Saturday, April 21, 2012

Arsenal 0 - Chelsea 0

Chelsea made 8 changes to the team that beat Barcelona 1-0 in the Champion's League earlier in the week, virtually announcing that they were less interested in winning this game than in resting up their top players for next week's return match at Barca. But rather than take advantage, the Arsenal appeared emotionally hung-over following last week's home loss to lowly Wigan. Their movement was a bit slow and their passing not as sharp as usual. Unquestionably, they missed their midfield manager Mike Arteta, who is out for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury.

Arsenal had several clear-cut chances to score throughout the match - far better than any chances Chelsea created - but they could not finish them. Robin van Persie, who has suffered an ebb in his scoring form in recent weeks, was again far from his incisive best, missing a few real goal-scoring opportunities. In fact, the entire Arsenal team seemed fatigued, as they did last week, which is difficult to understand given their relatively early exits from Champion's League and FA Cup competitions. Over the past couple of months, they have only rarely played more than one game per week, providing sufficient time for recuperation.

To be fair, before the Wigan match the Gunners were in torrid form, losing just once in nine or ten league matches. They were bound to come off the boil at some point. And even playing against Chelsea's second team, a draw was not a terrible result. For one thing, Chelsea are a very deep squad and their second-choice players would be first-choice on many, perhaps most, other teams. Most importantly, the Gunners remain firmly in third place, seven points ahead of Chelsea and five points ahead of both Tottenham and Newcastle (although those two teams have yet to play this weekend). It is troubling, however, to see Arsenal once again limping towards the season's finish in three weeks' time.

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