Arsenal Blow It Again – But This Time They Have Valid Excuses

We’ve seen it many times before, Arsenal are in a position where they could top the league table by winning a match but then bottle it. But to say that happened yesterday would be unfair.

Hey look, I’m as disappointed and infuriated as you are that we didn’t beat West Brom yesterday but it was always going to be a tough day for Arsenal. And let’s look at Manchester City and Real Madrid this weekend – they could have had worse days at the office.

Arsenal took the lead after another Mesut Özil assist, with an emotional Olivier Giroud heading in from close range. The early signs looked good.

But after that it went pear shaped.

And you could consider all the factors as bad luck:

  • Our main enforcer Francis Coquelin got injured and his replacement Mikel Arteta was well off the pace and scored an own goal.
  • Laurent Koscielny gave Rondon far too much space to burst into the box and deliver that decisive cross, which you could possibly excuse him for considering the tragic events of last week.
  • The goal that West Brom did score was a bit of a fluke, lets be honest. Morrison would whack that over the bar 99 times out of 100.
  • The Santi Cazorla penalty – two points here. The first was that there were 2 West Brom players about 4/5 yards into the box before Santi even hit the ball. And the second is obviously the condition of the penalty spot – you can’t blame Cazorla for the penalty spot collapsing.

I would be the first person to condemn Arsenal if they were poor and threw away the 3 points, but considering all those factors that went against us, you can excuse them this time.

Added to that the horrendous injury list we have, it was always going to be an uphill battle yesterday.

Arsenal Have No One Else To Blame But Themselves For Chelsea Defeat

We all know what Chelsea and Diego Costa are all about – in fact we all know what Jose Mourinho is about as well.

Before the game, I predicted that Chelsea would beat Arsenal. We’ve been lame so far this season, especially upfront, and so it proved.

We have no leaders in the team (no change there) and even though this was a Chelsea side in apparent crisis, I had no confidence going into the game at all.

Jose Mourinho is many things, including a top class arsehole, but he has Arsene Wenger’s number and knows exactly how to get to him. From making inappropriate comments in the media which Arsene Wenger was very prickly about in his pre-match press conference, to purposely waiting outside the tunnel to shake Arsene’s hand before the match – Arsenal had lost well before a ball was kicked.

Arsene finds it hard to hide is hatred for Jose Mourinho and in a sport where the top managers excel in mind games, Arsene Wenger falls short. Before going into the match, Arsenal’s mental strength (as it were) was shot.

Arsene Wenger could have been defiant and given Jose Mourinho some snide comments back, but instead by “refusing to rise to the bait” we looked weak and timid. Would Sir Alex Ferguson have responded in such a manner? Of course not, he would have shown some fight.

And so to the game itself. The stupid thing is none of what we saw was unpredictable was it? Chelsea are like a wounded animal, struggling in the Premier League, so it was blatantly obvious they would resort to dirty tactics to get a result.

Jose Mourinho is a winner who does what it takes. Arsene Wenger always wants to win beautifully and sometimes we need to fight and get those 3 points. And by fight, I mean dig in and not respond like Gabriel did.

Yes, Diego Costa is a horrible excuse for a human being and yes, he is a cheating arsehole, but we know what he’s like. We also know Mike Dean is the worst referee when it comes to Arsenal games (remember his record of awarding 11 penalties in 11 games at Old Trafford leading into the 50th game of our Invincibles run?) and he looks for absolutely any excuse to send off an Arsenal player or give unjust penalties.

We should have concentrated on football and let the authorities sort out the histrionics afterwards. The Arsenal player should know that the most important thing is the team and the result so to get sent off is ridiculous.

We have no leaders in the side to take control and tell the players what to do – no Tony Adams figure who knows what’s best for the team on the pitch and understands how the game works. Yes, Costa treads an extremely thin line and he will get his just desserts soon enough – but Gabriel is now missing for 3 games when we badly need central defenders.

Another problem is that we don’t believe. We had a decent opening 15 minutes but never looked dangerous at all.

Seriously, we might as well not turn up to a match against Chelsea because we’ll never get a result against them as long as Arsene Wenger is in charge.

What An Absolute F*cking Farce! Same Old Arsenal Bottle It Again!

Last week I wrote that if Arsenal don’t sign a world class striker, then we will not win the league. And only 3 days later, Arsenal go ahead and prove me right.

After Chelsea suffered a surprise draw against Swansea yesterday, then today was a perfect chance to get 3 points on the board and give ourselves an excellent start in our Premier League campaign.

But what happened?

The same old Arsenal happened.

