Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea. The Hoodoo Is Broken.

Arsenal went into last night's home game against Chelsea knowing that both "Manure" and Man City had won, and that only a win would convince a lot of people that they had any title aspirations whatsoever. That was never going to be an easy thing for them against a Chelsea team that seemed to have found the perfect formula to beat Arsenal in recent seasons. However, with Chelsea on their worst league run in 10 years, it was the ideal opportunity for Arsenal to lay that particular ghost to rest.

Arsene Wenger did what most fans wanted and picked Johan Djourou and Theo Walcott from the start, along with the returning duo of Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie. The rest of the team was more or less as expected, and the scene was set for Arsenal to prove the doubters wrong, and put another nail in Carlo Ancelotti's coffin. A defeat in this game would almost surely mean that the "situation vacant" sign would be going up over the Chelsea manager's door in the very near future.

The game itself was fairly tame in terms of action for the most part during the first half. Chelsea looked to draw Arsenal on to them, and hit them on the break, but the Arsenal players tried their best not to over commit themselves, and the chances were few and far between. I was impressed by the ability of Djourou and Laurent Koscielny to come out and win headers against Drogba when the ball was played long to him, and it certainly made life easier for the Arsenal defence.

As the first half progressed Arsenal began to gain the upper hand, and Walcott was putting Ashley Cole under a lot of pressure. His decision making wasn't great at times but with Cole on a yellow card Walcott knew that he had to try to put him under pressure. Samir Nasri tried a chip on Peter Cech after 40 minutes, and the Chelsea keeper made a great save from it. It looked like the game would be scoreless at half time until Alex Song stepped up to give Arsenal the lead.

As Arsenal tried yet again to play their way through on the edge of the box Cesc seemed to be upended for a penalty, but the ball broke to Song who finished neatly into the corner from 10 yards out. The Arsenal players and fans were delighted, as they had at last managed to get the all important first goal in a match against Chelsea. Half time arrived very soon after that, and the big question for the second half would be how Chelsea would react to going behind.

That question was well and truly answered within eight minutes of the restart, as Arsenal added another two goals to their lead. First of all  RVP did very well to hold off three Chelsea players, and when Michael Essien managed to poke it away from him it went straight to Walcott. He was in behind Cole, and as Cech approached him, he squared the ball to Cesc who rolled it into an empty net. With only 50 minutes gone things were looking good for Arsenal.

Only three minutes later that lead was again increased as Walcott won the ball from Florent Malouda and gave it to Cesc. Walcott ran ahead of Cesc who then fed a perfect ball to him, and Walcott only had to hit it without controlling it. He did just that, and he timed it perfectly to put it straight into the corner. His finishing in similar positions this season has been excellent, and it was again on this occasion. It looked like Chelsea were there to be absolutely taken apart as their defending was falling to pieces.

However, Arsenal never do things the easy way, and only three minutes later Chelsea could see a chink of light, as they scored a goal of their own. They won a free kick about 45 yards from the Arsenal goal, and Didier Drogba swung it towards the Arsenal viciously. Branislav Ivanovic got to the ball first to direct it past Lukasz Fabianski, and offer Chelsea some hope for the last 35 minutes. I didn't think there was anything Fabianski could have done about the goal, as the free kick was hit so fiercely that he would not have made it if he had tried to come out for it.

After that Chelsea tried to throw everything they had at Arsenal, but other than set pieces they never really looked like scoring. The best chances fell to Arsenal, and both Nasri and substitute Abu Diaby should have added to their tally. They managed to hold out though for the all important victory, and put themselves right back into the chase for the Premier League title.

Where that result leaves Chelsea is another thing, as their place in the top four looks decidedly shaky at the moment. It looked to me like some of their players weren't overly interested in the game at times, and they had very little quality available on their bench. It would seem that in their quest to cut their wage bill their squad has been left wafer thin, and things need to change on the pitch for them very soon or there will be a managerial shake up.

Arsenal now face Wigan tomorrow night in a game that they have to win for their fans, after the disgraceful collapse in the corresponding fixture last season. Whether Arsene Wenger decides to make a lot of changes or not is anyone's guess, but I hope Cesc stays in the team, as he looks to have recovered from his hamstring problems, and a tally of one goal and two assists was a great return for his first game back.

I'll preview that game tomorrow morning, but you can read my prediction for the outcome in my Premier League predictions. That's it for today.

Here's the highlights from last night's game.

See You Tomorrow.

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