Friday, March 1, 2024

Arsenal 1-4 Chelsea : The season can't end soon enough

If Tuesday was the vomit pie then yesterday was the cherry shaped shit on top.

Spanked, and there is no other word for it, at home by Chelsea. Painful, humiliating and saddening. To be fair I thought we were unlucky to go in two down.

We started very positively, snapping into tackles, competing for everything and I remember thinking how it was a shame that it took a poor result in midweek to motivate the lads into that kind of performance. We made chances, we dominated possession, moved the ball well and probably should have scored. The best chance of all falling to Cesc before Abou Diaby came in, took it off his toes and scuttered it wide.

Then Phil Dowd bought yet another Drogba dive. Cesc was booked for telling the ref it was a dive, that’s a new one on me, I have to say. But dive or not the free kick was given, Drogba floated it in and Alex got away from Sylvester and Toure to head home off the crossbar. Against the run of play, for sure, but not that surprising.

The second Chelsea goal came via Nicolas Anelka who span away from Nasri in midfield. Nasri’s attempts to get back to him were half-hearted, to say the least, he brought it forward, cracked one from outside the area and while it certainly moved in the air Fabianksi was flat-footed and couldn’t get near it.

Arsenal fan dejected during Chelsea gameIf there was to be any way back an early goal in the second half was required. And there was one. Sadly it went to Chelsea. They broke down our right, Fabianski found himself in no-man’s land and ultimately it went in off Toure who was desperately trying to clear it. Perhaps the young Pole has plenty of potential but this game on top of the FA Cup semi-final has done little but illustrate he’s not ready for first team action yet. Some might describe the own goal as bad luck but it was more bad play than bad luck.

As you might imagine Arsenal heads went down. There was the incredible sight of Kolo Toure giving up on a ball which led to a Chelsea corner. Changes were made. Nicklas Bendtner came on for the hapless stroller Diaby who once again threw the chance he’d been given back in the manager’s face. We know he’s not a left midfielder but the least he could do is try. If Arsene isn’t going to play him in central midfield, supposedly his position, then what is the point in keeping him? When is the last time anybody said ‘Wow, Diaby had a good game today’?

A few minutes later Denilson came on for Song and Adebayor for Walcott. And then we scored. A Sagna cross from the right was powered home by Nicklas Bendtner’s head. There’s no doubt the boy is very good in the air, which is what makes Arsene’s decision to play him from the left hand side so baffling. Get him in the middle and while we might not like it lump some crosses in, it’s better than tippy-toeing around and back and sideways and all over the place. His 9th league goal this season is as many as Robin van Persie has scored.

Adebayor’s only contributions after coming on were two hopeless dives. Fair enough, he managed to stay onside a couple of times but it’s a measure of how often he’s flagged off that it’s even worth mentioning. He took one tumble, looking for a penalty and the ref rightly played on. The second time he had a good chance to score. His first touch was shit, he tried to con the ref into thinking Cech had pulled him down, again he didn’t buy it and frankly he should have been booked for it.

It’s easy to understand why there’s not a great deal of goodwill around for Adebayor at the moment and the manager’s criticism of Drogba rings somewhat hollow having seen Ade’s antics yesterday.

So instead of it being 3-2 it became 4-1 as Chelsea broke upfield and after more comical defending it ended up in the back of the net from Malouda. 4-1. At home. To Chelsea. After a 3-1 defeat to United on Tuesday. Seven goals in two games against two of our biggest rivals.

I know we’ve gone 21 games unbeaten, I know we got to the semi-finals of the Champions League, or the ‘last four in Europe’ as Arsene likes to put it, but whatever came before the last two games doesn’t make what happened in them OK.

Defensively this team is a shambles. We can see why Kolo Toure lost his place this season, I don’t even want to get started on Sylvester who, even at his best, was an average player, Gibbs did well but is just 19 and Sagna is struggling as the one constant in a back four which seems to change every week. Add to that a goalkeeper who would make Massimo Taibi look good and it’s always going to be tough.

Afterwards Arsene thought his side unlucky, and to an extent he’s right. We did well in the first half and had we taken one of those chances it might have been different. Might. However, the records won’t show that Arsenal were unlucky or that Drogba dived, only that Arsenal conceded four goals in the league for the third time this season.

Still, the manager says:

I don’t think the squad needs major investment. I believe we need to continue to improve. I’m not as doom-and-gloom as everybody wants to make it after a defeat and of course we play in a strong league against top quality opponents.

Of course we need to improve, Arsene. We got found out by United and that point was hammered home yesterday by Chelsea. We need a defence, we need a central midfielder who will allow Cesc to play to his maximum, we need some better players. It’s really not very difficult.

I know there’s the tendency to overreact after a defeat, any defeat, but this isn’t reactionary. This is something I’ve been saying for a long time, it’s stuff other people have been saying for just as long. To lose at home to Chelsea like that was embarrassing. To see Arsene struggling with tactics, playing players out of position, in a formation that was, at one point, dismissed as almost anti-football by him, is sad. It’s like he doesn’t know the best way to line up, which players to play where. He’s trying to make up for the deficiencies in his squad with tactical changes and it’s not working.

Under Arsene we were always at our best playing a 4-4-2. If one of your strikers was injured you played one of the others, but as a striker, not a winger. You played your best central midfielders in midfield and if you had to play a central player on the right, as happened every now and again (I remember Gilberto being shifted out there when Edu flourished, even Cesc early in his career), that was countered by having a Ljungberg or a Pires to play on the left.

There’s too much confusion about the way we play, where the players should play, we’re chopping and changing and it’s creating poor performances. Even look at van Persie, asked to play on the left of a 4-5-1 against United, where he’s not really very good, then asked today to play as a lone striker, a role to which he really is not suited at all. It’s hard to see the logic in some of Arsene’s recent decisions.

Still, the manager knows there’s a problem, so the final word today can go to him. He sums it up quite well, saying:

In the games that mattered in the last three or four weeks, we could not win. That is what we have to analyse.

Amen to that. Our next game is at Old Trafford where, depending on what United do against Wigan on Wednesday, they could win the title with a point.

Something to look forward to, eh?

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