Should we be surprised? You can also write the script before the season even starts:

  1. Great optimism in the summer, after a decent pre-season and good signings.
  2. Sloppy start to the season, then we end up playing catch up for the rest of the campaign.
  3. We throw away stupid points because of awful goalkeeping mistakes.
  4. We suffer injuries to key players which hamper our title challenge.
  5. We will then go on a decent 15 game unbeaten run.
  6. We end up finishing 3rd/4th.

Have I missed anything?

The signing of Petr Cech was lauded as the final piece in Arsenal’s title challenging team, a man who was supposed to give Arsenal an extra 10/15 points to our season. Instead he was quite simply awful. He made a complete howler for West Ham’s first goal and for the second… I am lost for words.

It looks like another case of David Ospina coming in again after our first choice goalkeeper has lost the plot.

Jose Mourinho must be laughing his head off – his former goalkeeper was the main reason why one of Chelsea’s title rivals threw away 3 points.

The performance from the whole team was limp and we haven’t learnt any lessons at all from the previous 10 barren seasons.

What a joke, and I suppose our hopes this season are on trying to win the FA Cup again.

Fantastic Arsenal Win The FA Cup! (w/ Player Ratings)

The perfect end to the season with a perfect Arsenal performance!

Before the game I was, like many I suspect, that Aston Villa would be a big threat – especially when they beat Liverpool in the semi-final.

One concern I had was the team selection Arsene Wenger would go with, and in particular up front. Olivier Giroud hadn’t scored in his last 8 games and was in a slump in terms of form. Theo Walcott however was on fire, after scoring a blistering hat-trick against West Brom last weekend and creating the equaliser at Old Trafford, his confidence was sky high.

Fortunately, Arsene Wenger was brave (and I respect him for it) and selected Theo Walcott to start. A slightly controversial and surprising decision, given Arsene’s loyalty to his players and there is no doubt that Olivier Giroud has been excellent for Arsenal this season. But his form of late and Theo’s emergence gave the manager a tough choice to make and fortunately, he made it and it paid off big time.

The worry before the game was how Arsenal would start the game. Against Hull City in last seasons final, we started so slowly and found ourselves 2-0 after 20 minutes. It looked like Arsenal had learnt their lesson and started at a high tempo, pressuring Aston Villa right from the start.

The performance was really excellent, given the pressure of finals (and especially when you consider the last 5 FA Cup finals had been decided by a single goal) so to win 4-0 is something special, and sends out a message to our rivals for next season.

Our first goal when it came was completely deserved given the amount of possession and chances we had and it didn’t come until the 40th minute. A cross from the left hand side was headed down by Sanchez and bounced about 8 yards away from goal. With the ball dropping at a slightly awkward height there were only a couple of players who could have scored from there (Sanchez and Theo) and fortunately Theo was on the end of it and lashed it home with aplomb.

That goal was massive and settled our nerves and set us on our way. A 0-0 scoreline at half time would have meant it was anyone’s game but we ended up dominating a final which is very rare to see.

Sanchez is a player who doesn’t like to be left out and once again he made his own headlines and rifled a stunning shot past Shay Given who was left helpless. The power on the shot was unreal from such little back lift and the swerve on the ball made it impossible to save. Mertesacker scored Arsenal’s third and Olivier Giroud made it four with a cute finish at the near post from an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cross.

At the end of the day, what we saw was a dominant Arsenal performance from a side who are much improved on last season. We might have won the FA Cup for the second season in a row but this year we were more confident and had the swagger of a side that knows it can do special things. It was interesting to note that when Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Per Mertesacker were interviewed after the match, all the talk was about how Arsenal will be competing for the title next season.

The players have just won the FA Cup, and they’re already focused and talking about next season.

And that can only be a good thing for Arsenal football club.

Player Ratings:

Wojciech Szczesny: 7/10
Didn’t have a huge amount to do but came out strongly for a few crosses and looked assured. Possibly his last game for the club?

Hector Bellerin: 8/10
Made the right back position his own and put in another solid performance both in defence and attack. Supported Aaron Ramsey well on the right hand side and kept Villa quiet on that side of the pitch.

Per Mertesacker: 8/10
The BFG was excellent at the back and lead with the team with passion in a real leaders performance. Did well to get on the scoresheet to wrap up a fantastic day for the captain.

Laurent Koscielny: 8/10
Again performed well alongside Mertesacker and kept Benteke quiet all afternoon. Did have a couple of chances to score the opening goal but overall very good.

Nacho Monreal: 8/10
One of the real success stories of this season, Monreal has become the first choice left-back and was solid in defence. Pushed forward at every opportunity, linking well with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil.

Francis Coquelin: 9/10
For me our Man of the Match. He was outstanding throughout the game, but especially in the first half when the game was 0-0. One of the main reasons we kept a clean sheet, he won the ball with ease and dribbled out of trouble time and time again. Assured, composed, dedicated – his performance today was outstanding.

