The Chelsea Hoodoo Continues…
Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1 (Diego Costa 23′)
With Leicester’s convincing win over Stoke City, the onus was on Arsenal to turn on the style against a Chelsea side that has been a thorn in their flesh for as long as I can remember. It’s surprising to know that the Gunners had not recorded a victory against the Blues since that bizarre Robin van Persie-inspired 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge. Since then it has either ended as a draw or Chelsea grabbing a win and shockingly, Arsenal has failed to score in their last six league encounters with Chelsea.
So with the Blues in bad form and the Gunners at home, it seemed like a really nice time to break the hoodoo, bearing in mind that a victory would also take Arsenal to the top of the table. I was quite surprised to see Theo Walcott leading the team then I learned that the club was honoring the Englishman for spending a decade – such class.
The game itself was a cagey affair but the moment that turned the game on its head arrived when Per Mertesacker’s lack of pace was exploited yet again as he scythed Diego Costa down and he was the last man, leaving the ref no choice but to brandish a red card.
The fact that Mertesacker was leaving the pitch wasn’t bad enough but the boss’ decision to sacrifice Olivier Giroud caused some bewilderment. Yes, he was rumored to have carried an ankle injury in the buildup to the game but losing the French forward was a big wrench because the Gunners lacked a focal point in attack. Deploying Walcott as the center forward was meant to be a good move but the forward couldn’t contend with Chelsea’s strong defense.
To add insult to injury, Chelsea grabbed the lead just five minutes after Mertesacker received his marching orders. A swift cross from Branislav Ivanovic was neglected by Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel was behind Diego Costa that fired the ball first time beyond Petr Cech. The Gunners huffed and puffed but the best chance of the half arrived when Aaron Ramsey dinked the ball over the Chelsea rearguard to Mathieu Flamini of all people. When the usage of the head would have been the best option, the Flam attempted a Shaolin-esque kick and looped the ball over the bar.
In the second half, the chances were few and far between with Cech making a handful of saves from some Chelsea attacks but there was some encouragement when Alexis Sanchez came on for Joel Campbell and the forward looked very sharp, making some insightful moves and working in tandem with Nacho Monreal to create some attacks from the left.
However, Chelsea held on as the Gunners lost all three points to Guus Hiddink’s side, easing their relegation woes but for the Gunners, they had lost some ground on the title race, as they are currently three points behind Leicester with a lesser goal difference as well. The Gunners will now be hoping for Liverpool to do them a favor next week Tuesday, while they get the chance to exert some revenge on Southampton but focus will be moved to the FA Cup, as Burnley comes to town on Saturday for the fourth round of the competition.
Even without Mourinho, the Gunners couldn’t still find a way past Chelsea and with more points dropped, their title credentials will be questioned again. However, there are 14 more games to be played and Arsene Wenger knows that his team is still in a very good position. The only problem is that Manchester City and Tottenham are gaining ground as they continue to pile up favorable results.
We have to move on and see how things pan out.
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