Arsenal 0 – 0 Chelsea: Some Observations

Is this post breaking the record for late match reports? Probably no one cares. And I think it’s safe to assume no one wants to read three thousand words three days after a match, especially after one that lacklustre. So I’m just going to make some observations that seem worth discussing. Each paragraph will be a new point; some general, others about players or combinations.

As expected Chelsea came to park the bus and play on the counter. I didn’t expect as many as 8 changes, which virtually made this a second string side. They still had their strong defensive system and the replacements did a good enough job of adhering to it thereby reducing the chances Arsenal could create.

In attack, Chelsea had some chances early on but they couldn’t quite find the final pass or finish despite getting in behind Arsenal with relative ease. The quality of the second string, or the lack thereof, obviously had an impact here. This allowed the Gunners to get away with some poor defending. For instance, in the 7th minute Koscielny pushed up to the halfway line but couldn’t quite work it out with Song and the Gunners lost possession. Kalou was able to get into the space vacated by the central defender and got to the box. The Ivorian couldn’t quite control the ball and danger was averted but the defending was poor regardless. Sagna also had a little nibble at Kalou and a clever player, who’d have anticipated the challenge, might have found a way of winning a penalty and a red card from that. Imagine going a goal down and a player down in the 7th minute. Add to it the fact that Sagna would have missed the trip to Stoke. How big an impact would that have had on Arsenal’s points tally and confidence? The difference between a harmless looking situation and an unmitigated disaster can be that small at this level. Maybe I’m being overdramatic here but these things happen every once in a while and the more you tempt fate the more you risk getting screwed.

In general I thought Arsenal’s defending remained worrisome. It also seemed that the players sensed this and it brought the handbrake on in the first half after the opening 10-15 minutes. They couldn’t find the balance between caution and aggression but erred, prudently in my opinion as safety is the first priority, on the side of protecting their goal.

This does not mean that the defenders per se were poor. They did make a number of excellent last gasp interventions but the fact that they had to make those does not bode well for the longer term.

One of the reasons the defence was exposed fairly regularly was that Ramsey and Song didn’t quite gel as a duo in front. Arteta was missed to state the bleeding obvious. It was directly interlinked with the fact that movement upfront was minimal/ineffective. None of the front four were able to shake of their markers and get into positions to receive passes as frequently as they should have been doing. This forced Song, Ramsey, and, to an extent, Koscielny into taking greater risks. Ramsey was caught on the ball more than a couple of times as he looked for passes. Song tried some riskier ones and it didn’t always come off. Same goes for the centre back. This contributed to the muted attack and the nervous defence that didn’t impress many of those watching.

Both the wide players struggled to get on the ball. The team can carry one of them and that one could get the licence to wait for opportunities to make a run if the other winger can get between the lines and help the team past the first line of defence around the centre line. When both can’t do it the whole attack looks toothless for long periods and the defence is put under pressure.

Interestingly, Arsenal struck the woodwork twice from set-pieces. Those were probably the best chances of the first half except perhaps the counter-attack in injury time that broke down due to a poor choice by Chamberlain. You could say Chelsea rode their luck but these are low-percentage chances. Arsenal had to create a lot more but just couldn’t click as a unit.

Rosicky looked lively when he got the chance to turn and run with the ball. He also played some quality passes. But a lot more is needed from a player in that position. He too was guilty of not offering an outlet for a ball behind the first line of defence often enough. He had 32 touches i.e. one every two minutes, which is just not good enough for that role especially when Arsenal were the team looking to take the initiative. This isn’t the first time either, he’s had similar struggles against well-organized sides with Liverpool and Newcastle (first 20 odd minutes) being good examples.

Arsenal looked much better after Diaby came on for Rosicky in the 64th minute. Part of the reason for this was that Ramsey was able to move up the pitch and was able to influence the game more. He played an excellent ball over the top for Van Persie, spread the ball to the flanks, made runs that opened passing channels, and added to the collective attacking quality as Arsenal created more meaningful combinations in this period. It’s worth noting that Ramsey completed 26 of his 27 passes from the 64th minute onwards. In a comparable role in the first 64 minutes Rosicky only managed 21/24.

Of course, the three substitutes also played a big part in giving Arsenal greater impetus in the final 20-30 minutes, even if it wasn’t enough to get a goal. The Gunners got closer to the Chelsea goal in this period and were able to work some combinations around the box that involved more than a runner and a quarter-back, so to speak.

Once again the importance of the wide players getting involved in play was highlighted. Walcott completed 11 of his 16 passes in an hour. Gervinho completed 14 or his 16 in roughly half that time. Similarly, Santos completed 16 of his 18 passes in just over 20 minutes while Oxlade-Chamberlain only managed 18/23 in close to 70 minutes on the pitch. More passes implies greater involvement, which in turn suggests higher number of passing angles and options to the man on the ball, that in turn results in more fluid play and a higher probability of creating quality chances. It didn’t happen this time but the effort was appreciable and a big improvement on the opening hour or so.

