Arsenal 0 – 2 Chelsea: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

Wenger went with Ramsey and Wilshere in midfield and Miyaichi got a start, presumably because Gnabry wasn’t fit. It was a fairly strong line-up and certainly one that could compete with Chelsea’s second string, which, as discussed in the preview, could easily serve as a starting eleven at many Premier League clubs.

While the tournament itself is of little interest to me, the fact that Wenger played many of his regular players – some from the beginning and some as substitutes – showed he desperately wanted a win. However, numerous old failings were again visible as Chelsea controlled the game, first through possession and later through defence. The quality of Arsenal’s football certainly poses some questions about their ability to last the distance while performing against big teams, and cannot easily be brushed aside simply due to the stature of the competition.

The Gunners looked a little tentative early on and made a number of technical errors in the first five minutes or so. This allowed Chelsea to establish a rhythm and they dominated the ball. The absence of Arteta and Flamini was continuously felt in different ways but the players on the pitch worked hard to get bodies between the ball and goal thereby limiting the impact of any threat the visitors posed.

This wasn’t a case of good defending but a matter of working hard to somehow keep the goal protected. There are certain patterns which, when repeated, give us a good indication that a team is not controlling the game defensively.

For instance, when a striker is regularly able to move into space to receive and lay off the ball, opposition’s midfield runners can find open areas to attack, and many players from the defensive side are facing their own goal and chasing back, it’s safe to assume the defence is in the scramble mode. The image below is a decent example of this as Eto’o has dropped between the lines – gap is huge – and Mata is able to run into the space behind the full-back. Many Gunners are looking at Fabianski’s goal and chasing back including the two supposed defensive midfielders and a full-back.

Defensive Scramble 1

Usually, the oppositions attacking efficiency determines how threatening such instances are and the defensive side has to rely on a bit of luck as they try to slow the attack down and get a crowd around the ball.

Defensive Crowd

In the example above, Vermaelen slowed play down and the Gunners were able to somehow win the ball back by sheer weight of numbers. But look at the vast open space in front of the defence and the acreage that Eto’o is in. In such cases, the probability of conceding freakish goals is high because of these open areas where the ball could easily find its way to through a deflection. Instances of defenders getting in each other’s way because of their proximity and focus on the ball are also more likely than in cases where the shape of the team is not good.

The following example came in the 11th minute when quick feet and a nifty back heel by Mata gave De Bruyne a chance to run into space.

Defensive Scramble 2

Vermaelen gets sucked out wide as does Wilshere. Monreal is chasing back. Look at the gaps that have opened up (black circles) and the distance between the two central defenders (yellow line). There are many runners who can attack these spaces (red arrows). Only poor choice and executions by De Bruyne slowed this attack down and gave the Gunners a chance to regroup. Even then Willian was able to receive the ball in space and get a shot away.

It is important to remember that snapshots don’t really prove anything and you can find any team out of shape for a short instance if you really go looking. The pictures above are only illustrative. But when you see such problems over and over again during the game it’s clear that the defence is not at the level it should be and the side will inevitably concede a goal or two.

The two goals conceded by Arsenal were both down to numerous defensive weaknesses. ‘Corner to the Gunners, goal to the opponents’ will soon become a cliché. Jenkinson will obviously get bulk of the blame, and he should, but it’s worth noting what a mad scramble it was with many players chasing back as they could not control the break from Chelsea higher up the pitch. The ball was skied and had vicious rotation on it because it deflected from a desperate, perhaps ill-advised, attempt at a sliding tackle.

It was again a freakish goal. Azpilicueta will probably not score another such goal this season. For the Gunners it’s a unique goal to concede in that the exact pattern will likely not repeat but it’s also a very predictable goal to concede in that defensive scrambles will gift very soft goals to the opponents.

The second goal represented different types of problems. It starts with two horribly miscued attempts at clearing the ball. First, Koscielny goes to head a long ball and only manages to head it backwards even though he is under no pressure. Then Jenkinson shanks his clearance and it goes out for a throw. From the resulting throw both central defenders are attracted to Eto’o who’d made a run towards the byline. His flick back results in an aerial duel between Willian and Wilshere before the ball falls kindly to Mata whose technique to control and shoot is exemplary. Again there was an element of luck involved as Willian’s header wasn’t exactly a controlled pass. The shot also bisected the defensive players and swung at just the right moment to veer past Fabianski. But with central defenders getting sucked out of position and the defensive midfielders lacking certain physical qualities and ability to read the danger, Arsenal invited misery upon themselves.

Chelsea could have scored more had they been more efficient. But this was their second string and it showed. Even then Vermaelen seemed lucky to escape without a red card at the end as Dowd probably considered the score and time left before letting the Belgian off the hook. That was another instance where Koscielny could only head a long ball towards his own goal.

