It’s been a loooong while I’ve posted anything here but I guess you guys just have to put up with my once-in-a-while attitude. Sorry. Again, it’s football that’s brought me back on here and this is more of me getting tired of all the comments and analysis flying around. I know I’m not in the majority in what I’m about to express but I just have to say it how I see it.
Ok, we just lost to Chelsea (again!) and everyone that knows anything about football is on Arsenal’s case. Fans and foes alike. I really don’t know which piques my annoyance more, the fans ranting about how bad we are or the media and haters saying the same thing. It’s just quite tiresome. As normal for someone like me, I’ve had my fair share of arguments over the short period after the loss but I seemed not to have been satiated, hence, the need to do this.
I’ve previously expressed that I read a number of sports sites with my consistent one being ESPNFC. Well, I do still read them but I’ve lost interest in anything they intend to present as objective analysis after the FA Cup triumph. I simply just read them these days to see how creatively they are nailing Arsenal now. Other sites I don’t bother with anymore. I now prefer to read The Short Fuse, Arseblog and our own official site for basically more objective analysis. If you ever get to go on Arsenal.com, Adrian Clarke’s ‘The Breakdown’ is always worth a watch after each game for serious objective analysis on the game.
Now from even our fansites, such as TSF and Arseblog, the venom being spewed at the end of the Chelsea game was quite irritating for me. I have come to conclude that a lot of fans have bought into the media narratives so much that it even confuses them. The media sell narratives. That’s what gets people interested in them. It’s more or less a ‘bad news sells’ kinda situation. And it’s so sad many of us have accepted what they’ve had to say basically because they’ve seem right most of the time. But really there’s a lot more for us fans to consider when it comes to the club and the situation we’re in.
Let me take it from this game and work it back. First, I totally understand the frustration of the fans after losing that game. It is very acceptable to be mad, blame everyone, sack the coach in our minds and just say every nasty thing about the club in the heat of the moment. But I expect a little bit of objectivity to kick in after we get sober a day or two after. Here are a few narratives going into the match: ‘Arsenal can never compete at the top level’, ‘Arsenal will always lose to a top 4 team’, ‘Ozil is not as good as Fabregas’, ‘Ozil is not a good player for the Prem’, ‘Ozil is lazy’, ‘Arsenal lack cutting edge’, ‘Arsenal always gets hammered by a top 4 team away from home’, ‘Arsenal does not have quality enough to compete’, ‘Arsenal lacks a proper DM’ and a number of others.
Now, some of these narratives might be true but they’re also over-flogged and many of them have mitigating circumstances. Some of these circumstances can be attributed to the manager but not everything is totally Wenger’s problem even though we eventually will say the buck stops at his table, but then again, there’s a lot more in play.
In the game in question, I’m so damn sure we were never outclassed by Chelsea in any moment bar those two instances that led to goals which again had some surrounding circumstances. In this game was such that if Arsenal had managed to nick a goal with a sole shot on target with probably an Ozil assist, and won the game, every single fan will claim that we have finally arrived and all the finger-pointing will disappear into thin air. Let’s look at a few things which IMO changed the game, however, subtly. I actually believe if this game had been played at the Emirates, it would have ended in a dour 0-0 draw much like last season, only a little bit more boring.
First, Cahill had that extremely rash tackle on Sanchez and it was a straight red. That card given and Chelsea will have been shorthanded, no matter how good they’ve been this season and the game would have probably dragged to a goalless draw. Then again, we may decide to apply a bit more pressure and probably nicked a goal and do what they did.
Second, Chambers picked up a yellow for a foul that was a warning at best, considering what Oscar did on the day and that caution was indirectly responsible for that goal and Hazard eventually having so much fun. Yes, Alexis lost the ball in our half (needlessly, may I add) but we’d dealt with such very well previously. And yes, Hazard got past Cazorla too easily and I agree that a Matic there would not have allowed that. But we still had one man before Kos. Who was he? Yep, it was the yellow-carded Chambers. That was the tackle that was supposed to earn him a yellow. Replays showed he hesitated on the tackle and I think that was common sense. A red card for this team and Chelsea will be quick out of their shell and swarming all over us. Another 6-0 cannot be discounted. So he withdrew and it was Kos who had to make that tackle, in the box no less, and he was lucky not be sent off. Well, maybe not lucky because the ref was just being consistent with the trend. That goal changed the game in more ways than just numbers on the scoreboard. Kos was on a yellow, which would have been prevented if Chambers wasn’t already on a yellow. Forget the DM story, Hazard was Chambers man for the match and he did him well until that yellow when he had to be cautious. The narratives will read ‘Hazard skinned Chambers all day’ but the game before that yellow was a different story.
