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Archive for the tag “Chelsea”

Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea: Observations And Analysis

It’s difficult writing an analysis for a game which went so poorly for Arsenal. And the difficulty comes not from the disappointment of the scoreline but the manner of the defeat, a surprisingly nervous and lacklustre display after solid performances in the first five games.

As predicted, Arsene Wenger started the more mobile centre-back pairing of Vermaelen and Koscielny. At the front, Ramsey again took his place on the right with Gervinho playing through the middle, although the Ivorian swapped positions fairly regularly with Podolski on the left. While one decision worked well as the Ivorian netted Arsenal’s only goal, the other gamble of leaving Mertesacker on the bench backfired quite spectacularly.

Chelsea named a line-up that showed attacking intent with Oscar starting behind Torres flanked by Hazard and Mata while Ramires’ energy was preferred in midfield alongside Mikel. It was a brave decision by Roberto Di Matteo, not many managers come to the Emirates and attempt to take Arsenal on at their own game. In the end, Oscar’s inclusion proved decisive as the Brazilian kept Mikel Arteta quite for most of the match.

In a match where neither team played their best football, Arsenal scored one very good goal and conceded two very sloppy ones. This tweet from last night points out the similarities in Arsenal’s concession of both goals.

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Arsenal v Chelsea: Tactical Preview, Probable XI, Score Prediction

Arsenal take on a Drogless Chelsea as both teams attempt to maintain their unbeaten start to the season. As the following tweet suggests, history very much favours the Gunners today.

While there’ll be plenty of attacking talent on display, equally this is a match between two of the Premier League’s meanest defenses at the moment. Both teams have scored nine and conceded just two goals from their five matches. Tactically too, it’s 4-2-3-1 v 4-2-3-1 so there’s a possibility the teams could cancel each other out.

Roberto Di Matteo is likely to select John Terry despite the FA’s four-match ban as it is still subject to an appeal, while the other usual suspects, Luiz, Ivanovic and Cole will line up alongside him in defense. In midfield, Chelsea’s Italian manager has preferred the Mikel-Lampard partnership in three of their five league games and I suspect Di Matteo will persist with that combination.

As pointed out by Michael Cox in the scouting report for Arsenal.com, Di Matteo is still trying to balance his attacking options. While Oscar, Hazard and Mata are an exciting proposition when they play together, the Italian will be wary of Arsenal’s threat going forward so Ramires could be deployed on the right flank to contain the Gunners’ left-sided attacks and provide drive on counter attacks. I expect Hazard to play centrally behind Torres with Mata on the left, although these two will interchange often and try to torment Carl Jenkinson.

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Robin Bags Another Award And Parked Buses Can Be Handy

First things first – Robin van Persie won another accolade yesterday as he was voted Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association to add to the PFA award he won a couple of days ago. Enough has been said about Robin already – well done skipper, thoroughly deserved, is all I can add.

The other big news this morning is that Chelsea are through to the finals of the Champions League after a disciplined defensive performance (read parked bus) at the Nou Camp. Ramires’ cool finish on a counter at the end of the first half gave the chavs a precious away goal and they suitably frustrated Barca for the entire second half. Messi missed a penalty and hit the post as Barca conspired to lose the game by not taking the few chances they had.

Since Roberto Di Matteo’s promotion to interim manager, Chelsea has settled down to play with a more defensive strategy. This has focused the efforts of the players. But the most important thing RDM has brought with him is luck. Most of the results since he took over have been achieved with good lumps of fortune thrown in.

Which is why I totally expect Chelsea to put on a sterling performance in the final and win the Champions League. That’s how football goes. Anything can happen in a one-off match and now Chelsea have a 50% chance of winning the European title – that’s about 10 times more than the chance anyone gave them of beating the Catalans.

This of course is very relevant to Arsenal because third place is not a luxury anymore, it is a requirement. We must focus and get the result at Stoke at the weekend – and then against Norwich – and then at West Brom. The players will be aware of this, and hopefully this will bring out the determination in our performance, not the nervousness.

Arsenal have been accused of being a one-man team for a large part of this season. But how toothless are Barcelona when Messi is not on song? A couple of weeks of the Argentine not being in top form and the Catalans are out of the league and out of Europe. Cesc Fabregas’ ambition to win big trophies will have to wait at least another year.

Last night’s result is as much a warning for Arsenal to have an alternate strategy, as it is for Barcelona to revisit theirs. While many teams come to the Emirates to defend and steal a point, Wigan and Chelsea have shown recently that more than a draw is possible. I fully expect many visiting sides (and a few home teams as well) to adopt these ultra-defensive tactics next season and try to catch us high up the pitch on the counter.

