Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1: The Gunners Lose More Ground on the Leading Pack
After the brilliant attacking display on show against Swansea in the FA Cup Third Round replay, Arsene Wenger decided to keep the faith with the same crop of players in the crunch encounter against Chelsea. Prior to yesterday’s game, the Blues weren’t that invincible in their home ground, as they had dropped points against Southampton as well as losing in the first leg of the Capitol One Cup semis to Swansea.
Arsenal almost drew first blood when Olivier Giroud showed his fantastic off the ball movement to receive an inch-perfect pass from Theo Walcott. However, his finish was shameful to say the least as it glanced wide off the mark.
The Gunners were made to rue that miss as an over the top pass from Cesar Azpilicueta found Juan Mata that controlled the ball superbly before slamming the roof of Wojciech Szczesny’s net.
Shortly after the quick match opener, Santi Cazorla fashioned a chance for himself before releasing a belter that was parried to safety by James Blunt…Petr Cech. Eden Hazard was a constant thorn to Arsenal’s flesh and he went on a mazy run before firing a shot that was blocked by Szczesny in his near post.
Arsenal conceded the second goal in typical fashion. Abou Diaby had options to release the ball but he lost it to Ramires the Great Lizard that darted to the box before slipping right in front of Szczesny. As you would expect from any Premier League referee, Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot and Frank Lampback of Notre Dame wasted no time in dispatching the spot kick.
After just 16 minutes, the Gunners were already two goals behind.
Arsenal pressed on for the next all-important goal but Bacary Sagna’s distribution was quite erratic. Maybe its just me, but Bac Man has become a shadow of the Mr. Consistency we used to know. He was uncharacteristically out of position in the buildup to Mata’s goal and his output on the pitch was quite disappointing.
Like Walcott, the Gunners should fight hard to secure his future, because he remains one of the best right backs in the business.
Jack Wilshere, who was playing as the creatice hub of the team with Cazorla drafted to the left, made a jinking run on the edge of Chelsea’s area before flicking the ball for Giroud. The French forward brought the ball under control but a pile of bodies blocked him from causing any damage.
Arsenal began the second half on a brighter note and pressed on for the vital goal that would offer them a glimmer of hope.
Wilshere swung in a free kick that was headed to safety by Branislav Ivanovic but the ball feel kindly to Per Mertesacker whose left-footed shot was easy pickings for Cech. Kieran Gibbs made one of his trademark attacking slalom runs but Giroud’s poor header didn’t match the buildup.
As the game got into the hour mark, the Gunners continued to probe the Chelsea rearguard and got a well-deserved goal from the hottest kid in the block, Theo Walcott. Santi Cazorla made a rear foray into the central attacking midfield position before delivering a pin-point pass to Walcott, that wasted no time in latching in his 15th goal of the season.
Francis Coquelin had a good game by his standards but he appeared to be struggling with an injury, so the boss replaced him with Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey was quickly involved in a swift Arsenal attack that was sent wide by Wilshere after some neat passing play between Gibbs and Rambo.
Fernando Torres looked so different with his new hair cut but he used his pace to great effect in the course of the game. There was a moment when he launched a counter attack using his pace to outfox Thomas Vermaelen but Szczesny was on hand to anticipate the ball. Moments later, the Great Lizard fired a shot through a pile of bodies but Szczesny did well to parry the ball to safety.
Arsene Wenger brought on Andrey Arshavin for Diaby in his bid to get something out of the game.
However, Chelsea almost put the game beyond doubt when Demba Ba made mince meat of Szczesny before sidefooting his shot goalwards. The Polish goalie had his captain to thank as Vermaelen made a brilliant interception to leave the scoreline at 2 – 1.
The captain went to the other end of the pitch to fire a free kick on the edge of the area that went wide. After a late attacking surge from the Gunners, their London rivals held firm to leave the scoreline intact.
Arsenal’s second league defeat in a row has seen them go seven points behind fourth placed Tottenham with 16 games to go. Spurs dropped points to the table toppers afterwards but Champions League football might not be possible for the Gunners this season, judging from their continuous inconsistent performances all season long.
Arsene Wenger’s post-match interview had its usual tidbits about the improved second half performance and the rest of the lot. With the Gunners struggling in the League this season, all attention must be turned to the game in hand against West Ham that comes up next tomorrow.
A win against the Hammers will see the Gunners go level on points with Everton, which would also mean that they’ll be four points behind Tottenham.
One can decide to throw further light on the selection of Walcott or Giroud for the center forward berth. While Giroud offers a physical presence and a focal point of attack, Walcott’s clinical ability in goal has been a major plus this season.
As early as the fifth minute, Walcott found Giroud with a perfect pass and with only the goalie to beat but the Frenchman blasted his effort wide. If it was the other way round, Walcott would have dispatched the ball past Cech, as he did in the second half.
In as much as I appreciate Giroud for the effort he gives on the pitch, I’m still in the opinion that Arsenal needs another profilic center forward as it’s really sad to know that they allowed Demba Ba to slip away from our fingers.
Wenger has showed great faith in Giroud and it’s high time the forward starts paying Wenger’s faith with a run of goals. Or is it too much to ask?
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