Written by Mean Lean on Monday, 01 October 2012 12:33
I am a little late with my match thoughts so I will just break it down into a few points.
Escaping the press
Firstly, I think Chelsea deserved the victory, it was a close contest that really could have gone either way but I think the West Londoners controlled the game better than we did. They had a strategy and implemented that very well.
Pre match I thought that if Chelsea played with all their creative players then it would give us the advantage. I wrongly assumed that they would not have enough going the other way to deal with Cazorla, Podolski and co.
I couldn't have been more wrong. The Chelsea midfield swarmed all over us whenever we had the ball and they shut off our strongest area of the pitch. Mikel Arteta was nullified and Santi Cazorla had a player on him whenever he had the ball played into him.
For all Chelsea's good work in closing us down, I thought we needed to cope with that better. We passed the ball too slowly which allowed Chelsea the time to shut us down.
The likes of Xavi and Iniesta have to deal with this issue a lot as every man and his dog know that stopping Barcelona's midfield is a large part of stopping them from playing. Quick movement and quick early passing is very difficult to stop, and you would imagine that over time we will improve in that area.
That said, even with our midfield not at it's very best we still created enough chances to have won the game. It may have also been different had Abou Diaby not suffered another injury. He is the one player who can escape pressing with a turn and run through the opposition. That said, it could have gone the other way and he could have been dispossessed more often than not. We will now never know.
Extracting the best from Lukas
Lukas Podolski had scored in three games in a row against Liverpool. Southampton and Montpelier. Since then he has had two quiet games against Manchester City and now Chelsea. Difficult games granted but I do get the sense that we are not getting the very best out of him. It almost feels as if we are playing two left backs on the left hand side. Podolski gives everything he has for the team and it is great to see that. He doesn't give the ball away very much but he is not very creative, so you do not expect him to make many chances for others in tight games.
I feel that his greatest strength isn't being used enough, at least not at the moment. Give him the ball at his feet inside the box and he will score goals but with him on the left, he is not getting many goal scoring chances. In fact, he has probably converted more than he has missed so far this season but like Theo Walcott, his overall game may not be suited to the central role in our team. Well at least based on his debut performance against Sunderland.
I would like to see more off the ball runs from the left into central positions and for the likes of Cazorla to be looking to find him more often inside the box.
I have thought the same of Theo Walcott in the past. Not a main striker in this system but you want him in goal scoring positions as much as possible and not just sticking to the wider areas.
Trigger happy Santi
Santi Cazorla has hit the ground running at Arsenal and he has been a revelation, so much so that he has song's written about him.
I haven't felt the need to be critical of him so far this season, mainly as I have been mesmerised by his incredible ability on the ball. One thing that has been frustrating me a little is his propensity to shoot on sight. This has been a welcomed change for many Gooners, probably because we used to have teams that hardly ever had a shot unless clean through but I do not think we are getting the best out of the team by shooting repeatedly.
Cazorla has scored one goal for us this season, a goal that quite frankly shouldn't have gone in but for poor goalkeeping from Reina in Liverpool's goal. Santi Cazorla has already demonstrated his ability to unlock defences with reverse passes or slipped through balls. Think Giroud against Sunderland, Podolski at Liverpool and I am sure more that have slipped past my increasingly poor memory these days.
I have seen Cazorla fire in a bobbling left footed shots wide of the post and sometimes three Arsenal players slowing down with their arms outstretched in front of them in closer and better positions many times now and it is only upon watching the replays that you see it clearly.
So basically I want to see Podolski shooting and Cazorla passing, I think we may well be more productive in that way.
Per shaped defending
For all Chelsea's hard work it was ultimately our own fault for conceding the two goals from set pieces. This was an area of our game that we had shaken off last season but so far, it is pretty much the only way we are conceding goals and this has to be corrected.
Unfortunately Mannone does not have Szczesny's presence in goal, that is not to say that he was to blame for the goals. You just feel that we miss the Pole's character in the box from those situations. Last season Szczesny had his faults but coming and dealing with crosses wasn't one of them.
There is a lot of talk about leaving out Mertesacker and I understand the argument. He was playing very well and had been our best player at Manchester City, that said, I do not think it is right to pin all our defensive hopes on one player. We have three central defenders who are all very good and I totally understand the logic of playing two quick center backs against a nimble Chelsea team at home and in fairness to Koscielny and Vermaelen, I felt they dealt with Chelsea fairly well in open play. The whole team needs to work better on set pieces. We have conceded goals from set pieces with Mertesacker in the side just like last week at Manchester City.
It isn't a surprise that we look to the center back partnership for blame because we made a change and lost the game.
Had either Koscielny or Vermaelen sat the game out and a goal was conceded by Hazard skipping past Mertesacker then Wenger would have been criticised for not thinking about the opposition.
Vermaelen and Koscielny have had many good games together so I think it is a little simplistic to suggest that they cannot play together. What is beyond dispute is our record from set pieces this season and with Sam Allardyce and West Ham around the corner, I hope we spend as much time as possible practicing at London Colny this week.
Fullbacks are doing it for themselves
The two Arsenal players who deserve the most amount of praise from the game are the young fullbacks. Kieran Gibbs was our best player on the day while Carl Jenkinson continues to play consistently well. Gibbs is really growing as a player, making tackles, keeping the ball and supporting the attack. He has competition in that position for England but if he continues to play the way he is then it is only a matter of time before he is knocking on that particular door. The same can be said for Jenkinson.
We were not at our best, made defensive mistakes and were punished for it. That is disappointing but had Cazorla's late lash over the bar or Giroud strike into the side netting found it's way in then would have easily drawn this game if not more. These big games are often decided by small margins that can chop and change at any time.
We have played Manchester City, Stoke City and Liverpool all away from home. We have also played a team that has invested a lot of money on good players and will more than likely be in the top four by the end of the season so one defeat from our games thus far is not a calamity.
In games against Liverpool (a), Manchester City (a), Stoke (a) and Chelsea (h) we have 5 points. To add a bit of perspective, here are the results against the same opposition last season (swapping us for the opposition where necessary)
Manchester United 5 points
Manchester City 5 points
Chelsea 1 point
It is the games against Sunderland at home where we need to do more and I am sure we will. We have had our first setback of the season so reacting is now the priority.
And finally here is something a little different. A good friend of mine, @RoxyArms is a Gooner and talented musician and he produced this funny Theo Walcott song. It probably isn't music for the older Gooner but I am sure you can still see the humour.
Check it out.
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