Knocked out of the FA Cup a fortnight a go, knocked out of the Champions League in excruciating circumstances during the week, last night’s loss to Chelsea ended our Premier League unbeaten streak and confirmed we will finish fourth this season. It’s a pretty bleak time to be an Arsenal supporter.
I thought the defeat summed up our season pretty perfectly. We were bright and sparky early on, causing Chelsea all sorts of problems in the first half-hour with some excellent football. Theo Walcott was at the heart of everything, but he showed again that he still has a long way to go to fulfill his potential, making poor decisions despite crafting some good openings. But one cheap free-kick and one clinical header later and it counted for nothing.
Nicolas Anelka’s well-struck second before the half-time whistle was as clear an indication of the ruthlessness that sides like Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United have and we just don’t. He found space in the middle of the pitch and from 25 yards out let fly. Lukasz Fabianski maybe could have done better but Anelka’s willingness to back his chances shows what confidence and dare I say it, experience, brings.
The second half brought with it three goals. Kolo Toure unfortunately put through his own net before substitute Nicklas Bendtner powered an outstanding header to pull one back and give the crowd something to cheer. With 20 minutes to go and the team possessing lifted spirits I thought we might come back to draw but Chelsea put paid to that notion in the final minutes when an offside Florent Malouda added a fourth.
It would be easy to criticise both the team and the manager for this result but I’m not going to. It would have been immensely difficult to step up for this game after the United loss and in the opening half-hour you could not fault our workrate nor the quality of our performance. Only the finishing was lacking and unfortunately we were punished for it. Or, as Arsene Wenger put it after the game:
“Today we missed seven or eight clear-cut chances and on every single mistake we made we were punished.”
The problem is that experienced players are more likely to take their chances than inexperienced ones and the finishes of Alex and Anelka were a huge contrast to the attempts by Walcott and Co. I’m not going to harp on about the need for new players or question the current season, not yet anyway, but I don’t think there would be many people that would disagree with that statement.
As with the United loss I’m pretty dejected after this result. The season is over, the unbeaten run is over and it’s really been a bastard of a week. I was planning to have a podcast for today but the simple fact is that I’m too pissed off, too disappointed, too frustrated to analyse the last two results. Like Wenger, I need some time to step back and assess the situation before I make any major conclusions about our season as a whole.
I’d better leave it there for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with some more bits and pieces but until then, keep smiling if you can.
Have your say on Arsenal’s 4-1 loss to Chelsea by leaving a comment.