In any league season, a double loss to the same team is not a desirable record. Even more so when it is to a local rival club whose upsurge in fortunes uses a different financial route than that of Arsenal.
On the face of it, losing twice to Chelsea is nothing to be ashamed about. After all, they have good players in their side and are the reigning Champions Leaguer holders. However, the manner of the defeat is something which no Gunner will look back proudly on.
All these after a very encouraging win in the third round replay in the FA Cup, against Swansea. A match which saw Arsene Wenger making the decision to drop both Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the bench, in favour of moving Jack Wilshere into the hole before the striker role.
The future Arsenal captain (and possibly England), did very well in that role which granted him a further chance in yesterday’s game against Chelsea. Yet, despite a very decent win against Swansea, the confidence didn’t seem to rub off the players.
The trio that worked so well against Swansea in midweek, was retained. Francis Coquelin and Abou Diaby completing the midfield triumvirate together with Wilshere.
Yet, it was a bit reckless of Wenger to persist with Diaby in the starting line-up. Not because he doesn’t have the quality but because 3 games in a week for his body, at this stage of his latest comeback, might be too demanding. Aaron Ramsey might be a lesser player than Diaby now, but would have been a better choice in midfield yesterday.
For the second league match running, Arsenal just didn’t turn up in the first half. Just like against Manchester City, we were sloppy and gave the impetus to the opponents to grab the upper hand in the opening half of the match.
2-0 down after just 16 minutes showed just how slow we got into the game. As Wenger said in his post-match conference, the fault of the two goals could also lie with the referee.
First, failing to whistle a Ramires stamp on the foot of Coquelin and secondly, for calling a penalty when the same Brazilian went tumbling inside the box. The second decision less ambiguous than the first.
I agree in part with that sentiment. Had we not gone a goal down so early in the match, things might have turned out differently. However, the fault is not entirely the referee’s.
Even if we had gone a goal down, the players should not have let their heads drop. They should have put up a better fist of things and ride the rough period out. It’s so frustrating when the opposite happens. It was like the Mata goal sapped the life out of the team as we were contend to just stand aside and allow Chelsea to pass the ball around with ease.
Tackling were at a premium and Arsenal players were reluctant to do any of it. The more senior players could watch the match and see that the only 2 players who harried and stood up to the home team, were the young Wilshere and Coquelin.
Chelsea were good but we made it easy for them. The team is not street smart enough to cope with an experienced team, like Chelsea. Calculated light fouls here and there would have served to break up their momentum. Not for the first time, the players looked absolutely terrified to be on the wrong side of the referee.
Unsurprisingly, we did better in the second half. Right from the kick-off in the second half, we turned the game in our favour and dominated the possession. Theo Walcott managed to pull one back on the hour mark but that seemed to burden us more than inspire. The energy levels dropped once again and we just could not find the equalising goal. The delivery from numerous corner kicks were just awful, to say the least.
West Ham up next and plenty to do on the training ground these few days. I wonder, would the players mind if the fans start turning up in the stadium only after half time?