Having said all that, it’s very important to note that it wasn’t simply a case of inept football from the Gunners. Far from it. There were phases when they were pretty solid defensively and also moments when they produced some quality moments at the other end of the pitch.

Difference was that Chelsea were, for the most part, extremely well organized and maintained excellent spacing between their players which meant they could close threatening moments down or force the Gunners into producing something special.

Arsenal also struggled a bit because two of their starting attacking players were clearly below par for such a game, albeit for different reasons.

Bendtner seemed like a player who was very low on confidence and his touch wasn’t up to scratch. Furthermore, he’s always had a weakness that has limited his output at the highest level – the Dane does not make runs for the sake of running. Van Persie excelled at this and Giroud has picked up where the Dutchman left off. Strikers at a club like Arsenal, where football is so intricately linked to movement, have to be constantly on the move. Whether the ball arrives or not is irrelevant. They have to spot gaps and keep moving. It can be a tedious job at times but it opens the game up for the side. The problem with Bendtner is that he only seems to make runs when he sees the ball being played into a space. And that means he’s static for certain periods of the game, locking up vital portions of real estate on the pitch and making the job of defenders that much easier.

Miyaichi is clearly a kid who is not ready for such games and it would be harsh to expect too much from him. He needs a loan spell at a Premier League club, or a Championship side, or a strong club in a foreign league where he plays regularly. There is just no substitute for regular game time for the level he’s at.

Arsenal had some promising moments after Özil and Giroud came on the pitch but Chelsea always seemed in control defensively, even if they had to park the bus at times.

The lasting memories from this game will be of the defensive errors, some pretty combinations from the Arsenal midfield, and the moments when they seemed to run out of ideas when confronted with a sturdy blue wall in the Chelsea defence.

Individual Performances:

Fabianski: Could he have done better for either goal? Maybe. Certainly for the first a case can be made that he could have read the situation quickly and moved a little earlier. Jenkinson was never going to generate enough power to loop the header over him. Didn’t have many big saves to make and his handling of balls that came at him was confident.

Jenkinson: Villain No. 1 in most peoples’ books I guess. Some fans got carried away with his performances last season but, as I’d noted, it was more down to the limited nature of his role in those games. He is not a player who can be relied upon to move up and down the pitch while constantly maintaining a good position and making all the right choices. He should primarily be asked to focus on defending and keeping things simple with occasional forward forays when space opens up. This game seemed to hectic for him and even his crosses and other attacking moments seemed rushed and clumsy.

Koscielny: Made a number of important interventions in the box and further up the pitch when the side played a high line. But he also lacked concentration at times. The two instances of headers going backwards are good examples. Also struggled against the power of Ba when playing a high line against the striker. Can’t fault him for the first goal but shares the blame for the second.

Vermaelen: Had to spend a lot of time covering behind Monreal and did well to break up or slow down quite a few attacks. Another one who shares some blame for the second goal and shared the struggles of Koscielny against Ba. Lucky to avoid a red card. I was surprised he didn’t venture forward a bit more for some long range shots or getting on the end of crosses. The lack of a proper defensive midfielder might have held him back.

Monreal: Opponents got past him quite often with one-twos and quick interchanges which meant he was seen running back towards the Arsenal goal way more often than a defender should. Part of the problems was that the team wasn’t compact and he didn’t get sufficient timely support on the flank. Attacking contribution much better than Jenkinson’s but his final ball had scope for improvement.

The defenders had a tough game and made numerous mistakes. Better communication and awareness could have prevented the second goal. Mertesacker’s ability to read the game was sorely missed as was the presence of Arteta or Flamini in front of the back four.

Ramsey: Very hard working game in defence but he is not the guy who is going to hold position in front of the defence and keep things simple. Missed having such a player beside him. Was also trying to make things happen at the other end but didn’t quite have the right understanding with teammates and the spaces were too tight, time too short for working it out on the go.

Rosicky: On occasions, his manipulation of ball and space was a joy to watch as was his link play with Cazorla. But it was usually a bit too far from the Chelsea goal. Didn’t do enough to help the defence at times and should probably have played alongside the striker or made runs in behind with greater frequency.

Wilshere: Some of his runs with the ball troubled the Blues. For instance,  the run that saw Mikel picking up a yellow card had the opponents scrambling, while another one led to Giroud’s shot that forced an excellent save from Schwarzer. Defensively, he tried but again he isn’t a guy who naturally reads that aspect of the game. Also his choices and execution in the final third still leave a lot to be desired.

Cazorla: Like Rosicky, he too produced some easy-on-the-eye moments. But not enough, and certainly not in the decisive areas. Work rate was good and he surprisingly curbed his instincts to shoot. Corners could have been better.

Miyaichi: Have discussed above.

