The dust is yet to settle from Saturday’s eventful appetizer of a Premier League game at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea and Jose Mourinho once again ruled the roost over Arsene Wenger and his beleaguered Gunners; it has been heavily documented how the Portuguese gets under the skin of his Arsenal counterpart, but this time, though, one of his players got under the skin of one of Wenger’s players, and Gabriel Paulista had a baptism of fire in his first ever game against Chelsea.
There have been countless instances of Arsenal fans heaping the blame on everything other than their own players following their team’s 2-0 loss, which ranged from having a go at the match referee, Mike Dean, to even Wenger’s transfer policy, and not to mention the wild rants throughout the course of the weekend at Diego Costa and Mourinho, and even at Wenger by the highly volatile #WengerOut faction.
And although it might be pointed that Arsenal only conceded the two goals after they were reduced in numbers by the two sendings-off, which clearly was the larger picture, but the fact the Gunners were dominated even before Gabriel was sent off before the interval shows why the loss was the result of Arsenal keeping with their trend of not turning up against the big teams in the league, most notably Chelsea.
Last season, Arsenal collected just six points from a possible 18 in their games against the other top four clubs, namely, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. This equates to a rate of 1 point per game, which was lesser than Chelsea’s 1.67 per game and United’s 1.33 per game. Last to last season, Arsenal were on a similar course, collecting just 0.83 points per game as compared to Chelsea’s whopping 2.67 per game average.
Those raw numbers tell a story most Arsenal fans wouldn’t particularly like to read given how down they are after the weekend’s events, but the numbers point to a glaring deficiency of their side, which has provided enough ground for the likes of Mourinho to take the fixture’s result for granted on a yearly basis. Judging solely on Arsenal’s first half display at Stamford Bridge, it wasn’t a performance worthy of securing three points against any reigning champion, let alone their nemesis Chelsea.
Chelsea created most of the game’s chances during the first half, which was a proper treat until tempers flared, and were back to their fluid best in the final third while their combative players were covering that extra yard to close down the Arsenal bodies on the ball, as well as cutting down their passing options. Their ball circulation was better, and their attacking moves had the verve which Arsenal lacked.
Wenger’s tactic of direct centre-forward play from Theo Walcott by pinging balls behind Chelsea’s defence was found out early and easily, and Alexis Sanchez’s continued poor form meant he was a shadow of his most potent self whenever Arsenal attacked. Going by the numbers, Chelsea had eight shots to Arsenal’s four, and created thrice as many chances as the Gunners in the first half.
Chelsea won more than twice as many tackles as Arsenal, and also forced goalkeeper Petr Cech to six saves, although most of them were weak efforts. But they did at least show intent which was clearly missing from Arsenal’s game. Perhaps the fixture being an away game at one of the toughest Premier League grounds had some part to play in Arsenal’s approach, coupled also with their midweek Champions League loss against Dinamo Zagreb.
And going back to the Gabriel red card, which in retrospection looks foolish on the part of the player, it was a meltdown which resulted in Arsenal throwing away the game, as the second half was clearly a non-event, a mismatch as Arsenal aren’t the Arsenal we know without their full complement. Chelsea wouldn’t have expected an easier game after their recent predicaments in what has been a disastrous title defence.
Statistically at least, in their Community Shield loss against Arsenal earlier in the season, Chelsea were competitive throughout and matched the Gunners attack-for-attack. Which tends to not be par for the course with Arsenal. A lot has been said and written about their lack of steel for the bigger tests, but performances such as that of Walcott and Ramsey, who went hiding, are not the answers to the questions being asked of Wenger.
Arsenal arrived at Stamford Bridge on the back of three clean sheets and back-to-back wins in the league to find Chelsea at their lowest ebb, as the home side were mired in the whereabouts of the relegation zone having suffered successive losses, but at the end of the day, regardless of the events that unfolded, it turned out to be a case of the same old Arsenal, and the same old Chelsea versus Arsenal.