If ever there was a thoroughly enjoyable 0-0 draw it yesterday’s Chelsea v Arsenal match. For a myriad of reasons I sat back enjoying Arsenal finally look like a competitive side once again. As we look to the week ahead with the League Cup and more Premier League action, it doesn’t hurt to look back on the three things we learned from Chelsea v Arsenal.
Wenger Got It Right
As is our lot in life, Arsenal supporters complain. We complain that we rush players back to soon, or don’t rush them back soon enough. We love to rant about Wenger’s lineup selection or his
inability to be flexible with his shape and tactics.
Sometimes, those rants are warranted (e.g. lineup selection for Stoke and Liverpool away) other times they aren’t. Going into the match on Sunday, there was a lot of people fuming about the inclusion of Alex Iwobi over our stropish Chilean forward.
Now, Alex Iwobi will never be an Alexis Sanchez or a Mesut Özil for that matter. But as the German was out “injured” and Alexis Sanchez is still being eased back into the squad post-Confederations Cup injury (and international duty injury) it made sense to bring in the youngster.
Sure, Alexis started on Thursday but for the most part, save for his glorious goal, he was ineffectual. In a game like this having Sanchez still trying to find fitness would’ve been a detriment to the solidity of the squad.
From playing Mustafi as the central of the back 3 to the pressure being created by the front 3, the lineup was spot on. Each player was focused and showed the work rate a match of this stature needed. Chelsea are a good squad and they will still find moments to capitalize, what didn’t happen when that happened was abject panic or trying to force it. Everyone had a role and they stuck to it.
Arsenal Have the Squad to Compete For A Title. Do They Have the Mentality?
Chelsea are considered a candidate for the title this year even though both Manchester Clubs look to be the biggest favorites. Arsenal on the day yesterday looked the more likely to come out of Stamford Bridge with the win.
In fact as much as Chelsea at Stamford Bridge have been a bogey for Arsenal, they really haven’t been a bogey team in the last four competitive matches (I’ve not included the Community Shield) We’re 2 wins 1 loss and 1 draw. In the FA Cup when Chelsea were heavy favorites (as they were yesterday) it was Arsenal who were the better side through the whole match.
Yesterday, save for the 1v1 between Pedro and Cech, the chances we gave Chelsea were from outside the box and clearly seen by Cech or off target. We weren’t holding on for dear life. We played a solid game and took our chances (thought we didn’t bury them.)
What it showed is that Arsenal, even without Sanchez and Özil in the squad can go toe to toe with one of our top 6 rivals and compete. That’s what makes the loss to Liverpool so frustrating.
When you look across this squad, there is no reason they shouldn’t be doing better than they are. There are talented players here mixed with a dash of world class talent and sprinkled with upcoming players trying to push through.
The question is can they play with this intensity, focus, and commitment all the year through and begin turning around results against the other big 6 teams? IF they can do that and then put the rest of the minnows to the swords (and not have slips like Stoke away) then Arsenal CAN compete for silverware this year – despite all the negativity.
It just all depends on their mentality and the manager putting them in the right positions and mindset to succeed.
Paul Merson Is An Ass
Before the match, former Arsenal player, Paul Merson boldly exclaimed that he wouldn’t pick Nacho Monreal for a combined XI of the bottom level clubs.
I certainly hope that Merse was watching yesterday as Monreal was efficient, strong, and tidy throughout a match with the title holders.
He was hard to beat or get around, he made smart well timed tackles and he, along with the partners Mustafi and Kocielny made life quite difficult for Alvaro Morata. And the thing about it, he’s done it consistently against others too.
The thing about Monreal is that he isn’t blessed with flashiness or he isn’t beafy like our newest machine, Sead Kolasinac, but what he does have is the ability to read a game well and he mostly puts himself in the right position to succeed.
That doesn’t mean he makes mistakes, all players do but since he came into his own at this club, he has consistently been one of our most steady players whether it was at LB or as now part of the defensive 3.
Merse was a fantastic footballer, but being a fantastic footballer doesn’t mean you are a fantastic pundit. Merse should acquaint himself with the quote “it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool then to speak and remove all doubt.”
Stick to playing the game Merse not commentating on it.
Honestly when was the last time you say Arsenal bully a Chelsea side physically? If you went back to the Vieira era, you wouldn’t be wrong. But yesterday we looked stronger and sharper then Antonio Conte’s side, that’s the kind of mentality and approach that can help you compete in the league. Long may this continue.