Santi Cazorla: 8/10
Asked to play slightly out of position in a slightly deeper role, Santi was pulling the strings and making Arsenal tick. He carved open Villa with his through balls and was calm and assured throughout the 90 minutes.

Aaron Ramsey: 7/10
Kept running for the team and had a couple of good changes to score. Things didn’t quite come off for him today but another solid and committed performance, and Aaron Ramsey is a player who always gives it his all and never hides.

Mesut Özil: 6/10
Did well in patches but couldn’t impose himself on the game as Arsene and the Arsenal fans would have liked. Did well to create a chance for Theo in the first half but after that faded, and was replaced on 77 minutes.

Alexis Sanchez: 8/10
Never stopped running and scored an absolute stunner on 50 minutes. Tracked back, made tackles and set the tempo for the team. Superb.

Theo Walcott: 8/10
Fully justified his team selection and caused the Villa defence all kinds of problems. Took his goal fantastically well and the importance of his goal was massive considering we missed a few clear cut chances before that.

Jack Wilshere (replaced Özil on 77′): 6/10
Helped see the game out and solid in midfield.

Olivier Giroud (replaced Walcott on ’77): 6/10
Clearly disappointed at not starting but didn’t sulk when introduced and took his goal well.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (replaced Sanchez on ’89): 7/10
Not on enough to make any real impression on the game – except for creating Arsenal’s fourth goal of course!

Congratulations To Chelsea Football Club

Well there we have it, the game ended in a 0-0 draw and forget about the mathematics, that’s the title going to Stamford Bridge.

So congratulations to Chelsea.

Even if Arsenal won the match, it would have still been pretty impossible to win the league. For a while now, the title has been destined to go to Chelsea and the big question wasn’t if but when.

The Chelsea players, lead by John Terry, punch the air at the final whistle and can you blame them? Making sure they didn’t lose against Arsenal was the last big hurdle they had to face and the got past it.

For me, a win against Chelsea was not to fight for the title, but to give the team confidence going into the final few games and to secure that coveted second place in the Premier League. We are a point behind Manchester City but have a game in hand, so hopefully we can get 3 points in that game and regain second spot.

So todays match and what can you say?

Chelsea defended like we know they can, and they’ve been doing this for years. If you need a clean sheet, then this Chelsea side can do it with no problems whatsoever. When they are setup to defend it is pretty much impossible to get through.

Two seasons ago when Chelsea got to the Champions League final using the same tactics, they were given all the plaudits for their approach. They got past teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich to lift the trophy and personally I admired what they did. Chelsea are a team full of winners, and always have that winning mentality. They don’t care if they play good football or boring football, all they care about is winning trophies.

And today was the same. They only needed a draw (despite what Mourinho came out with in the pre-match press conference) and they played deep and tried to get us on the break.

To Arsenal’s credit, they usually failed against this Chelsea approach but whenever they did attack on the break, they showed maturity and took a couple of cheap bookings to make sure Chelsea didn’t score that sucker punch that they usually get at The Emirates.

It was a game that Arsenal probably would have lost in previous seasons – attacking for the winner and then conceding a goal on the break from the opposition – so a point and stretching our unbeaten run isn’t a terrible thing.

For all Arsenal’s attacking, you just knew there would be few clear cut changes to get a goal against a resilient Chelsea side and with minutes remaining, Arsenal fashioned that chance.

Some smart play from Alexis Sanchez on the left played in Nacho Monreal, who picked out Mesut Özil in the centre. With the german playmaker 3 yards away from goal, he completely miscued his shot and missed the ball completely.

THAT was the chance to score and take home all 3 points.

As it was, it wasn’t to be and Arsenal’s already slim chances to catching Chelsea disappeared. It was a valiant effort from Arsenal who never gave up hope of scoring that vital goal, but the goal was just out of our reach.

Arsenal can be proud of their performance because against a stubborn side like Chelsea who were hell bent on not conceding, we couldn’t have done much else. Some of our play was intricate and incisive but with no space to play that killer pass our task was a virtually impossible one.

Remember it’s not as if we failed to score against any side – we were up against probably the best defensive side (when setup like they did today) in world football. They’ve won many trophies that way and they’ve even won the Champions League against the best sides in Europe playing that way.

At the end of the day, Arsenal went for it and gave everything they had – and with a bit of luck (the Mertesacker and Özil chances in particular) we could have taken all 3 points.

It’s a credit to Arsenal and how respected they are by Chelsea that they needed to play like that today. They knew that if they gave Arsenal an inch today we would have beaten them this afternoon. For Chelsea to play so cautiously and almost be afraid of Arsenal, is a credit to how we’ve been performing recently.