Our attacks through the middle lose steam as the game wears on, and just like Barca in the past week, we seem to run out of ideas when confronted with a wall in front of us. Yesterday’s post dealt with having a Plan B, I hope it is seriously considered for next season and we add a different dimension to our attacking play to combat these tactics.

The abrasive Stuart Pearce wants to include Jack Wilshere in Team GB, regardless of Arsene Wenger’s concern over the English midfielder’s rehabilitation. It is an ongoing problem between Arsene and England’s U-21 and interim manager, Pearce enforcing his sanctioned authority on club managers. Wilshere’s involvement in the Olympics is not good news for Arsenal, we would rather have him on the pre-season with the team and keep an eye on his progress than to hand him over to the Psycho.

There is also some hope that Theo Walcott will be available for the Euros, and may even play Arsenal’s final game of the season at West Brom. We need a strong finish and Walcott’s presence will definitely boost our chances of securing third.

All for today, have a nice day.

Chelsea Review: Point Taken

Premier League 2011-2012 / Game 35 / Emirates Stadium

Arsenal                      0
Chelsea                     0

Arsenal played out a 0-0 draw with Chelsea in the midday game yesterday as the quest for third entered it’s final stages. While it was a disappointment not to win the game, a point may yet prove vital for that Champions League spot next season – especially as the Tottanic continues to sink inevitably into the depths of the Europa League ocean.

The Gunners made 4 changes, all of which were predicted by yours truly (ahem…). Koscielny came in for Djourou, Gibbs replaced Santos, Ramsey filled in the Arteta role and Alex Oxlade Chamerlain got a run out in place of the ineligible Yossi Benayoun.

If that seemed like a lot, Chelsea trumped us in the squad rotation stakes, making as many as 8 changes from the side that beat Barcelona three days ago. Only Cech, Terry and Cahill survived from the mid-week game.

Arsenal lined up as expected, in a 4-2-1-3 formation with Ramsey and Song playing deeper and Rosicky in front of them. On paper, Chelsea seemed to have fielded a side with attacking focus with three forwards starting up front. In truth, only Fernando Torres played up top with both Sturridge and Kalou invariably dropping deep to help out in defense, giving the visitors a 4-1-4-1 shape, with Romeu almost playing as a centre-half at times.

It was not the most entertaining of games. This was largely down to Chelsea continuing their recent defensive tactics and preferring to shut shop and hope for something on the counter.

It was a surprising move as a draw was more acceptable to Arsenal than Chelsea. Maybe Roberto Di Matteo felt this was the best way to get a result at the Grove, having seen Wigan score two quick goals on the counter.

It shows the Blues mindset at present, content to defend tight and nick something rather force the issue, even in a must-win game. I can’t imagine Arsene Wenger adopting this tactic if the roles were reversed though.

The Gunners started rather nervously in the opening minutes. The passing was neither fluent nor accurate and players were dwelling on the ball far too long. Chelsea looked threatening on the counter for most of the game especially in the first few minutes when Kalou, Malouda and Sturridge were quick to support Torres everytime Arsenal lost the ball in midfield. We created a couple of good opportunties with Rosicky shooting over and Robin van Persie toe-poking the ball onto the post from a free kick.

We came into the game much more in the last 15 minutes of the half, controlling possession and moving the ball with more assurance. There was another glorious opportunity when RvP’s free kick found Koscielny completely unmarked in the penalty box but the Frenchman’s flicked header hit the bar and was subsequently cleared.

The sceond half began with Arsenal showing more energy, but settled down into a more even contest as the half wore on. Theo Walcott was replaced on the hour mark after pulling a hamtring, Gervinho coming on instead. This was followed quickly by the introduction of Abou Diaby in place of Tomas Rosicky. Five minutes later, the Ox made way for Andre Santos to come on at the left wing position.

Diaby and Santos started impacting the game from an attacking perspective in the latter stages. Santos was making runs on the inside left channel and linking well with Gibbs. Diaby looked assured after the first few minutes although he did not create all that much, it has to be said.

Chelsea introduced Mata and Cole, hoping to add some quality to maybe steal a late goal. Towards the end, RvP had a fantastic opportunity to win it for Arsenal, after good work by Santos and Gervinho saw the Dutchman pick up the ball on the left side on the penalty area. He twisted onto his right foot and should have got a shot away but preferred to turn back onto his left and the shot was eventually blocked. At the other end, Koscielny made a diving block in front of Sturridge to prevent a shot on goal.

