday when he dragged his leg into the back of the Spud defender and collapsed in a heap, sending Lord Ferg into another bout of righteous indignation and further rehearsal of his “that Drogba offside goal” rant he’s never, ever going to let go.

    Couldn’t help contrast the attitude of Sky’s pundits who agreed with Old Purplenose that Rooney’s was a clear penalty denied, while Ramires’ one was “a dive and never a penalty”. 


    • NorthernVA

      I remember discussing the NFL with you last season. Well my Ravens finally got over the hump and are heading to the Super Bowl. There are many things that are eerily similar to our run in the FA Cup and the Champions League.

      A late season firing, one legendary player on the way out whilst another maybe on the way out a year away, a team transitioning/losing it’s identity (from defense to offense), and most importantly the chance to avenge previous heartbreak all while being disrespected along the journey.

      • Blueboydave

        Indeed, I remember too our discussion this time last last year and was very happy watching the games on Sunday night that the right 2 teams made it to the Superbowl this season rather than both losing again at the last hurdle.

        Interesting parallels you draw between the Ravens and Chelsea, though I have to admit again to a certain amount of residual affection for the 49’ers from the Montana/Young era when NFL was first broadcast in this country.

        Is it sacrilege to say I think Ray Lewis overdoes the God-bothering bit, though that’s probably the cultural divide between the two sides of the Atlantic showing?

        In truth, I’ll be happy for whichever side wins, but Go Ravens!

        • NorthernVA

          Agree about Ray’s preaching at times. It can be a little cringeworthy. You get that more in football than other sports I feel. I’ve never witnessed Kobe and Lebron sitting in the center of the Staples Center holding and knelt in prayer after a game. 

          It may have something to do with the number of players in the NFL which come from the south and states like Texas. Where the separation of church and state are much more blurred. Now that’s just my own  personal hypothesis.

  3. Blue_MikeL

    I hoped there will be something opposite to Samson effect, when I saw him hairless. However, he is not a Biblical type, as it appears, so any comparison is useless.    

  4. Dylbo Baggins

    Thought Mata looked quite tired/frustrated- maybe because Torres was started instead of Ba?

    Mind you, I would be too if I was playing at the Bridge. I know they are professionals but it must be pretty taxing working under those conditions. I miss the days when Jose would deflect all the media scrutiny/attention from the team to himself…

    I think we have the core of a cracking young team but I’m starting to wonder how many of those are considering where their future might lie…

  5. NorthernVA

    Great report Ryan. Mata’s first touch on his goal had to be worth the price of admission. It was certainly worth getting out of bed/ slash opening my eyes while laying in bed at 8:36 am EST!

  6. Gleb

    Since the NFL is so popular in the UK and among the always respected bloggers over here, I though I’d share my return to following American football. I was a huge fan back in the early 2000-s (a fan of the game, not really a fan of any team in particular), but kind of stopped watching when I came back to Russia. The time difference is huge, and while the game is rapidly gaining in popularity (God knows why, but it’s true), it’s still nigh impossible to follow it in a meaningful way. Which is a shame. But now that I live in Portugal, the games are just across the ocean. I came here just in time to catch the championship finals (is that what they’re called?) and, sure enough, my love for the game has instantly returned. I’ve been spending all my free time (not much due to Portuguese lessons) trying to catch up. Rewatching Super Bowls, college games.

    Funnily enough, while watching San Fransisco on Sunday, I instantly noticed their QB, Kaepernick, really liked him for some reason (for many reasons). Didn’t know anything about any of them, but somehow he just seemed like a cool guy. Turns out he’s quite a controversial figure in terms of his career, team selections and all that. Not like he’s done anything bad, I mean, but people have been bringing him up a lot on the Internet, whether he deserves to start, whether he’s good enough, is he gonna screw-up the Playoffs (no), is he gonna screw up the Super Bowl etc. etc. Which is weird, but I’m as unbiased as can be and still noticed how talented he was. So I guess I picked the right guy to root for. So yeah… waiting for the Super Bowl and feel kind of excited. They actually have quite a league here in Portugal and I’d love to give it a try and maybe play with someone on a totally amateur level, but I’m so thin and slender I’m not even athletic enough for poker, let alone bone-crushing tackles. Also pre-ordered the Super Bowl program (which is 270 pages) just to have something special. I guess if the worst happens and I have no food, I can always sell it back in Russia to all the fans who have little access to memorabilia.

    As for Chelsea, a nice victory, I guess, too bad Spurs picked up points. I still think we’re out of the title-challenge, so we might as well hope the ones below us lose constantly. The one problem with our victory is that, for the first time in ages, a win over Arsenal (or any… biggish club) isn’t going to bring us an inch forward. Maybe I’m being pessimistic but it still felt… dull. It still feels like we can fuck up any following match just as we’re doing under Rafa. It’s always nice to beat Wenger but these kind of victories should be used as a foundation for further stability, greatness, consistency and all that. For now, I think nothing happened. Let’s hope for a calm season with a confident Top-3 finish and hopefully we can welcome Jose back in the summer. Love him or hate him, we’ve turned into that kind of team, a team that can only function with one manager. With all due respect to Carlo, Roberto and the others, it was always Jose’s team, quite literally. Those managers who tried to change it got the sack. Those who saw the sense in not doing anything, just letting them do their business – got success (and then the sack). But now is the first time that Jose’s team is actually no more, done, finished. So we might as well let him build another one. The players are there. If he manages to do to Lukaku what he did to Drogba… maaan, we’re looking at a great 10 years ahead of us. And that’s just one example.

