Well, that was Entertaining Chaos now wasn’t it? From the highs of the overall performance to the lows of the inept defending, it was a match that had everything and in the end a point for each team was probably fair.
We take a look at the three things we learned from Arsenal v Chelsea.
The Attack is Alright. . . Better than Alright Actually
I’ve always contended that when they can be bothered our attack is one of the best in the league. It is a threat with it’s constant movement and skill on and off the ball. Yesterday was no exception to that rule.
For much of the match we were a constant threat to Chelsea. Mesut Ozil was at his best, drifting between the gaps to find space and receive the ball, making runs between defenders and giving Chelsea’s defenders a torrid time. To be honest I was surprised that he was given so much freedom to operate.
In fact I noticed that Kante seemed more interested in marking Xhaka off the ball then taking care of either Ozil or Jack Wilshere.
Alexis Sanchez continued his “I’m for sale” resurgence and showed why he can still be a threat when he’s interested and Alexandre Lacazette may have been denied some goals but its clear that he is a class player and it will only be a matter of time before the goals start really flowing. The save he forced Courtois to make in the first half was amazing and required all the skill you can muster.
While Mesut put on a man of the match performance it was Jack Wilshere once again in a big match laying claim to his return. He looked leggy at times, the likely result of playing as many games as he has recently but he is a fireplug and source of energy for this team when he wants to be.
With his ability to turn on the dime and charge forward with the ball he can be the link to Ozil we’ve been missing. I also don’t see him holding on to the ball as long as he used to which has been one of my chief complaints against the English midfielder.
His performance was capped off by a dynamite goal that Courtois had no chance to save. It was beautifully struck and capped off a beautiful attacking move. In fact there were quite a few attacking moves that should’ve resulted in goals but Courtois was having a belter in between the sticks.
Arsenal have the attacking players to compete with the best in this league. They have some of the best players in Europe and can win things with them. That much is evident as displays against Chelsea, drawing to Liverpool, losing to United and winning against Tottenham have shown. But it’s the next point we want to make that lets us down every time
Our defending continues to leave something to be desired
Let’s ignore the penalty call. The less said about it the better. I think it was a dive, I think it was truly embellished but can’t change that now. The true farce of the night was the second goal. There was just so much wrong with it.
First look at the end result – Alonso A FULLBACK coming inside Mustafi who isn’t aware he was there and lets him waltz in and essentially tap in the goal.
The break down is emblematic of Arsenal’’s defensive efforts throughout the season. First Willian’s pass while
harmless because it has to travel cross field doesn’t need to happen if more pressure is applied to him before he passes.
The second breakdown isn’t so much of a breakdown as losing on 1v1. Maitland-Niles who plays bigger and bigger every game, reacts a little late to the traveling ball to Zappacosta but recovers in time, his position however is a little suspect and he plays him a little too close which allows the Chelsea man to beat him with some fancy foot skills. This allows the low hard cross to come in.
The more egregious of errors happens as Alonso travels from about 30 yards outside the box with Hector in tow, Chambers checks and sees that Hector is running with him. He also checks and sees that Alonso is in between him and Mustafi. Mustafi’s focus is on the ball out wide.
Holding checks for Bakayoko and comes in, seemingly in a position to put a foot in on any cross that comes in. At this time Hector stops running with Alonso who continues his movement through the box without anyone communicating to the other defenders that he is continuing his run. Mustafi doesn’t check behind him to see where either Alonso or the striker Morata is and is flat footed as Alsono comes across his body and gets on the cross for the easy goal.
Why spend so much time describing it? Because the breakdowns that occurred in that single goal are some of biggest problems defensively. Whether its lack of communication, lack of awareness or basic defensive principles, we continually fail at them. For every good attack we offer we know that we are a stupid error away from allowing an opponent back into a match or able to win a match and this goal.
Whether it’s the individual players or coaching until we get the defensive issues sorted out, it wouldn’t matter if we had the best attack in the league, we’d still let teams stay in matches.
Maitland-Niles continues to grow in stature
There is always a lot of debate about Ainsley Maitland-Niles and the position best suited to get the most of his talent. To this I say who cares? He’s playing as wing back in our current set up and continues to go from strength to strength.
One particular moment from last night stands out to me. In the second half Eden Hazard with the ball at his feet and 1v1 with AMN looks to shield the ball and try and beat the youngster. AMN doesn’t overplay him here, is patient with his eyes firmly affixed to the ball. He waits and when he senses he has the upper hand on Hazard he toe pokes the ball away and starts a rush the other way. It was smart and effective and given how Hazard schools some of older defenders showed great poise from the kid.
What I hope is that we – that’s a collective we meaning fans and coaches – give the kid time to develop. It wasn’t too long ago we had Alex Iwobi as the next great young hope out of our system to only see him fizzle.
There seems to be a tremendous upside to AMN. He links well with Sanchez and he is solid defensively especially in 1v1 situations (something Wenger noted recently.) Hopefully he continues to grow and is one we can continue to praise as he becomes the next Arsenal star.
WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE WORK WITH PETR CECH ON SAVING PKS? 15 PKS faced not 1 saved since he came to Arsenal and its beginning to look like he just doesn’t care. He’s playing great in open play but put a PK on us and you know we’re down a goal.