A year ago today, Arsenal recorded one of their most impressive results of the 2011/12 campaign. After a nightmare start to the season, the Gunners began to bounce back in October. They lost the North London Derby 2-1 at White Hart Lane and won every other game they had in October. Beating Sunderland, Marseille, Stoke and Bolton was one thing, but at the end of the month they had a London derby on their hands again, this time away to Chelsea.
Chelsea had suffered defeat the week before at the hands of QPR, in the famous game that brought up the John Terry – Anton Ferdinand race issue. Despite the QPR result, Arsenal were definitely the underdogs going into the match.
In the 14th minute, everything was going to script when Arsenal were looking shaky at the back with both Per Mertesacker and Andre Santos at fault as Frank Lampard gave Chelsea a 1-0 lead.
Arsenal had created chances though, with Gervinho firing wide with the goal at his mercy and Robin Van Persie failed to keep his effort down as Arsenal gave the hosts a hint of what was to come. The visitors found their path back into the game in the 36th minute with a perfect ball by Aaron Ramsey finding Gervinho, who set up Van Persie for a tap in. 1-1.
Chelsea retook the lead just before half time, with Terry scoring from a Lampard corner. Still watching that goal today, I think if Arsenal had got their basics covered and had a man on the posts, that goal would have been prevented. I hate to say it, but a player that moved to Chelsea from Arsenal in 2006, Ashley Cole was always covering the posts and making many clearances that saved goals going in against us.
Arsenal looked a different team in the second half. Andre Santos and Per Mertesacker looked different players, with Santos’ second half performance in particular one that impressed me. Van Persie and Ramsey both went close to scoring equalisers before Santos was put through on goal and put the ball through Cech’s legs and into the goal. 2-2.
The Gunners weren’t done yet though. Walcott rode the challenges of a couple of Chelsea defenders before falling over, picking himself up and bursting forward to blast the ball into the net to give Arsenal the lead for the first time in the match.
Wojciech Szczesny was lucky to stay on the pitch after bringing down Ashley Cole outside of his penalty area. The Pole escaped with a booking, later admitting on Twitter that he should have been sent off. Following that it was quiet until 10 minutes from time when Andre Santos appeared to be fouled by Romelu Lukaku, but the referee said no and Juan Mata curled a super shot into the net from 25 yards out to level the scores. It was harsh on Arsenal, who had defended much better in the second half and were worthy of the 3 points. They still had 10 minutes, but the obvious fear with being an Arsenal fan was going from 3 points to 0 points in a matter of minutes.
Thankfully on this occasion, Arsenal found the winner. A John Terry slip allowed Van Persie in, who rounded Cech to send the Arsenal fans wild. The Dutchman wasn’t done yet though.
With Chelsea chasing an equalising goal once more, Arsenal broke forward in search of a goal that would kill the game off in the dying seconds and if not that, to wind the clock down. Van Persie was sent in the clear once more and once again thumped the ball past Cech right in front of the Arsenal fans.
Thoughts a year on… what a difference 1 year makes. This time a year ago Robin Van Persie was winning the hearts of every Arsenal fan, week in, week out with some fantastic performances and plenty of goals. Now after his summer move to Manchester United, Van Persie is a hate figure at the club. I can’t blame him for his decision to leave the club to win trophies, as I agree that he won’t win them at Arsenal. However, going to Manchester United and spouting crap about listening to the little kid inside of him wanting to play for them was ridiculous, as he was pictured as a kid in an Arsenal shirt and always said he supported them and Feyenoord growing up.
Theo Walcott had a great game, now because of a contract dispute he is on the bench most of the time.
Alex Song put in a good shift that day, now he is playing for Barcelona. Maybe I should use the word ‘playing’ loosely, as I have seen him on the bench more often than not. He had a problem with the club over money too. Sounding a little familiar isn’t it?!.
Reading some reports of this game, it was funny how Fabio Capello was in attendance as of course he was the England manager at the time.
Chelsea were managed by Andre Villas-Boas back then, now manager of Tottenham. Just all these things, funny what a difference 1 year exactly can make!