Arsenal lost 2-1 to London rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this afternoon. The Gunners were punished for a sloppy performance in the first half, with the Gunners going into the break 2 goals behind and having spent much of the first half defending.
Arsenal’s squad was hit by news that both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski had come down with an illness and would miss the game. Looking at the bench before the game, it lacked any depth from an attacking perspective and I knew if Arsenal were trailing or trying to find a winner, they’d struggle to find any inspiration from the bench.
There were also fears that the game may be called off due to heavy snowfall in London over the past few days, but the game got the go ahead.
The game could have gone very differently if Olivier Giroud had converted a golden opportunity in the 5th minute after being played in by Theo Walcott. A minute later Arsenal were punished.
Cesar Azpilicueta crossed in and Juan Mata was in space. He held off Bacary Sagna before firing the ball past Szczesny to give the hosts the lead. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was furious as he felt Ramires had fouled Francis Coquelin in the build-up to the goal. It didn’t matter. Chelsea were 1-0 up and nothing Wenger said would change that fact.
Santi Cazorla then tested Petr Cech with a shot from range and Eden Hazard went close for the hosts not long after.
Just over a quarter of an hour had been played and Chelsea were awarded a penalty after Szczesny fouled Ramires in the box. Abou Diaby lost the ball to Ramires and after exchanging passes with Oscar, Ramires was brought down by Szczesny. The Pole was booked for the foul when a lot of Chelsea fans were calling for a red. There was a covering defender so there was no red given.
Frank Lampard converted from the spot and Arsenal now had a mountain to climb. There weren’t many more chances after this in the first half, but Chelsea were very comfortable. Ramires probably came closest, blazing a shot over the bar after getting past the challenge of Kieran Gibbs. Arsenal may have had chances had Theo Walcott not been offside 3 times in good positions. Arsenal hadn’t shown up though. They were the shy, timid team that we’ve seen too much of this year, particularly against the bigger teams.
The visitors weren’t mathematically out of it though. If they could come out in the second half and attack, there was still a chance. I stand by what I said in my preview. Chelsea are beatable at the Bridge. No doubt. They showed in the second half why I was confident going into this game. Arsenal showed me in the first half why I shouldn’t have been.
The tempo was upped from the off. Both Per Mertesacker and Theo Walcott had chances that went straight into the arms of Cech. However, they were chances and better than the first half already. A weak header from Olivier Giroud followed after a good cross from Kieran Gibbs.
The pressure was mounting and you could sense a goal coming. It was as if the two sides had swapped shirts at half time. The goal did come just before the hour. Cazorla slipped the ball through the Chelsea defence to Theo Walcott, who managed to stay onside this time and clip the ball past Cech. Walcott continued his fine goalscoring record against the Blues, something mentioned in my pre-game write up. A nice way to celebrate signing a new deal with the club this week, even if it did turn out to be just a consolation goal.
Wenger was forced into a change when Coquelin went off injured. Aaron Ramsey replaced him. For me, I saw Coquelin go down a few times today. Either that tells me that he isn’t physically up to the intensity of a game like this or Chelsea are just a dirty team. It could be a combination of both in honesty.
Fernando Torres had a few bursts forward after Arsenal left gaps in their defence going forward. Arsenal’s defence did just about enough to prevent the Spaniard a clear chance on goal.
Wenger sent Andrei Arshavin on in place of Diaby with 15 minutes to go, the kind of substitute I was dreading we’d have to make prior to the match when I saw the lack of attacking options on the bench. Ok, we’ve lost Chamberlain and Podolski to illness. I understand that. That’s a couple of guys out and we’re playing deadwood like Arshavin again!. Think… if we lose any of our centre-backs to injuries or suspensions, we’re not far off having Squillaci STARTING games for us again. If that doesn’t scare Wenger into buying, I don’t think anything will!.
You saw the difference in depth when Demba Ba came off the bench for Chelsea, replacing Fernando Torres. Ba should have killed the game off when he beat the offside trap and rounded Szczesny, who went rushing out of his goal to stop him. Thomas Vermaelen prevented Ba from scoring by sticking out a leg. It was enough to keep Arsenal’s hopes alive.
The Gunners tried to grab a late equaliser. Former Gunner Ashley Cole fouled Sagna right on the edge of the box, with any either Sagna or Walcott seemingly through on goal. I’d have liked to of seen an advantage played to be honest.
Giroud had an effort dip over before he headed over the bar in what was Arsenal’s last chance of the game. The result another big disappointment for Arsenal, who need to start getting some results if they are to qualify for the Champions League next season. Transfers are necessary for that to happen in my opinion, but what’s the point in expressing it when the man that can make that happen, won’t make that happen.