As I’m a little later than the usual bunch of blogs with the match report from yesterday’s game and also covered a fans’ angle for Fanhouse UK earlier today (read it here soon!), I will look at Arsenal’s loss to Chelsea from a different perspective than usual. Specifically, investigating the myths and truths about the conclusions made about why we lost yesterday and what they mean for the season.
We lost because we didn’t take our chances
It seems obvious but this was a huge factor in the result of yesterday’s game. In the opening minute Chamakh and Koscielny had two superb opportunities to silence the Stamford Bridge crowd and put Chelsea on the back foot and failed to take them. It wasn’t through a lack of opportunities that we didn’t score. Nasri also had good chances and Chamakh was uncharacteristically wayward with his head – a result of more intense defensive pressure perhaps? In contrast, Chelsea buried two half-chances and created more shots on target despite having less pressure. They were more clinical, a trait which is usually possessed by the current league champions.
We lost because we made defensive mistakes
Both of Chelsea’s goals were a result of clear defensive mistakes. For the first goal Squillaci rather oddly passed the ball back to the opposition after a conceding a foul, allowing Chelsea to take a quick free-kick that eventually led to the goal. There was little that could be done about the Ramires-Cole-Drogba combination that followed but it should never have been allowed in the first place.
Likewise, Nasri’s wayward pass in midfield forced Koscielny to bring down Drogba for a clear foul and Alex punished us. At the top level the game is decided by fine margins – a missed pass here, a opportunity taken there – but at the moment Chelsea not Arsenal are the team with the mental fortitude and winning mentality to apply the fine details.
We lost because we were not incisive in the final third and did not have a Plan B
There is a school of thought going around that all we did yesterday, and indeed on other days, is pass-pass-pass without being incisive in the final third. Although this happens at times, as it does for every team, I disagree that we are a team that do this and I strongly disagree that we were a team that did that against Chelsea.
The myths are that we don’t shoot enough or have a ‘Plan B’ that can be turned to when our passing game isn’t working, but the evidence is contradictory. Last season we scored more goals from outside the box than any team in the Premier League and yesterday most of our best opportunities were created via aerial assault. We are a team that likes possession and likes to dictate the tempo of the game but we are also a team that scores all types of goals and at no point in the game did we look like a team that had run out of offensive ideas to trouble Chelsea.
We lost because we were not mentally strong
I touched on this already but I don’t think anyone would argue that Arsenal are mentally stronger than Chelsea. We’re not, in part due to having a younger, more inexperienced squad and another due to the fact that Chelsea are a team that have won silverware. In saying that, it doesn’t mean we’re not getting there.
Mentality and the ability to be the team that turns the fine details in their favour is a trait that doesn’t change overnight. It is a gradual process that often starts with a shock win that injects the confidence and belief to go and do it again. Like ‘The Invincibles’ from six years ago Chelsea are a team that absolutely believe they will win every game at home and until something changes – which inevitably, it has to – they will continue to win games there.
Our boys on the other hand have struggled in the big games over the past two seasons. That will have to change at some point if we are to win trophies but the feeling I get is that if we can nab just one tough victory, more will quickly follow.
Taking all this into account my final conclusion would be that we lost to Chelsea because they are a slightly better and more experienced team, at the height of a wave of invincibility that comes with winning the league and were playing at home. In games like this you have to take your chances and avoid making mistakes at the back and not for the first time, we were guilty of falling down in both areas.
Unfair criticism has been made about our ‘pretty football’ or lack of incisiveness in the final third while Chamakh’s aerial ability has given us more offensive diversity. Few teams will come to Stamford Bridge and boss the game like we did and while we did not have the mentality to turn our possession into the right result, our ability to dictate the pace of the game will become a powerful weapon once this group of players wins their first big game.
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