Sunday, March 23, 2008
Arsenal’s centre has gone soft but team needs more width. Player analysis and ratings
By 1970’s Gooner
And there were so many people blaming young Senderos for not being able to deal with Drogba’s strength and aerial ability. The whole game turned on the inability of Arsenal’s two centre backs, normally so reliable, to deal with him.
The first goal was conceded when Gallas opted to go in front of Drogba rather than defend the high ball from behind him, as you are always taught to do as a defender (4).
The second when a chip of a ball onto Anelka’s head found Gallas unready to even challenge him strongly enough so as to put him off.
In stepped Toure who was sucked in towards Gallas thus leaving Drogba alone in the heart of our defence (5). He even had time to turn and half hit the ball in off Almunia’s stretched hand.
Almunia was one of a handful of Arsenal players who had a decent game making some fine saves. I feel comfortable with him in goal now (7).
But to blame the defeat on those two errors alone or even on the fact that the officials should have ruled the first goal offside would be putting your hands over your eyes avoiding to see the real reasons for the defeat.
And these are that the team lacks balance form the wide areas of the pitch and also goal scoring ability.
Arsene Wenger was right to want to give more emphasis on wing play rather than try and go through the middle. I of course agree with that as it was one of the points that I made in my preview of the game (Three ways to beat Chelsea).
But Eboue was not penetrative enough and kept giving the ball away (3). Walcott would have been a better alternative and he should have come on much earlier than he did.
Robin Van Persie still needs a few games to get back to match fitness (5). He did provide width but he faded out of the game in the second half. And a team without real width is like a bird that can’t fly.
And I ask you where were the goals going to come from? Adebayor is a shadow of himself when compared to the start of the season (4). He found it difficult to turn his man always electing to pass the ball backwards rather than forward. And on the few occasions he got free to shoot he fluffed his effort.
Chelsea managed to restrict Fabregas (6) and Hleb (5) who were marked tight and given little space to weave their magic. I do not recollect a telling pass they made or even a shot on goal from either of them. Goal scoring from the midfielders was unfortunately not going to give us the answer.
Flamini (6) was the only one who managed a very strong shot form an angle after Van Persie’s beautifully struck cross from the left side.
No wonder it was Sagna then, a full back, who managed to score in the end with a glancing header at the near post from a Fabregas in swinging corner (7).
After that it was a battle between Chelsea’s strength and physical ability versus Arsenal’s …I was going to say slick play but it wasn’t even that. For, after we scored we should have played possession football, kept our heads and passed them to death. But we couldn’t even do that.
In fact it was young Clichy that at least tried to do it, often winning his duels with Joe Cole and generally restricting him quiet well throughout the game (6).
And lastly, what I wished for in my preview of the game worked the opposite way. I wished that Grant would get the substitutions wrong. He got them right but what was more perplexing was that Wenger did not react to them.
Chelsea switched from 4 3 3 to 4 4 2 with Anelka joining Drogba up front and Lampard released from his more conservative defensive role to join in the forward play.
One of Arsenal’s midfielders like Flamini or even Diaby who had come on should have been instructed to patrol that area in front of our defence to add more aerial ability and also to counter Lampard and Anelka.
Are we out of it? On simple arithmetic no; if we can get a win at Old Trafford and Manchester United lose at Chelsea we are right back in it. We also have to win all our remaining games.
But on the evidence of this showing and the psychological impact this defeat would have had on the young guns I would consider it highly unlikely.
But football, like life, is very unpredictable. Stranger things have happened…..