The midfield was not particularly well-balanced and that made it hard from a defensive point of view. Throw in the limitations of the two attacking players discussed above and the starting eleven was lacking something on either end of the pitch. The four main midfielders couldn’t quite compensate for it and they didn’t have the experience, mutual understanding, or skill to control the tempo, and thus the game, through their passing and movement. They also got in each other’s way at times when it seemed they were trying to work things out on the go. Sometimes it does feel a slightly higher degree of functional rigidity would help.

Bendtner: discussed above. I don’t think he was simply slacking off, just that he doesn’t have the drive (or the game intelligence) to keep running selflessly but in a tactically meaningful manner.

Subs: Özil and Giroud’s arrival did give Arsenal greater attacking impetus but it only went till the edge of the Chelsea box where a Blue wall held firm.

Wenger: The big games are here and his sides have lost to Dortmund and Chelsea through terrible defensive mistakes while not showing enough offensive bite. Deja Vu? It’s easy to dismiss this competition’s importance but the patterns seen in this game are concerning. Arsenal have struggled without Arteta and they will do so again, particularly when Flamini too is missing.


13 Responses to Arsenal 0 – 2 Chelsea: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Jeff says:

    The game was way too big for RYO. But we couldnt blame wenger becoz at times,we’re short of wingers. The ” tiki-taka ” between Rosicky and Cazorla was the only enjoyable thing last nite. very easy on the eye. Now i wonder whether wenger will start Ozil-Cazorla-Rosicky from the start @ liverpool game.

  2. alanbstardmp says:

    we’ll be 4th in the epl by Christmas

  3. soglorious says:

    Spot on Desi, but I really wish to forget this game and keep mind fixed on the next. I am sad that we lost and as U rightly explained, our defense gave us out. The need for a defensive midfielder is never best exposed as this game. Chelsea had more than four. We are the Arsenal, we will rise again!!!

  4. Enijunisola Festus says:

    We should be thinking and looking forward to beat livapool

  5. Liverpool game has become a must not lose now, cant see us winning.

  6. wawa says:

    Desi this is quite a splendid analysis (as usual from you). I really love your understanding of the game & how you completely dissect all the small things. This is fantastic. This cup may not mean a lot, but the fact of losing to Chelsea really hurts. Am sure we need to bounce back and beat Liverpool, Dortmund & MUFC in our next games. COYG

  7. mr arsenal says:

    i am angry about what i saw cazorla
    he is not the cazorla we saw last season
    no shooting on or off no more dripling no hard working. did you ever saw a player who is right footed who takes the corners on his left leg ?…he was care less… if we only need to put the ball in the box but we need to put the ball on the head of our players so arsene has to some thing
    i don’t blame JENKSON he is young and when he was recafing the ball the is a lott of presure on him
    so he passed the ball back to the keeper on his head not his leg !!!…why fabianiski come faster and catch the ball
    when he passed back to goal the chance of scoring was around 30% the chances fabianski has was 70 %
    the second goal equal the first one
    when you are in the goal you have to read the game well and if you stay in the goal you can’t catch the ball on the sides coz the goal is to big to control all but you have to use your mind to control it, so you have to come closer to the ball then the goal will be smaller and you can control your goal
    BENDTNER good luck to him …but we need new striker
    WILSHERE also was bad…he can’t read the ball well
    when you are playing deep you don’t need to make more runs
    coz his running can coas as a lot of damage..coz we don’t have ther difensive midfilder
    so you can sit deep and can be play maker .. you can open the ball out wide or make thrue balls ..( like wat nuri sahin do in dortmond ), so if you are profational player you have to understand what you need even when you are playing goal keeper.
    VERMALEN he needs a lot of playing time he is doing well, he is great player leader and he has a sprit
    honestly i saw his face what he needs he was ungry,,,so arsene pleas try to give him a chance or try to change your information to play three defenders like what liverbool or juventus does ….he can be our chialini ,,,,

  8. Elysieum says:

    Hi Desi

    Excellent analysis of the game. Where the game was lost was the lack of protection in front of the defence. Wilshire and Ramsey are attack minded players and very similar in playing abilities. They are also still very inexperienced in anticipating dangers. I felt Ramsey was partly responsible for the second goal after he left Willian because he was more attracted to the ball than focusing on marking the player. I think Arsenal has a team have to work more in defending without the ball. However, if we had better options on the bench in the form of Walcott, Podi, Ox, Arteta, The Flame. We would have made Chelsea defence more nervous with a higher probability of conceding.

  9. SB says:

    Excellent analysis as usual Desi, so insightful. I look forward to reading your analysis especially when we have lost a game – need to know what went wrong, to build up hope that we would correct it.

    This problem of fekish goal / corner to the Arsenal & goal to the opposition, is reappearing & it’s a worry like you said, especially with more big games coming up.