    Good night!

    So for a TL;DR post 🙂

  7. GrocerJack

    Bumped into a gooner mate at work yesterday. Oddly he refused to discuss any aspect of the match. 

    First half superb as you say. Second half, well despite the doom mongers I thought we held Arsenal at bay rather well considering they were always somewhat likely to come out for the second half all guns blazing. Despite what everyone says, they’re not a shit team. Granted they’re not what they once were, but to describe them as shit is way off the mark. Wenger is yet again having to re-build and they have some real promising players in there squad. He must feel like the kid who build a model of the Forth Bridge from lego only to find the kids from next door come along and kick it into little pieces stealing all the vital bricks. And yet patiently he tries to rebuild it by finding more bricks, some that are aren’t suited to the job. Year in year out.

    What was that quote from Einstein about madness…….

    As for our team, for once we showed some real grit which is long overdue. Yes we rode our luck but which team doesn’t from time to time? Our players would have learnt far more from that second half battle than if they’d cruised to a 3-0 win. Apart from anything else they’ll have learnt that we can go 2-0 up and win despite the other side battering us for parts of the second half. Surely that builds confidence and bonds the team?

    Feeling a bit ‘meh’ about the Swansea game to be honest as I think it’s a challenge too far to go and beat them 3-0 at their ground. Would have been nice to see a CFC vs Bradford final though. 

    • Blueboydave

      I find I’m already shoring up against likely failure tonight by comforting myself that at least we’ll be spared weeks of a media torrent of “Magic-of-the-Cup Plucky-little-Bradford-dreaming-the-dream Taking-on-nasty-moneybags-Chelsea etc, etc – it writes itself, really.

  8. peterw

    Managed to completely miss this game, so have to go by the consensus that we were very good then very bad.
    Consistency appears to be the biggest issue, we’ve had wobbly periods like this since Mourinho but this is the most pronounced I can recall since Gullit/Viallia days (Ranieri tended to be quite consistent – we’d beat shit teams and lose to good ones, especially if they were Arsenal).Which brings me back to the issue of Benitez – I really can’t see what he’s brought to the club, what direction we are going in. It’s very much ‘every game as it comes’, in that we have no idea what team will turn up and what sort of football they will play. After the AVB experience I’m not a great fan of coaches who claim to have a ‘vision’ or ‘project’ but under our best recent managers – Jose, Carlo, Guus – we’ve been able to tell within a couple of games what sort of style they will adopt and what the strongest XI will be. No idea of any of that at the moment.

    That’s not all Rafa’s fault – we are clearly at least one short in attack and the same in midfield – but does anybody feel they have an idea of what ‘his’ Chelsea would look like?

    • GrocerJack

      Frankly no. It’s the language of the operational tactician rather than strategist. 

      Which tells me hw knows he isn’t staying beyond June.

      Which tells me Roman is measuring up a new chair for a new coach.

      Or refurbishing an old one……….

  9. Der_Kaiser

    Not sure Benitez is the kind of manager who has a system, or if he’s that good at defining it if he has.  He spent lord knows how long fiddling with his central midfield setup at Liverpool, where and how to play Gerrard (which he eventually got pretty much right) and tinkered like Claudio never knew how to.  Didn’t he set a record for consecutive number of league games without the same starting 11?

    All just seems to point to what most people seem to think – he was bought in to try and get the best out of Torres.

    Not an ideal time to be treading water, but if we can get through this season relatively unscathed and with a top 4 finish hopefully whoever we appoint in the summer will get some time to set their stall out.

    Oh look, a flying pig…

  10. Benjami

    Sigh, what makes this even worse is our manager is probably about to escalate matters further by saying something stupid, I hope management tells him to apoligise and say congratulations to Swansea. Miss Carlo and Jose for these moments, managers with some class.

    • NorthernVA

      In fairness to Rafa. He reached the same conclusion as Carlo, AVB, and Di Matteo. Can’t win a cup final with Fernando in your line-up. They all learned this 90 minutes too late for the most part.

  11. Benjami

    That is probably a bit harsh on Rafa reading it back, but we will see in a few mins 😛

    Anyway congratulations to Swansea, have to admit I slightly wanted an Aston Villa vs Swansea Cup Final, would have been a classic 🙂 Swansea vs Bradford could be over very fast 🙁

    Also well done Chris “attention seeker” Foy, thanks for making a big deal out of it with the red card.

  12. Dylbo Baggins

    Fair play to Swansea- exciting times for them. Impressed to see Michu sign on again too.

    We certainly do find original and creative ways to make things hard for ourselves. 2 howlers from ivan in the 1st leg and then Hazard romancing the ball boy. Would have preferred he just step away and bring the ref’s attention to it. Ridiculous situation but no need to respond like that- regardless of how gentle a love tap it was.

    As blue boy dave said above- at least we are spared weeks of cup magic under dogs blah blah..

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