Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea: Much Ado About Nothing

Arsenal played at home to Chelsea last night in a game which could have seen them retake top spot in the Premier League with a win. With the top of the league so tight a defeat would have seen them drop to fourth and a draw would have seen them second behind Liverpool on goal difference. As it turned out the game ended all square at 0-0, but it didn't pass without incident. 

Arsene Wenger brought Kieran Gibbs back into the team at left back for Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen replaced the injured Laurent Koscielny in the centre of the defence. In midfield Mikael Arteta replaced Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky came in for the suspended Jack Wilshere. It was a strong Arsenal team and I thought they had every chance of getting the three points they needed.

Wenger had never beaten a Jose Mourinho team before and Mourinho picked a team to make sure he kept that record. Chelsea were set up to keep a clean sheet and maybe even try for a goal themselves on the break or from a set piece. They had set themselves up in a similar fashion away to United earlier in the season and that game ended scoreless too.

Arsenal were very disjointed in the first half and had nothing to show for their efforts for almost it's entirety. Chelsea didn't show too much in attack either except for a Frank Lampard effort which came back off the underside of the bar and stayed out. It was a lucky escape for Arsenal and they nearly took advantage of their stroke of fortune just before the break.

Jon Obi Mikel put in a studs up challenge on Arteta in midfield but the referee didn't blow for it and within a few seconds the ball was at the feet of Theo Walcott in the Chelsea penalty area. He was tackled by Willian but the Chelsea player made no contact with the ball and caught Walcott's ankle instead. Walcott made a bit of a meal of it but it was a definite penalty and Mike Dean chose to ignore it despite having a good view. 

He had an even better view of the Mikel challenge and the replays showed that it was a studs up one which caught Arteta and not the ball. The rules of the game state that it was a red card offence but Dean decided in his infinite wisdom not to even issue a yellow card. Every time Arsenal have this man in charge of one of their games they are on the end of at least one game changing decision which he gets wrong. He got two of them wrong in 10 seconds last night and they were very costly for Arsenal.

If he had done his job properly Arsenal would have had a penalty and probably been 1-0 up against a team who would have only 10 players for the entire second half. It was very frustrating as an Arsenal fan to see the team denied the obvious decisions which would have set them up to win the game. They may not have deserved to have been ahead at half time, but they most certainly should have been.

Arsenal weren't much better in the second half and huffed and puffed their way through the game without ever looking like scoring until the final 10 minutes. When the chances came they fell to Olivier Giroud, but he was unable to put away two very good chances. He was played in on the left by Aaron Ramsey for the first one but shot wide of the near post when he really had to shoot back across the keeper. Only a few minutes later he got on the end of a Gibbs ball into the goalmouth, but a combination of a John Terry and Peter Cech managed to deflect the ball over the bar.

They were chances a better finisher might well have put away and Arsenal really have to look at bringing one in during the January transfer window to boost their title challenge. I don't want to criticise Giroud too much but he doesn't inspire confidence in front of goal and there can't be too many fans who think he is a player who can go out and win a game on his own. He started the season very well but has only scored three goals in his last 12 league games.

It was a game neither team wanted to lose and that probably led to the stalemate in the end. Chances were few and far between for both teams and a draw was probably a fair result on the night. Arsenal may not be top of the league any more but they're only off it on goal difference with three games in quick succession for all of those team so tightly packed at the top of the table. 

The remarks from Mourinho after the game show his lack of class and his team set out to kick Arsenal at every chance they got. Besides the red card Mikel should have got there was a very bad challenge on Bacary Sagna from Lampard who took the chance to take man and ball in a studs up challenge. There was also a face high kick from Branislav Ivanovic on Mesut Ozil which the Arsenal player took exception to and which the officials failed to see yet again.

When it comes to the crunch Mourinho doesn't send his teams out to play football and if he had to courage to do so they probably would have beaten a pretty poor Arsenal team on the night. He's an odious man who will stoop to any level to get what he wants while the mainstream media await his every uttering with bated breath.

The result means Arsenal haven't won in three league games and four games overall but a draw was infinitely superior to a defeat last night. The damage a defeat could have done can only be guessed at and I think it could have dented the players confidence an awful lot. There are three league games in quick succession coming up and they're all winnable for Arsenal. 

It won't be easy going to West Ham on Thursday and the trip to Newcastle will be even tougher on Sunday, but surely a home game against Cardiff the following Wednesday is one which Arsenal should triumph in. I think they are capable of winning all three but they are going to have to rediscover some form to do so. The squad is also going to have to be rotated quite a bit in those games and thankfully the injury situation is pretty good at the moment. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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