Arsenal (1) – (0) Chelsea
The Emirates Stadium, London
Well Grand Slam Sunday ended with Manchester United and Arsenal taking all 3 points, both winning by one goal to nil, both with goals coming just before half-time and both from corners.
The similarities are uncanny.
Arsene Wenger kept everyone guessing about his team selection for the weekends game and the starting lineup saw Flamini, Fabregas and Hleb all return which was a massive boost. Arsenal are a completely different side with these 3 in the team and their return couldn’t have been timed better.
Van Persie started on the bench, but as the Dutchman showed midweek in the Champions League Arsene has the amazing ability to nurse players back from injury with the same match sharpness they had before being sidelined.
With United winning the earlier kick off, Arsenal were under pressure to get 3 points and reclaim their place at the top of the table. At Anfield, Manchester United won yet again, at a place they always seem to win. It was a real smash and grab job from the Mancs, who looked to get Liverpool on the break with the pace of Ronaldo, Tevez, Anderson, Giggs and Rooney. In all honesty, apart from a couple of poor decisions from Van Der Sar in the first half, Liverpool didn’t threaten at all. United always looked like they would win the game after going ahead, which shows how different the game could have been if we scored first when Arsenal visited Anfield in October.
But that was then and this is now.
And Arsenal overcame a very physical Chelsea side who looked to unsettle the young guns but only succeeded in causing their own problems.
Tackles were flying in from Ashley Cole and John Terry, who always have a go at the referee for every little incident. What resulted was a wound up John Terry who tried to kick through Eboue but only managed to injure himself and an Ashley Cole who kept recklessly diving in only for Eboue to use his trickery and pace to beat him and make Cole look like a player who can’t actually defend.
People will talk about the tackle from Eboue, but they seem to forget the shocking two-footed lunge from Terry on Cesc Fabregas. So in that sense Terry got what he deserved. And then there was the punch to the face on Cesc by Asshole although Fabregas was play acting a bit. The initial challenge from Cesc on Cole was pretty rough but I can forgive him for that because he hates Chelsea and Cashley as much as I do.
So there were quite a few moments in the game which boiled over but was something which I enjoyed about the game.
It shows the desire to win and also shows how much both of these teams really hate each other. And I completely despise Chelsea for so many reasons. The way Arsenal/Chelsea games are these days you could say they have almost replaced the Arsenal/United battles of old in the Vieira/Keane era, where both sides would fight to win. They are tight, physical and bitter affairs but that makes for really intriguing viewing.
And that makes it so much more satisfying when you do win.
In a way, Chelsea may have done Arsenal a huge favour. We all know Chelsea are abusive, dirty and will do anything to win – and the young players came through that tough test with all three points.
Arsenal only know one way to play, and that’s with silky, slick passing and Chelsea tried to nullify it with the physical approach. The great thing to see was that when Chelsea started to make a real scrap of the game, Arsenal replied and got the better of them. I think the way Arsenal responded surprised Chelsea. Too many times in the past Arsenal would almost cower in a game like yesterdays but the players stood up and battled when needed.
The Chelsea fans will point to missing players, such as Drogba, Carvalho and Ballack missing but the fact is football is all about injuries so there’s no point crying about them. Over the last few games Arsenal have missed Hleb, Flamini, Diaby, Fabregas and Van Persie with injuries and over that time I have only commented on the players who are actually playing. Granted, I may have not been complimentary about players like Gilberto but one thing I haven’t done is moan about the injuries. And if Chelsea fans want to be pedantic – Arsenal would probably be 6 points clear if Cesc, Flamini and Hleb were playing in the Newcastle and Boro games anyway!
Arsenal didn’t play at their peak yesterday, although that was partly down to Chelsea. Chelsea only really threatened in the last 15 minutes, when they brought on an extra forward and played with two strikers. Ironically though, that was our most dangerous period, when Robin came on and there was extra space in midfield for Arsenal to play.
It was end to end stuff, with both teams unfortunate not to score. Petr Cech made ammends for his first half mistake by keeping Chelsea in the game saving shots from Robin Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas.
There’s no doubt the result was vital for Arsenal and a fantastic response to losing at Middlesbrough. It showed the character of the side and Chelsea provided a tough test. It was the perfect result going into a tough fixture calender in December and January.
Arsenal Player Ratings
Manual Almunia: 9/10
Made an excellent save from a deflected SWP shot and made some vital saves from Shevchenko. Also was quick off his line to put off SWP in the second half to force his effort wide. Solid throughout the match and fully deserved his clean sheet against Chelsea – and how many Premiership goalkeepers can say that?
Bacary Sagna: 8/10
Very solid, linked up well with Eboue and kept Joe Cole quiet. Joe Cole only really did anything when he played further infield which is testament to Sagna’s performance.
Kolo Toure: 8/10
Defended excellently alongside Gallas, and reduced Shevchenko to shots from distance.
William Gallas: 8/10
A tale of two captains, and Gallas was ice cool whereas Terry was waiting to fly off the handle. Really does add steel to Arsenal and fully deserved his goal. Did brilliantly to keep his eye on the ball and score from the corner as most people would expect Cech to at least get a touch on it.
Gael Clichy: 7/10
Up and down the left flank yet again and kept SWP at bay for most of the match. Got sucked infield for that second half SWP chance which luckily didn’t cost Arsenal the points.
Emmanuel Eboue: 7/10
Full of running but couldn’t really make an impact, but an improvement on poor performances against Newcastle and Middlesbrough. Did manage to fool Ashley Cole on several occasions with his skill and pace which was fantastic to see.
Mathieu Flamini: 8/10
Maybe just short of match sharpness but not short of match fitness as his high-powered running set the tempo for wave after wave of Arsenal attacks. Impressive energy levels, even deep into the second half. Really got in the face of Chelsea’s attacking players, giving them hardly any time on the ball.
Cesc Fabregas: 9/10
Involved in every Arsenal attack and took up some excellent attacking positions. Arsenal certainly miss his presence and unlucky not to score a couple of goals in the second half. Also delivered a beautiful cross for the Gallas goal. Fantastic tackle on Cashley on the full time whistle as well. Had the opportunity to scythe down Cuntface and took it with aplomb. That tackle was what Arsenal fans have waited for over the past few years.
Tomas Rosicky: 9/10
Excellent performance. Fantastic running on the break and linked up well with the midfield and attack. Showed brilliant energy levels and kept everything flowing with his accurate passing.
Alexander Hleb: 8/10
Did well in the middle alongside Adebayor and gave Van Persie the chance to score the killer second goal. Excellent ball retention yet again and great to see him back to fitness.
Emmanuel Adebayor: 9/10
Sensational. Popped up on the left wing, the right wing and ran all over the pitch for the cause. He plays much better when Hleb and Fabregas are in the team and deserved his goal which the referee unfairly ruled out for a so-called foul on Ben Haim. Best performance for a few games which is encouraging.
Robin Van Persie: 8/10 (Replaced Emmanuel Eboue on 69′)
Gave Arsenal an extra dimension when he came on and looked really lively. Only played 20 minutes but managed to forced Cech into making decent saves and was unlucky not to have scored. For only a 20 minute cameo, he couldn’t have been more influential.
Gilberto Silva: 7/10 (Replaced Alexander Hleb on 78′)
Brought on to close the game down and did well in the closing stages alongside Flamini to see out the win. Did produce a clumsy foul just outside the area though which Shevchenko almost scored from.
Nicklas Bendtner: 6/10 (Replaced Emmanuel Adebayor on 90′)
Not on long enough to make a difference, although showed some great touches and setup Fabregas for that final chance before the final whistle.