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Post Match Review

Three Things We Learned from Arsenal 1 – 2 Chelsea


If you were hoping for a quick turn around to all that ails Arsenal, than yesterday’s loss at home to Chelsea will have likely brought you down to earth. In what can only be described as a valiant effort to deliver on the new head coacc’s playing philosophy, the Gunners still weren’t able to arrest their slide.

Still, it wasn’t a fruitless venture as the Gunners showed some progress and with that let’s look at the Three Things We Learned from this match

That Hurt More than Recent Matches

It has been some time since a match hurt when we lost. Playing under Unai Emery and his set up, a loss or giving away the lead felt like a forgone conclusion. Yesterday, however, we looked so good in the first half that it felt like even with the second half developing the way it was, that Arsenal might get the luck they need to finish it out.

Sadly, they didn’t.

Nothing hurt more than Jorgihno’s equalizer in the 83rd minute. It felt bad for two reasons. First, Bernd Leno who far and away has been Arsenal’s player of the season makes the mistake on the shot for the goal. Secondly, Jorginho who got the goal shouldn’t have even been on the pitch.

Jorginho had already been shown a yellow card in the 55th minute for a foul and should’ve been shown a second in the 76th minute. With the ball in the middle of the pitch Matteo Guendouzi got to it first and beat Jorginho to the ball. With Guendouzi looking to burst past him, Jorginho wrapped him up and threw him to the ground.

It was a tactical foul and always given as a yellow card. Except yesterday. Then minutes later – the goal came from a player who shouldn’t ever have been on the pitch.

I can’t remember the last time I felt aggrieved in a loss or when I felt we deserved more than what we got. As a fan that has to been some progress right?

Guendouzi needs time to learn

With Granit Xhaka “ill” Mikel Arteta turned to 19 year old Matteo Guendouzi to fill the number 8 role in the side. For all the promise of the youngster, the match highlighted why he is still not ready for a regular starting role in the side.

Within 10 minutes of the match, Guendouzi was on a yellow for a silly foul. In fact by the time he had fouled Willian in the 10th minute it was his second foul of the match. A short time later in what maybe was a bit of luck, Guendouzi brings down Tammy Abraham. It went unseen and had it been seen, it likely could’ve resulted in a second yellow card and sending off for the player.

Everyone agrees that Guendouzi is a talented young player. On the ball he has drive and hunger to move play forward. However, his vision sometimes lets him down or he forces a more difficult option rather than the simpler one that would result in Arsenal retaining the ball.

But its off the ball whether in offensive or defensive scenarios where Guendouzi gets found out and most often hurts the team.

Simply put at this level you always have to have situational awareness and know what’s going on around you . This is a skill that the young Frenchman doesn’t have.

Offensively when playing the midfield, look at his approach in the midfield. It’s often with his back to his forwards and he doesn’t scan the area. This results in his being forced to play the way he faces which is backwards, sometimes with pressure on the two centerbacks.

Defnsively, his lack of awareness hurts Arsenal as he fails to pick up runners coming into his space. Throughout his tenure this has been the case and there have ben plenty of cases where the eventual goal scorer was the player who zoomed past Guendouzi. Even if it doesn’t result in a goal, it usually results in some sort of foul as Guendouzi reacts late to the threat and commits the foul because of poor reaction timing.

Again, he has enough in his tool kit to show you that he is going to be a talented player but at this level having in game awareness his paramount to a player being successful. Arteta talks about players having that “vision” and right now it’s not something Guendouzi has.

The hope is that Arteta and staff can help the youngster get there but right now he’d be best learning it either with the U23s or only a an Europa League or Cup player.

Our Fitness Kills

I’m pleased with a lot of things we worked on in training that actually happened in the game, and how they bought into this. But I’m disappointed to lose the game obviously. We had to sustain that level for longer periods against a very, very physical team like Chelsea.

One of the demands of Mikel Arteta’ playing philosophy is a sustained level of energy and commitment throughout the match. For the first 30 minutes yesterday, you could see that in effect. Arsenal were really delivering on it and if we had our shooting boots on, maybe we would’ve had more than one goal.

As the match wore on and the physicality of Chelsea’s play wore on, the players wore down and the energy level of our play dipped. Simply put the fitness of the team is nowhere near where it needs to be.

You’ll remember that in the wake of the Europa League final loss, Derek Burgess our head of fitness was let go. While there is no evidence to the fact, its possible Emery just wanted his own fitness coach in charge of things.

Emery abandoned a lot of what he said he was trying to implement at Arsenal and working on our fitness seemed to be one of them. In his early tenure you’ll remember that Arsenal would find another gear in the second half of matches with our fitness levels rising.

However, that changed coming into this year and Arsenal haven’t been able to sustain any level of fitness across the season so far.

With the demands that Arteta is going to place on the players and their bodies, fitness is going to have to become a priority. Shad Forsythe remains and the hope is that he can re-institute many of the changes he helped bring in before Burgess arrived and improved under Burgess.

The problem will be of course, time. With the games coming fast and furious, there is little time to build fitness. Players need recovery time after these matches so their bodies can rest for the next match. The only real time that fitness likely will get an extensive working on will be in February when the Premier League institutes its first ever “winter break.”

Until then, fitness will have to be worked on piecemeal and we will likely see other matches where we will loose energy and be forced to hang on.

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