Overall, it was not our best performance and a point is definitely not a bad result. The fact that choking cokerels lost at Loftus Road last night means we very much stll have control of third place, with Newcastle having tough games to come against Wigan, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Player Performances

Woijiech Szczesny

The Polish keeper had a good game, making a couple of saves when required. He did have one dodgy moment when he stepped out of the area but couldn’t get to the ball. Luckily, Koscielny managed to poke the ball away from Kalou.

Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen

Both the central defenders had a good match, making vital blocks in the penalty area. The Frenchman did misplace a number of passes, especially in the first half, which gifted possession to Chelsea. But overall, the central partnership looked switched on throughout the match. Men Of The Match for me.

Kieran Gibbs

Gibbs was excellent throughout the match, getting into the right positions defensively and marking Sturridge very well on Chelsea’s right wing. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece at EPLindex.com on Andre Santos statistics as a defender. But seeing Kieran’s assured performance yesterday, I am left in no doubt that the young English defender will easily retain the left back spot if he remains fit.

Bacary Sagna

Sagna had another forgettable game going forward. He and Theo Walcott had no joy on the right side, where they were shackled by the hardworking trio of Bertrand, Malouda and Kalou. The Frenchman also misplaced a number of passes, one them in the first half leading to Malouda running into space and towards goal. Although Bacary made the most number of passes and got involved, he was unable to create much and misplaced 10 of the 68 passes he attempted.

Alex Song

The Cameroonian had an average game in my opinion. He did well defensively making a couple of important interceptions in our penalty area but lost the ball with some regularity in midfield. He did try the chipped ball on ocassions and once found RvP with a perfectly weighted ball which the Dutchman volleyed straight at Cech.

Aaron Ramsey

Ramsey started nervously and him and Song seemed to be speaking different dialects of braille. Aaron also kept interchanging with Tomas Rosicky in the forward midfield role and lost the ball when he ran into the Chelsea wall. As the game progressed though, he settled into the deeper role next to Song and allowed Rosicky (later Diaby) and the front three to create the opportunities.

I thought the Welshman had a good game yesterday. Yes, he did lose the ball a couple of times in the first half but that was because he was naturally reverting to his more attacking role. Once he settled alongside Song, he passed the ball well and dropped deep to pick the ball up and also to defend when Chelsea had it. His stats bear this out, Aaron made the secnd highest number of passes of any Arsenal player and completed a high 97% of them.

A comparison with his stats from the Wigan game show clearly that the youngster played much deeper in this game. Whereas he was acting as creator against the Latics, he was more of the controller in the Chelsea game and that has improved his passing numbers dramatically.

I personally feel that Arteta’s injury will prove to be a good thing for Aaron Ramsey. The young midfielder is struggling to discover his creative touch and is too good to be left on the sidelines. A more focused approach in the ball retention role will improve his confidence and also develop his defensively capabilities.

Tomas Rosicky

The Czech worked hard, as we have come to expect of him lately. He also had a decent opportunity in the first half from which he blazed over but did not have the most influential of games against a disciplined Blues midfield.

Theo Walcott

Walcott had a poor game. Bertrand never allowed him room to manouver and tracked the Englishman effectively throughout the game. He did look dangerous with his pace on a couple of Arsenal counter attacks but did not contribute much else. To make matters worse, it seems he will miss the last three games of the season, having pulled a hamstring in the 57th minute.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

For all those fans clamouring for a regular start for Alex, yesterday’s game proved how much the yougster still has to learn. Tried to take on defenders but kept running inside most times from the left and did not offer width. He also started turning up on the right hand side in the later stages of the first half and only Gibbs and Ramsey covering in his place prevented Chelsea having open space on that side to launch counters.

Robin van Persie

It’s official. Robin van Persie is suffering the inevitable dip in form that comes after a long glorious run. He still managed to get into some fantastic positions. Where a couple of months ago he would have buried the toe poke and lashed a ferocious curler past Cech in at the right post, yesterday he found the post and turned on his left and got his shot blocked. It could be fatigue, playing 50 games in a season is tough task and although he is not scoring presently, the Dutch striker is vital to Arsenal’s threat and Arsene Wenger must be hoping he can last the remaining three games.

The Subs

Gervinho looked dangerous when he came on, and seemed to play with a directness and purpose not seen in recent games. He linked up well with RvP on a couple of ocassions too.

Abou Diaby looked lively in the 30 minutes he was on the pitch. If he can stay fit, Arsenal could really use his raw ability in the closing stages of the season, although I think next season will be the defining one in the French midfielder’s Arsenal career.

Andre Santos looked much more threatening playing on the left wing than Alex Oxlade. He intercepted and passed the ball quickly, bringing Gibbs into play down the wing. Arsene may give some serious thought to starting both Santos and Gervinho in the next game.

We now look forward to Stoke next week and Arsene will have the unenviable job of working out how to combat Pooless’ rugby tactics.