    As astute as Wenger is, I would think he would be aware of this issue as well. So, I wonder why he doesn’t address them – with better organisation like I think you are suggesting.

    Maybe you could a piece (apologies if already have), as to what the possible remedy is & we as fans in numbers somehow get AW’s attention to it! 🙂

    On a serious note, I hope to see some of the injured players back soon, as based on the insight you’ve provided, we are not going to resolve our defensive issues quickly. So we need our offensive players – like Podolski, Walcott, Ox back soon

  10. santori says:

    Spot on with this one Desi!

    Felt we are still over prioritising this competition. It should really be for Reserves and blooding youth regardless of opponents.

    Mourinho will have had an eye on the weekend pushing us on this one and likely rubbing his hands in glee with us committing the likes of Jack, Ozil and Giroud. If we slip up to Liverpool, Chelsea benefit.

    Far better to have rested our priority players, put out a second string and let us lose. At very least it would have lowered expectations. I suppose Wenger was concerned we may have entirely capitulated which would have been worse for morale.

    In a sense, it is difficult to say that we are entirely lacking in squad depth as had Podolski,walcott and Ox been available, we would have been more competitive. Then again, we are without for a reason and likely our most glaring deficiency is still the need for a striker to back Giroud up (Granted Poldi may form a partnership with Ozil on return)

    Possibly a blessing in disguise to be out of this one. We must maintain full focus on the next two games and win them. Still more to come in United, Southampton and Cardiff so getting back on track is crucial crucial crucial.

  11. santori says:

    With regard some of the player ratings :

    1) Jenkinson. Agree with you that many got over carried away with him last season. We still need Sagna to preferably sign for 2 more seasons. It will give us time to assess both pretenders to the throne at the moment in jenkinson and Bellerin. The other thing I would say about Jenkinson is that he is far too predictable offensively.

    2) Ditto Miyaichi. Two predictable players on the right flank did not help matters. I would have personally preferred to have had Bellerin (if he was fit) come on for an audition as a RWinger. Like Gnabry, he is far more creative in movement and he would have also provided Jenkinson with a little bit of double cover.

    3) Ramsey is wasted holding. Granted we are without both Flamini and Arteta, would have preferred to have thrown Hayden in to the wolves but with someone experience like Rosicky close by (and possibly holding in a defensive triangle with Verscielny).

    4) Thought we risked Jack on this one. As duely noted, his movement slaloming through midfield from deep is a big asset for the team not easily replicated by anyone at the moment (Diaby closest if he could stand). I don’t like the over articulation of playing both Flamini and Arteta rather prefer jack next to either one in regular games. That would free Ramsey further ofrward where he is likely to do his best work for us.

    5) Rosicky. A real spark for us but frustrated on the night with our closing down in unison lacking. As mentioned, thought he could have been used a bit deeper with someone (limited admittedly but) discipline in Hayden doing the dirty work breaking play. As you mention, thought our tactical decisions poor and the midfield unbalanced.

    6) Verscielny Koscmaelen. Probably the weakest of the 3 possible permutations to come out of Per, Koscielny and TV. But I can somehow understand Wenger doing this in protecting Per as a top asset at the moment being that both Frenchman and the Belgian are similar where Per’s technical arena is less replicable not to mention of course his height. When we bring in a (younger) Cback, that player should have some height IMO. Miquel should be properly assesed in January with his loan spell. Hayden is still too young thereby if Miquel is still unconvincing, we need someone preferably 25 and under on account of median age in this position at the moment.

    7) Santi. A bit off his best but not sure why so many are castigating him. He adds creativity to the midfield with his movement and is not afraid to try from distance. He will spark soon enough.

    8) Which brings me to Bendtner. Absolutely agree with you on him. He appears lazy but really it’s his game. Lacks the off ball running and closing down. I don’t think he will improve in all honesty. We need a striker come January (even if Poldy comes back and sparks with Ozil). That’s the one missing ingredient that may have carried us more threat against Chelsea and given us the edge IMO. Keep watching Real Madrid.

  12. santori says:

    Could you get yourself linked to Arseblog BTW?

  13. Steve says:

    Hi Desi – Good review! I think this match points to January where we’ll find out whether Wenger and the Board are interested in strengthening this team to the point where we can hopefully compete for the league and advance into the latter stages of the Champions League.

    If they strengthen the side by finding better players than Bendtner and Jenkinson (think he’d benefit from a loan), while replacing Diaby, then we will have a chance to push on and can accomplish big things. But the current squad certainly doesn’t seem to have the depth to stay in form and go the distance.

    What are your thoughts on Monreal? I like many parts of his game, but fear that he switches off positionally or is too cavalier and doesn’t have enough pace.

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