Night’s like last night have been few and very far between for Arsenal and us Gooners in recent years. Pre-match there were nerves, but a sense of fatalism about a lot of people as well. Personally, I wasn’t nervous which was weird. I was of the mind-set that ‘what would be would be’ and had no idea which Arsenal would turn up.
Perhaps it was the result of believing that ‘tonight would be the night’ when Arsenal finally turned up and being let down so often that my belief was missing, but I didn’t feel we would get a hammering either. Basically, I had no idea how the match would go, but I did put my money on us winning 2-0 before kick-off.
From the first minute we saw what we have been crying out for all season. Arsenal were first in to every tackle, first to every loose ball, and first to nearly all of the knock-downs. We snapped at Chelsea’s heels all over the pitch, closing from the front in a manner I have not witnessed in a hell of a long time.
Much was said about Chelsea’s sloppy passing and their tendency to give the ball away easily, but that does Arsenal a huge disservice. It was because of our pressing and tackling that Chelsea were constantly hurried in to making mistakes. When they did, we were ready to pounce.
The changes in personnel made a huge difference to this ability to press in every area of the pitch. For all his genius, Arshavin has no work-ethic to speak of, and now that his goals and assists have dried up it was right that he should lose his place. It is no coincidence that many were talking post-match about how that was one of Clichy’s best games in a long time – he had help from Nasri who, like the rest of the team defended first and attacked only when it was safe to do so.
Defend, defend, defend. That was the motto of the whole team last night and my how it was rewarded.
At half time I was asked if I was happy. My response was that if we kept up that work rate for the full 90 it would be all that I could ask of the team. I also added that if they did keep the work-rate up for the 90 they would win.
Our achilles heel this season has been to be unfocused as half-time approached and as the second half started. Not so last night. We finished the first half by getting the goal our play had deserved, and from the whistle at the start of the second we showed Chelsea there would be no let-up as we robbed them of their kick-off.
The goal-blitz in which Cesc and Theo played your turn, my turn, sealed Chelsea’s fate and ensured we would not only be leaving with three points, but with an added belief that maybe, just maybe, we do have what it takes after all.
I always knew the ability was there and last night, with the application and belief thrown in to the mix we saw what the result could be. When our third goal went in last night, for the briefest of moments it was 03/04 again and it was beautiful. So much pain and heartache dissipating and it is worth noting that the last time Wenger was able to field Song, Nasri, Fabregas, and Van Persie from the first minute was at the start of 2009.
But hey, injuries are only excuses for other teams huh?
From back to front every player was on his toes in this match. While he had little to do, Fabianski’s distribution was quick and sharp and enabled us to get on the attack quickly and push Chelsea back. Sagna and Clichy did what they had do with ease at times and by curbing their natural instincts to get forward they left less space for Chelsea to exploit. In the centre Djourou was immense, and while Drogba may not be at his bullying best, credit must go to the young Swiss player for a huge performance.
Sure, they almost caught us once or twice, but they are the league title holders. To go through the entire game without them offering any threat whatsoever is delusional. That they didn’t score when they caught us on the break should be applauded. That they scored from a free kick can be looked at some other time.
It can be no coincidence that when Kos and JD have played together we have not lost a match, and with stats of played four, won three, drawn won, scored 12 and conceded two, they make a very strong case to be the number one pairing until Vermaelen returns. If Djourou’s knee can withstand it that is.
Speaking of Vermaelen, am I the only one drooling at the thought of Djourou alongside Vermaelen back there? I don’t think I am.
In the midfield Song had what could be described as his best match in an Arsenal shirt. He picked his forays forward perfectly, knowing when to stay and when to attack. He was perfect in the tackle, with six won out of six attempted. His passes success rate was a superb 93% and he also managed to make five clearances out of five attempted, two interceptions, one block, and score a goal (thanks to @Eboue_Eboue for the stats). Those stats should be impressive to anyone.
Jack was probably the quietest of all three midfielders but his performance still belies his age. He got kicked all over the place and luckily for us seems to be made of something stronger than most Arsenal players.
Fabregas. What can you say? He has been off for most of the season with injuries, and mental issues about the injuries, but his range of passing, his touch, and his commitment cannot be questioned. His ability to split a defence with a pass is genius, and to end the match with a goal and an assist shows that he is headed back to his best. HIs very harsh yellow means he will miss the trip to Wigan and maybe that isn’t a bad thing, give him a rest. Let those hammies heal.
Nasri was superb at his defensive duties yesterday, and while he was not as incisive going forward, when he did get the chance Ferreira, the Chelsea full-back, didn’t know what to do with himself. He covered Clichy more in 90 minutes than Arshavin has managed all season.
On the other flank Theo showed time and again why those who say he hasn’t got a footballing brain are morons. He kept Cole pushed back, helped Sagna in defence and was always looking to be an out for anyone. It was his quick thinking that got us in for the second, and he was up there, ready and waiting when Cesc returned the favour. A very, very good game from Theo, more the type we are used to seeing from him when he comes from the bench than when he starts a match.
Leading the line was VP who, while not at his imperious best, showed why he is such an important player for us. His determination, ability to hold the ball up while three players hang on him, and still release a pass is something none of our front men have as much as him. Should have also had a penalty when he was hacked down on the edge of the box, but let’s not worry about that.
Even the subs were fired up. Diaby could have made it four, perhaps he should have but what annoys me is the same people who laugh at Van Persie and his chocolate leg have been absolutely slating Diaby for his refusal to shoot with his. In his first game back since October he showed some delightful touches and an ability to drift past players, sending them the wrong way without actually seeming to do anything. Great to see him back, and even better to see his ankles remain untrodden as well. Chamakh replaced Van Persie and worked his arse off for the 15 minutes he was on the pitch.
From first to last every single Arsenal player can hold their head high. They gave everything they had and were rewarded handsomely.
Same again tomorrow boys.
Same again tomorrow.
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