Looking at the way Arsenal struggled to get the ball forward in the first half and the combinations played towards the end, which involved some good movement and passing from all the subs, it would not be unthinkable to start the game against Stoke with the side that ended this one. Santos was energetic on the flank and seems to be getting his match fitness back. He also provided decent defensive cover and can be a physical as well as a technical player with dribbling skills and offensive intelligence to boot. Gervinho too, looked sharp but some might rightly point out that he looks better when playing as a sub.

In other thoughts, Diaby looked rusty but also had a presence on the pitch as he ate up the ground effortlessly. Koscielny made a number of excellent interventions at the back (tackles, clearances, etc) but he was also turned once or twice where he shouldn’t be and was a bit wasteful with his passing, perhaps due to the lack of options. Song again played a number of exceptional passes but he remains error prone and didn’t always make the right decisions. Van Persie was probably frustrated with the lack of service early on and that forced him into hopeful attempts when some composure might have helped. He also went solo once or twice even though a teammate was better placed. Again this was most likely borne out of frustration and a searing desire to win the game for the team coupled with a sense of responsibility.

Moving on from the game, I want to link to an article on Serge Gnabry by Gooner Dave. Do check it out if you haven’t already done so. I am not a fan of hyping youngsters but this article presents some interesting facts. And hidden between the details about the wonder kid, there’s a short note on Bergkamp that is highly recommended, particularly if you think of yourself as a student of the game.

Also, Van Persie deserves accolades for winning the Player of the Year but a sentence at the end of such a post would not do him justice. Trying to find words that do will be a challenge but I’ll try soon enough.

Before ending I want to say thank you to everyone who is reading this. I generally get less than half the readers when I post a late match report when compared to an early one. But I appreciate those who take the time out to read my half-baked ramblings even after a couple of days much more than others who do add to ego-boosting numbers but probably don’t value these write-ups as much. Thanks for reading.

DesiGunner on Facebook


25 Responses to Arsenal 0 – 0 Chelsea: Some Observations

  1. Dianjuh says:

    Hey Desi, If you love Arsenal…. then u gotta love Desi…analysis always so balanced I wonder if we would be a better team with you somewhere i the team (player/coach/assistant coach or even better….our very own Russian billionaire haha!)

    The game evetualized as most would expect even though not welcome. A match without goals tells you all you need to know about the attitude on the pitch on the day. Chelsea wee thinking “Tuesday Night” and Arsenal, well, “lets not lose tjis one and win the other three’. Hope it works out as planned.

    Lets finish third pleae and see what happens in the summer!

    • santori says:

      You’re always going to get 15 extra posts from me anyway so you shouldn’t worry about the number of replies.:D

  2. Dianjuh says:

    Sorry for the mis-spelt words… 🙂

  3. Davi says:

    I wouldn’t be too hard on Rosicky considering he was unwell, but interesting observations nonetheless

    • VanTheManPersie says:

      Yep. Wenger later on went on to say he could hardly run but started because we needed it. Laso agree with you on the sagna incident and how small things can turn an entire season into a disaster. The margins truly are fine

  4. Achilles says:

    always happy to read your posts no matter how late…keep up d gr8 work.

  5. Asenali Zangi says:

    Desi, late or early, your obsedrvations/ analysis are a delight to read. I hope you are preparing, after the 3 games, a season summary of sorts…..

  6. jeff says:

    Ramsey could not work well with song n rosicky.. I thought ramsey n song didn’t pass it well to rosicky who was unfortunately unwell.. It gave rosicky less chance to open up chelsea defense..

    • santori says:

      Ramsey is a good player.

      His defensive side of the game though is still weak where as his offensive end is somewhat further along.

      What he has going for him is his vision and passing (excellent ball over the top to RVP). He is also willing (and reasonably good at) shooting from distance.

      Where he lacks at the moment is in the speed of his passing. He still takes a fraction too long to make up his mind (albeit in fairness, our players did not take up good positions quite enough or make runs into space in support of the players on the ball)

      The other half of his deficency is more difficult to learn. Defense. Itisn’t that he is not commited but I feel he sometimes lacks aggression. He needs to get stuck in more particularly if he is struggling. It is an area where a 10% increase in effort will reap huge benefits for his overall game and in this department.

      Keep the faith in him. His confidence will got to rots otherwise (as is already) and it will do neither him nor us any iota of good.

  7. J says:

    Your writeup is in defense of Ramsey. I see. Keep it up. But he was running up and down without meaningful contribution.

  8. I would wait a week (more even) for qualitative analysis like this. Although I think the defense settled down quite well after the first 20 minutes. And conisdering Rosicky was not 100%, would still start with him in the creative midfiled role rather than Ramsey.

