Chelsea (2) - (1) Arsenal
Stamford Bridge, London
Well the Premier League challenge has officially ended.
Depressed, devastated, gutted - I’m all of those and more.
Looking at our shattered title hopes unfortunately I was right.
If you fail to win any of your last 5 domestic games then the writing is on the wall. March is when you’re supposed to be hitting form, winning games and at your strongest as the season closes but for so many reasons we have been at our worst.
At Stamford Bridge, Arsenal started the game well. Both sides made some half chances and the first half ended goalless, after a lot of huffing and puffing in both penalty areas. It must be noted that Almunia was the busier goalkeeper in the first half though, making some decent saves.
But it was Arsenal that made the break-through.
After 58 minutes, Arsenal won a corner after Van Persie hit the ball against Essien on the left side. Fabregas sent in a superb cross and the ball was headed in at the near post Bacary Sagna.
What a massive goal in the Premier League season.
But after that things went horribly, horribly wrong.
Like the Eduardo incident at Birmingham, like the penalty conceded at the end of that game, like the disallowed goal against Middlesbrough, like the sh*te pitch at Wigan - Arsenal’s luck was non-existent.
Sagna - one of our best performers on the day - had to be taken off with a nasty ankle injury. The obvious thought going through Arsenal fans’ minds was that Eboue would have to fill in at right-back.
And after that Arsenal collapsed.
By hook or by crook, Arsenal had been defending well and keeping Chelsea out but as soon as Sagna was substituted things fell apart.
And luck really had truly turned against us.
Drogba scored the equaliser after disarray in the Arsenal penalty area, and to compound Sagna’s enforced absence the original ball forward from Chelsea was clearly offside.
After that the tide was with Chelsea, and it was that man again Drogba who had been causing our defence all kinds of problems all afternoon who scored the decisive winner. It was another mess in our penalty area which resulted in a scuffed shot from striker which managed to beat Almunia and nestle in the net.
A must-win game in the title race ended in the worse way possible.
So what happened?
Well quite frankly not enough players had good enough performances.
Fabregas played well in the middle, finding his passing range and making some good defensive tackles. Flamini also had an excellent game, showing passion and determination - it was a shame his endeavour and desire wasn’t shared with some of his team-mates.
Sagna was solid as usual, and along with Clichy showed some excellent running and movement to support the attack. Gallas stuggled all game with the threat of Drogba, and ultimately that proved to become costly in the end. Toure showed good energy and made some good interceptions but made a bad mistake for Drogba’s second goal.
And Almunia pulled off some excellent saves. He was badly exposed for the two goals and you couldn’t really blame him for either one.
But that was it.
Hleb, Adebayor, Eboue and Van Persie were shocking. They really were.
Obviously you can excuse Van Persie because he’s been out for so long, but the others haven’t been playing well for a long time now. I might be more sympathetic towards Hleb if he wasn’t f*cking around and talking to Inter Milan behind our backs.
And Adebayor is just not at the races at all. He talks a good game, and goes on and on about his friendship with Thierry Henry but when it comes to his responsibilities on the pitch he is nowhere to be seen. Besides a tap in at AC Milan he hasn’t scored for 9 games. That is not good enough for a striker playing for Arsenal Football Club. I don’t expect goals in every game but I do expect a performance now and then. Unfortunately he’s been lacking in both the performance and goalscoring charts.
That is just not acceptable for a team like Arsenal who always make chances.
Nicklas Bendtner should have been given a start, to mix things up at least and give Adebayor a rest which he obviously needs.
And why on earth does Arsene persist in starting Emmanuel Eboue in Arsenal’s biggest games? Theo Walcott surely deserves a start doesn’t he? And the youngster is one of the very few players who has actually been scoring recently in the Premier League! I don’t think Eboue would have ever scored twice at Birmingham City like Walcott did.
A lot of questions, but we just didn’t have the answers.
Manuel Almunia: 8/10
Overall had an excellent game. Was called upon to make some vital saves and didn’t disappoint. Was badly exposed at the back for both of Drogba’s goals and almost saved the second. Denied Drogba his hattrick with another fantatic stop.
Bacary Sagna: 8/10
Another excellent and solid performance, and probably one of the players of the season. Took his goal brilliantly and defended well. His absence had an impact on the outcome of the game and very unfortunate to injure his ankle.
Kolo Toure: 7/10
Defended well on the whole but made a bad mistake for Drogba’s second goal.
William Gallas: 6/10
Struggled all afternoon with Didier Drogba. Looked very weak in the air which was very strange - even against Anelka when he came on. Not his best game.
Gael Clichy: 8/10
Excellent energy levels and ran up and down the flank all game. Kept Joe Cole quiet and supported the attack well as usual.
Emmanuel Eboue: 5/10
What can I say? Picked up a stupid booking for blocking a freekick and lost the ball on several occasions. Passing was poor and only succeeded in getting caught up in petty squabbles all over the pitch instead of playing football.
Mathieu Flamini: 9/10
Desire, passion and full of running. Rallied the team throughout the game and couldn’t ask any more of him. A true warrior who we don’t want to lose in the summer.
Cesc Fabregas: 8/10
Good in the middle but limited because of the lack of movement from his fellow players. Hleb, Eboue and Adebayor failed to make any decent runs for the Spaniard to pick out. Good delivery for Sagna’s goal and made some good recovering tackles in defence.
Robin Van Persie: 7/10
Asked to play on the left side and had a couple of openings at the start of the game. Faded after that but in all fairness didn’t get the ball enough. Helped out Clichy on the left and made some good tackles.
Alexander Hleb: 6/10
Usually excellent at ball retention and taking on players but wasn’t at it today. Couldn’t make an impact on the game and his decision-making when in possession was very poor.
Emmanuel Adebayor: 5/10
Stuggled upfront and could take lessons from Didier Drogba. Rarely got in the box when the ball was wide which was mind-boggling. Kept passing the ball backwards instead of taking on a defender or trying to play a team-mate through. Maybe it’s a lack of confidence, or could be that he’s not good enough.