Until tomorrow. Keep calm.

Chelsea Preview: Arsenal Look To End Blues Momentum

It’s a Saturday, a very important one at that. Arsenal host Chelsea in the early kick-off today aiming to put some distance between themselves and their London rivals. A win, or draw for that matter, would increase the gap to Spurs and Newcastle too, as four teams still chase the two remaining, and all-important Champions League slots.

Diaby and Coquelin are both in the squad in place of the injured Mikel Arteta and the ineligible Yossi Benayoun. Sebastian Squillaci makes way for the return of Laurent Kocielny from suspension, so Johan Djourou should drop to the bench. Coquelin is not 100% match fit but with limited options in midfield, Arsene probably wants some insurance on the bench.

Chelsea are without Branislav Ivanovic who is suspended, as well David Luiz who hasn’t recovered from a hamstring injury. The big news is that Didier Drogba has picked up a knee injury after all those theatrical falls in midweek against Barcelona. It is a welcome relief for Arsenal. The Ivorian always manages to produce his best performances against us and I think his absence in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge was a small contributing factor in that 5-3 drubbing of the chavs.

With Arteta’s injury and Benayoun unable to play, the team literally picks itself. Once again, the only area up for consideration will be the left wing, where either Gervinho or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could start. I felt yesterday that Arsene would prefer to keep Alex Oxlade on the bench and bring him on in the latter stages of the match. However, the youngster has been ineffective as a sub and with the game being as important as it is, I suspect he may finally be unleashed on Roman’s rascals from the start.

My Arsenal XI would be:

Szczesny / Gibbs – Vermaelen – Koscielny – Sagna / Song – Ramsey – Rosicky / Walcott – Van Persie – Oxlade-Chamberlain

The Blues are carrying momentum and while this is their third game in six days, winning football matches at this stage of the season helps overcome physical and mental fatigue. Certainly, there will be changes from the team that beat Barca on Wednesday night.

The expectation is that Roberto Di Matteo will field a side that will defend deep and catch us on the counter – pretty much the same tactic they used against the Catalans, except they should see a little more of the ball in this game and hence have a slightly more attacking threat.

Chelsea probables:

Cech / Bosingwa – Cahill – Terry – Cole / Meireles – Essien – Mikel / Ramires – Torres – Kalou

Arsenal found it difficult to break down Wigan in the second half on Monday night. A lot of that was down to the Latics’ defense, but as Arsene Wenger pointed out post-match, it was also because we tried too hard to create while in possession. Still, we did have chances in the first half to get back into it but couldn’t take the opportunities.

Our 5-3 at Stamford Bridge was achieved as a result of lethal finishing. Robin van Persie will need to rediscover his scoring form this afternoon. Theo Walcott seems to be alternating between the very poor and the very sublime this season. The Wigan performance was definitely the former, so Arsenal fans will be expecting a bit of the latter today. Oxlade-Chamberlain has proved he is calm in front of goal, but he has not played regularly for a while so composure will be required if he does get in a good position.

I hope Ramsey starts in the deep-lying role played by Arteta. Playing further forward puts the creative onus on his shoulders and with the form he’s currently in, he looks to be trying too hard and consequently surrendering possession. Sitting a little deeper should allow him to see a little more of the ball and keep directing play, allowing the creativity to come from Rosicky, Alex Oxalde and Walcott in front of him.

Of course, Aaron’s defensive game is nowhere near as good as Mikel Arteta’s so we might be in for some nervy moments at the back, especially if Alex Song decides to go on his walk-abouts. I doubt he will do this today, I expect we will see him much more disciplined with his positioning, at least until the match stays goalless.

The most important thing for Arsenal will be not to concede an early goal. Chelsea will only feel their recent exertions if they have to force the play. If we get caught on the counter like against Wigan and concede the lead, the Blues will then be able to sit back, defend and be more of a threat when they do get the ball.

Offesively, Arsenal must try to create opportunities by using different modes of attack – like crossing the ball. I know it’s not our strongest attribute and Chelsea have two very good headers in Cahill and Terry at the back. But a direct approach combined with possession play puts more pressure on the opposition defense. Yes, it may lead to loss of possession at times, but we should not be averse to whipping in a few balls regularly and keeping the Chelsea back line on their toes.

Personally, I am not overly impressed by Chelsea’s resurgence. Many of their results since RDM took over have been achieved with a healthy dose of lady luck’s input. If we produce the kind of performance we did against Manchester City, I think we will sink the Blues ship this afternoon.

It will be a tight game and may not rise to any high standards. 1-0 to the Arsenal.

Enjoy the game. Until tomorrow.

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