Now with a game to chase, I think we did pretty well. We didn’t expose ourselves too much at the back which quite restricted our forays forward, which any good team that knows their opposition’s strength up top would likely do. Chelsea did not create anything noteworthy before and after the goal because they did note want to open themselves up knowing how good Arsenal was in front (yes, I believe that’s why they played that way at their home ground). Where was Fabregas and Costa all through the game before the goal? Watch their midweek game against Lisbon (a game that some people even started praising the team more than Arsenal) and see how Costa was all over their defence getting numerous chances to score and losing them (where was Carvalho when Costa had that 1v1 against their ‘keeper?). They could never replicate that today. Some say it’s a tactic and well, if it is, it did work but still, it shows they know what they were up against. Costa even had the ball in our box and couldn’t do much with it because he was closed down quickly. These little things impressed me on the day.
In front, Alexis was harried all the time by Ivanovic (that’s more or less very good defending), Ozil had some good dribbles and passes but got easily knocked down. Way too easily. And I think the only other justified criticism on him is that big games need big players to do big things and he didn’t provide that. Otherwise, he did a number of things right on the day. Welbeck wasn’t getting service so he had to come to middle a lot more than I’d like and he never had many chances to go at both defenders especially as Cahill was already on a yellow. Cazorla did his bit creatively and Wilshere was supposed to get the equalizer but lost his composure at the first touch. Again, this is a forgivable offense except that we were 1-0 down.
Finally, the 2nd half was going pretty much the same way the first had gone with Chelsea not creating too much of note and contented sitting back while Arsenal were also trying to find a goal, albeit very cautiously watching out for the break. Many fans were frustrated that they thought we never looked like winning the game because Chelsea looked comfortable and we never had a shot on goal. I believe we could have approached the 2nd half in two ways. We could have gone at them with everything and tried to score, which I’m certain will result in some shots on target (like many keep crying over) and probably a goal (the probability is quite low knowing how well Chelsea defend) but we could also be open to a few more counters and conceding a few more goals and we’d be back talking this same trash and spewing narratives (remember, we ALWAYS lose big). The second approach was what we did, being careful of the counter. It worked for us defensively but in attack, it caused issues because we were always outnumbered and seemed out of ideas.
Then came the second goal. Remember we were chasing a goal, so we were bound to be desperate at some point and that point was when Alexis lost the ball (again!) in front of their area and the ball was worked to Cesc. Now this is where it gets tricky. With the ball with Cesc, he had Flamini in front of him, the two defenders still at the back (with Costa coming back into an onside position) and a few of our MFs around him. Some blame Flamini for not closing him down and allowing him that pass but I’ve heard a counter-argument that said Flamini saw other Chelsea players about to break for the counter and was more about trying to cover that area believing his defenders would deal with the lone man if the ball ever came to him (they’d dealt with him pretty well all day) so he chose not to block him off, unless obviously if he tries to get beyond him. The pass came, Kos didn’t quickly know where Costa was but was still close enough to disrupt his composure with a tackle. But he didn’t! Why?! Remember the yellow he picked for that pen, which he shouldn’t have picked if Chambers had collected it with a tackle on Hazard, which Chambers couldn’t… Oh, I guess you get the picture now. After that, the game was pretty much done because we wouldn’t risk a hiding by coming at them full flow so we just had to work with what we had.
About that goal, please stop over-hyping both Costa and Cesc over Welbeck and Ozil just because of that. That pass is a pass Ozil can make under the same circumstances and that goal is one Welbeck can score too. Costa was zero in that match until that goal. Cesc never did split our defense until that pass. These came about because we were chasing the game. And that came about because… Urrgghh! I’m tired of explaining. See the chain of events now? The only thing Cesc has more than Ozil in that match was strength on the ball and if you argue that that makes him better then, well, I’ll have to agree. Ozil playing through the middle, I doubt if he would have created much because of how Chelsea played. The runners were blocked off. If we had gone 1-0 up by any form of accident, I think Ozil would have picked up the accolades Cesc did, despite how lazy he seemed. Fine margins.
Just one more thing for reference. Man City is the only other recognized title contender so far and we can compare their game with Chelsea with this one. Chelsea played just as defensive and Man City, naturally being at home, were attacking. They weren’t really getting much luck until Chelsea eventually found the net, albeit after Man City was down a man. See what happened after City pushed up looking for an equalizer? Chelsea had two superb counters with Schurrle missing the goal and Costa hitting the post. It would have easily been 3-0 and that was at the Etihad. The equalizer came when Chelsea, seeing that it wasn’t going in at the other end, decided it was lockdown time. A nice move by Milner and hopeful dink into the box saw Lampard busting guts to get to it and in it went. Bar that, the game was already done. We may have had such luck if we went for it more in the last 5 or 10 minutes at 1-0 when they’d be more conscious of keeping the score than playing on the counter.
That is my take on the game. Part 2 sees my take on the team as a whole.