  9. NepaliGunner says:

    I have reached a stage where as soon as a game is done, all I can think about is your post. So in that sense, it’s a long wait. But I truly appreciate your writings. You do an amazing job and this Arsenal fan will read your articles every time!!!

  10. ak47 says:

    good read thanx.

  11. amit says:

    great read..

    by the way rosicky was sick and had fever on the day of the match…in fact he was not supposed to play and was called upon on the morning of the match…taking that into consideration he played pretty well i guess.

    ‘the daily fail’ reports we will sign podolski today afternoon…fingers crossed for that!!

    • santori says:

      Poldy will be an asset for us but I do feel we may need consider another striker even if he comes in and RVp elects to stay on.

      Someone younger in the early 20s would be ideal to bridge the gap between RVP/Poldy and Campbell/Bunjaku

      I like Leandro Damiao who is robust and quick. He is also strong in the air which will replace the attribute we have never really cashed in on with Chamakh (presuming he will leave)

      The other player worth looking at IMO is Luuk De Jong. Scoring freely in the Eridevisie and a possible RVP clone in the making.

      Worth noting that whilst we have done extremely well to claw our way back this distance to third, that we are as yet still limited and not fully able to compete on 3 fronts. So the extra reinforcements must come in for us to have a chnace next season.

      My view on it is that we need to improve our attacking assets still further. The defensive side will improve through evolution.

      The match aagainst Chelsea and Wigan serves to illustrate our shortfall which is in the attacking half particular since RVP seems to have finally run dry.

      I bet he scores a hatrick next weekend having said that! 😀

  12. alanbstardmp says:

    it was a Chelsea “B” side. Arsenal need good transfers in. About three should do it

    • santori says:

      albeit they do have 2 teams worth of ‘quality’ players.

      The media made it out like we slipped points but surely the onus should have been on Chelsea to make up ground on 4th spot (which they didn’t)

      Would love to see us take 3rd, Newcastle 4th (They deserve it), Spurs can have the 5th spot (europa would be an achievement for them) and Chelsea 6th (give them the F All cup for their spot in europa). Liverpool can keep their milk cup and finish just shy of Everton.

      Sounds fair?;D

      • alanbstardmp says:

        Hi

        Yes Chelsea and every team are required to win. I guess when it comes the the Gunners, I look at their mistakes before others

  13. santori says:

    Always look forward to your calm analysis Desi (no matter how late!!!)

    Absolutely agree that we had handbrakes on in part due to our match against Wigan previous;y and in part due to Ramsey coming on for Arteta.

    That said, thought we were also a tad unlucky and could have easily nicked it if one of those wood bound attempts actually went in our favour.

    Ramsey – I’ve spent quite some time defending him on these threads and I will stand by the fact that he is still being overly castigated to no point. BUT he was careless on a number of occassions in this game and I suspect his confidence is quite fragile at the moment. As you rightly mentioned, when given appropriate cover and moved forward, he is capable of unlocking some excellent passes like the one to RVP. It’s his defensive awareness that seems weak and lacks bite (albeit he did try to wwin the ball back when dispossessed)

    Rosicky was under the weather so bearing that in mind, he put in a very decent shift for us.

    BUT as you rightfully also noticed, I suspect Diaby can be a very big asset for us in these last games. He immediately controlled the ball better and added a physical aithority next to Song. Yes , expectedly still rusty but his contorl and strength will be an asset.

    Ditto Santos out wide who together with Abou may give us a bit more competitiveness on the next fixture away to Stoke.

    AND whilst not a complete fan of statistics, good to see that the numbers put things into perpective a little with regard Chamberlain. An obvious talent he is but he still has a lot of ‘growing’ to do football-wise.

    Gerivinho made some excellent runs and I feel he just has to work through his current spell and get a bit more time on the pitch.

    OTOH, the link to Gnabry’s write up was interesting. I had mentioend him sometime before as someone we should be watching seriously. Ozyakup and Gnabry (maybe Eisfeld) should be breaking into this first team sooner than later.

    Still, we have a bevy of raw exciting talent out wide with young Ryo, Chambo, Gnabry all extremely quick and direct. BUT we do IMO lack someone a little more nuanced (a Mata type) who can control the ball and be a bit more creative out wide for us.

    Perhaps we will need to consider bringing in another wide player regardless this summer although if we do sign Poldy, it will be an option to have him out wide along with Santos.

    Interesting times for us as always.

  14. santori says:

    BTW – Is there a piece on Ozyakup???

    He looks amazing for the reserves. Excellent range of passing and superb vision. I have a feeling he will slot in for us next season in the middle as an alternate AM (Ramsey beware!)

    No need to buy Gotze.

  15. walepiper says:

    late but still insightful…have been refreshing this page for three days now..great post as always…

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