Arsenal Collapse At Chelsea

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Chelsea Lots – Arsenal Nil

Gentlemen, this title hope will self-destruct in…oh, wait, it already has…

Which mental image you saw when you read those words is defined by your age. I confess, Peter Graves. If you have to ask who Peter Graves is, Tom Cruise was probably your man. You expected one or other to be the lead photo but Peter Cook from Blackadder? It fits if you think about it for long enough.

Where do you begin after such a defeat? You could start by blaming the referee but that is the refuge of the blinkered. By the time Andre Marriner had made you wish that Paul was officiating, the game had long escaped Arsenal’s grasp. From the official’s perspective, it was a horrific mistake; mistaken identity is the worst they can make, knowing that foul play was afoot but getting the wrong person entirely; “Ha! Moriarty. No, Watson, it was Mrs Hudson!

I don’t know where to begin, the tumult of emotions is still raging. We repeated the mistakes of Eastlands and Anfield. The desperation of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s dive encapsulated the hopelessness the players felt and despair they were driven to. He didn’t need to do it, the ball was going wide but they didn’t know how – or were powerless – to prevent the fall to previous depths.  The headlights had once more blinded them into panic, two quickly conceded goals and the wheels had come off before the kettle had been filled for the half-time Bovril.

Had one of the results at the homes of the top three occurred in isolation, it is an abhorrence. Three times in a season tells us something is fundamentally wrong, that tactically we had the wrong game plan but knowing it had failed at City, why repeat the same plan at Anfield and Stamford Bridge, especially with key personnel missing. I cannot recall such a porous defence in these encounters, they are usually such tight affairs. They are matches decided by the thinnest of margins; it has been a chasm on each occasion this season. But why, especially when the two home games thus far have seen Arsenal as the better team. What is the mental block the players have when they have faced their nearest rivals this season. Is it just the players who are startled deer?

Key players missing is going to be held as a mitigating circumstance and in some respects it was. Any side will miss the quality of Walcott, Wilshere and Ramsey. However, as all three played in the humbling at Eastlands, it is something of a spurious argument. In any case, surely the point of a squad system is to cope with such absences and we largely have this season. In matches against teams in lower positions. Against those more equal or better? The answer is plain to see.

Yesterday was not a surprise in some respects. We had, after all, seen a strangely muted performance at White Hart Lane last weekend, one where we played rope-a-dope with Tottenham. Was the original plan to repeat that? If so, Olivier Giroud’s miss before the opening goal takes on even greater significance. If Arsène’s tactical plan is that, those chances need to be taken. It wasn’t and Arsenal’s failings were exposed. We have a good centre forward in the Frenchman but not one who can consistently make a difference in the big matches and that is where you need someone who can take a chance, someone of the calibre of Suarez. Players of that ilk are few and far between; when you try to sign  them, you go all out not half-arsenaled. Would he have made a difference in this match had he worn the cannon on his chest? Probably not but he might have already made the outcome less relevant.

Yet Giroud is not the sole cause, his failings are but one in a multitude contained within this abysmal and mangled performance. Let’s be honest, Wojciech Szczesny won’t look back favourably on the afternoon and with hindsight we ask many questions. The problem is that we have asked these questions before as well. Why were Arsenal so slow to begin? Why were Arsenal chasing an irretrievable deficit within twenty minutes? Why did Arsenal hold a high defensive line when Per Mertesacker’s strength is not his pace but his reading of the game, his ability to compensate for that weakness by being in the position to make a timely interception or tackle if needed. Especially when you are a man down.

Arsenal will most likely finish fourth this season, the first to fall in the title race. In acknowledging that, there are some very uncomfortable questions to be asked and the answers won’t be known until the end of the season. How close you get to the title is judged ultimately in points and closing the gap from last season’s sixteen is something which has to be achieved. Progress might be considered to have been made by actually being in the hunt for the title and not knowing it has gone by October. But is it progress at all?

Arsène observed that the defeat left Arsenal in a “bad position“. It leaves us in a very familiar position; fourth place. It won’t be a battle this season unless there is a collapse although defeat at Goodison Park will make the end of the season run-in a little less comfortable. The table this morning reinforces the message about the away form; from the top down to eighth, Arsenal’s record is LLLWL with just Everton to go. It is depressing reading as it shows no improvement in the last few years. As much as the rest of the Premier League offers more points, you cannot win the title or sustain a challenge with taking more points than that on your travels. Looking for positives such as Arsène did, claiming we are better off by winning and losing in the last two matches is factually correct but pointless; Arsenal had to win both to challenge for the title. Even now, a top three finish is beginning to look a distant dream.

The pressure now turns to the FA Cup semi-final against Wigan. It’s a match Arsenal should win anyway, they are a better side than their opponents as their league positions evidence. But to make this season feel like progress, to prove that this squad is capable of going on to better things, they have to lift the trophy, to use it as a stepping stone to a concerted title next season. Next season though is a familiar refrain.

’til Tomorrow.

312 thoughts on “Arsenal Collapse At Chelsea

  1. just to clarify these are away game stats..

    im still not convinced they are cock on i was pretty sure weve won a few more at the time i first saw them but still..

    its bad give or take a couple of wins and draws

    and when youve got 8-2’s 6-3’s 5-1’s and 6-0’s thrown in for good measure its even worse 🙁

  2. can anyone honestly tell me if theyve ever in the whole time of watching football matches seen arsene at another ground watching that match?
    you see other team managers at other grounds all the time watching what goes on..
    never seen AW though…

    quite telling really

  3. JJ

    They are the stats for away games against those seasons top four. Which is basically the same lot of teams until this season when we still couldn’t beat United even if they are a God-awful incarnation.

