Arsenal Held By Chelsea, Premier League Title All But Over


Arsenal faced Chelsea on Saturday in what had to be the biggest game of the year for both sides.  What little hopes of a title challenge for Arsenal rested on the necessity of victory, while anything but that clinched the title for Chelsea, for all intents and purposes.

The Arsenal side saw no change from what has become their normal league side, though that did mean that Per Mertesacker passed his injury test and Hector Bellerin continued to start even with a healthy, albeit rusty, Mathieu Debuchy back healthy.  Sidenote, Chelsea didn’t even bother to start a proper striker up front with Oscar getting the nod.

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who thought Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho would deploy his typical big game tactic of ‘parking the bus’ must have been very pleasantly surprised by the first half.  It was open end to end with Arsenal in particular having loads of possession in dangerous areas and looking dangerous the whole time.

The first talking point didn’t come until the 16th minute and it came from a Chelsea attack.  Cesc Fabregas put in a deep pass over the Arsenal defense from well past midfield and the ball fell brilliantly for Oscar.  David Ospina saw what was coming and charged from his spot to deal with the danger.  What he actually ended up doing was absolutely cleaning Oscar’s clock after the Brazilian had lost control of the ball.  It probably should have been a penalty (had Oscar not been offside to begin with). Anybody with a strong stomach should find the footage of Oscar after the hit from NBCSN.  His eyes roll in the back of his head as he damn near has a seizure on the pitch. No worries though, he played the rest of the half…

Maybe the most impressive part of the whole run of play was Bellerin’s defensive cover.  After the Oscar catastrophe the ball was bouncing straight in the goal, but Bellerin tracked all the way back from his forward position and cleared the ball off the line with a diving header to save the goal.  This kid impresses me more and more every week.

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7 Minutes later it was again Chelsea who would provide the next talking point.  Cesar Azpilicueta sent the ball to Fabregas, right outside the box, from the left corner.  Covered only by Santi Cazorla, the ex-Arsenal man danced his way into the penalty area where Cazorla then swung his leg at him and the Chelsea mid-fielder went flying in the air.  The Emirates held her collective breath and waited for the inevitable decision as the ref went to pocket for a card….and booked Fabregas for simulation.

It was a tough call watching the replay.  There was some contact from Cazorla, but Fabregas absolutely embellished it.  Either way I personally don’t really have any time for Cesc and found it hilarious.

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The 34th minute saw Arsenal appealing for a penalty from what has to be said was a pretty clear hand ball.  Alexis Sanchez came screaming across the Chelsea penalty area and chipped the ball over the back line to fall for Bellerin.  Bellerin had a bit of trouble getting to the ball, but put in a great low cross on his first touch which fell for Cazorla about 10 yards out.  Cazorla took his chance deftly, but the flailing arms of Gary Cahill stopped the ball from going towards goal.  I know the buzzword in the rulebook is “deliberate”, and while I’m sure it was(n’t) deliberate, his arm was as far away from his body as it could be, when it absolutely did not have to be.  It was a rather clear call in my book.

A couple of minutes later was the first real chance of the half.  Ramires was played in on the Arsenal goal well from just outside the box, but his shot was tame to be nice and Ospina had no problem in dealing with it.

Only a minute before the whistle Arsenal pegged back a chance.  A lot of dancing around, and a ball through the feet of Olivier Giroud, saw Mesut Ozil with the ball inside the Chelsea area.  Rather uncharacteristically the German pivoted on his right foot and let one rip at goal.  It was a good strong shot, but it was straight at Thibault Courtois and it did not trouble him at all.

The half finished 0-0, but not for a want of trying.  It really was one of the most exciting halves I’ve seen in which a goal wasn’t scored and quite a surprise at that because Mourinho was in charge of one team.

I’m not exactly sure what Mourinho said during half time, but it must have went something like this, “alright lads that football was just way too positive and exciting.  If I don’t see 10 men behind the ball for the next 45 minutes I’m accepting bids from Spurs for all of you on Monday.”  Spurned on by the terrifying threat from Mourinho, Chelsea finally went back to their formula and seriously parked the bus in the second half.

Both sides had a few half chances courtesy of Giroud, Ozil, and Didier Drogba, but in truth nothing really happened until the 69th minute.  A Cazorla free kick from about 40 yards out was knocked back behind the line of players running towards goal and fell to the lonely feet of one Arsenal player who was in acres of space.  This man was Per Mertesacker.  The center half did all that he could, but unsurprisingly his shot was sent well wide.  All due respect to Per I think if the ball had fallen to just about anybody else on the team we may have scored.  It was maybe our best chance all game in my mind.

“At one point, I do think, and I do believe, the (Arsenal) players have to step up and stand their game up.”-Thierry Henry

The rest of regular time was fairly pedestrian as well.  A couple of snatched chances by Danny Welbeck and Santi Cazorla meant the match went into stoppage time still 0-0.  Also, Cazorla’s missed chance was pretty horrid.  I’m not sure what has happened to his finishing this season but he had space half way into the Chelsea box and dragged it really far wide, in an exceptionally poor effort.

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Stoppage time though suddenly saw Arsenal rejuvenated and ready to throw themselves at the Chelsea defense.  The best chance came about a minute into time as somehow Arsenal managed to yet again not score.  Monreal, from the left, just outside the box, put in a dangerously low cross.  The cross somehow managed to slip through the feet of both Ozil and Welbeck and away from goal safely.

In the end Arsenal just did not do enough to get the win.  In all reality the title race was probably over weeks ago but this is certainly the nail in its coffin.  Our finishing was pretty terrible on the day and Chelsea’s defense was strong enough to see us off.  I can’t believe I’m gonna say this, but Chelsea’s

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center half, John Terry was excellent.  It seemed like whenever a good ball was put in or a run being made into the box the Englishman was there to deal with the pressure.  Taking a step back, a point is a decent, if not great result and it puts one little step closer to 2nd place.  2nd place is no title, but it would be the best we’ve finished in a decade, let’s just push on from here, #COYG

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