  4. Arsene:

    “We have to think deeply about because it is not the first time [it’s happened]’, Wenger said. “It all went wrong and I take full responsibility. It is my fault that we failed completely today because we did not turn up.
    “We felt we prepared properly, but we did not turn up, so it is puzzling. After 20 minutes, it was game over and it became a long afternoon, a long dramatic, dreadful afternoon. There is not a lot more I could say, you could blame and blame but it does not help.

    “That is the most disappointing thing, that we were never in the game. This is puzzling because we were shocked and knocked down basically without feeling you have had a chance.
    “What is important now is we show we have the capacity to respond, despite that disappointment, on Tuesday night.”

  5. Mr. Wenger:

    ““We felt we prepared properly, but we did not turn up, so it is puzzling. After 20 minutes, it was game over and it became a long afternoon, a long dramatic, dreadful afternoon.”

    It would be puzzling if it happens once every blue moon, but this is the 3rd time this season alone. I’m not even going to mention the Barcelonas and Bayern Munichs of this world.

    These comments are still a deliberate attempt to cover the real issues and the continuous mistakes. You DO NOT have adequate squad to challenge for a 38 game competition and you don’t have enough quality in the team to challenge for a Champions league.

    Every one knows we are short, the hacks, the pundits, the fans, Mr. Bean, Frank’s horse, YW’s left foot, and the list goes on…

    Yet you still signed a free 21 year old, free Flamini, and splashed 42 million on one player. As good as Ozil is to have, he was not probably the player we needed. Then to make it more comical as the recent defeat, you signed an already injured free player in the winter.

    Either you’re nuts, or you think we are fools…..which is it? Either way it’s bad.

  6. 1) Szsc was shite. Casillas anyone? Should we really let Fabianski leave?

    2) Wenger opted for Chamberlain down the middle. Against Everton, it worked. Mourinho (much as we may like to mock him) does his homework. This was by no means an offensive Chelsea team with terry and Cahill joined by Ivanovic, Aspiculeta on the flanks and crucially Luiz and Matic holding the middle. We must have lost the ball at will in the middle. Whenver they won it, they (as his characteristic of a Mourinho team) transitioned very quickly and we were caught with our fullbacks commited way too far up. Arteta was left in no mans land covering ground. why then did Wenger not realise this quickly and respond appropriately sending Flamini on to plug the gap? Chamberlain in this instance was better for us wide.

    We repeat the same mistakes he made against Liverpool and before that City and get humiliated where lesser teams have come away with better.

    Wenger flatters to deceive because he is good in the market and buys good players. We are competitive quality-wise and numbers (with exception of up top) against the best in the league. But even good players need direction and set up and this is where wenger IMO fails. This is where he is found wanting against better teams.

    3) We have lost the ability to transition quickly against the better teams. Our approach too often bears too much caution and not enough incisiveness.

    Part of the issue is the short fall up top. we do not have an option to Giroud’s game. He is a good player but mainly better in a situation where we play against a team sitting deep against us. In this instance, his physicality comes to play where on the break, his speed (or lack of) does nothing to our game.

    I understand that Wenger faced a tough market in january with some players on the wane (Berbatove) others not much better than Bendtner (Mitrogolou) and many cup tied. BUT how we did not consider say
    Pato on loan with an option to buy is beyond me. The Brasilian has something to prove, is not cup tied, still 24, plenty of pace and crucially has the tricks to work independently up front.

    Considering our injuries on the flanks, Wenger decided to stick with Ox supported by (he hoped) a productive Podolski. I am a fan of Rosicky but IMO Wenger shunned a great opportunity to buy his replacement where his age will not improve his injury issues in coming years.

    The great opportunity if we consider Hazard) is still there in Konoplyanka whom Liverpool were unsuccessful with (16m ballpark). This is player blessed with pace who (in concert with a fast striker) can return some of the verve we use to play with. @24, he is coming into peak age, has plenty of experience as Ukriane’s playmaker and is a bag of tricks on the flanks (being comfortable with both feet and a likely successor to Santi in coming years)

    Considering the issues we face replacing Sagna, Fabianski and Vermaelen in the summer, the time to buy would have been in Jan where we had some momentum over the likes of Liverpool whose buying position will surely strengthen against us in the summer now.

    Gutted by the poor display.

    This was a match that either confirmed Wenger’s longevity and ability to adapt through the years on the 1000 game hall mark or a game to confirm his place in history with a stress on tactics from yesteryears.

    I;m not sure we even lived up to our past reputations with this game bar recent stagnation. And FA cup win means F all in the bigger scheme of things. I’m not sure if Wenger will not review his ability to take the club forward now. The step forward seems lateral as is.

    Bugger.

  7. santori,

    There is a great deal in your post which while being understandably downbeat, is spot.

    When you think of the relative sizes of the big Chelsea defence and midfield to our small midfield it becomes obvious why we lost the ball every time they pressed us, with only Giroud having a comparable physique.

  8. Good morning, Yogi.

    Don’t let the francophile Northbank achieve first today — he will have another bottle of red and do no artwork.

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