Saturday, September 29, 2012

Arsenal 1 - Chelsea 2

Arsenal were defeated at home today by an old nemesis, and I don't mean Chelsea. The Gunners were beaten, as so often in past years, by poor defending on set pieces. Otherwise, they gave as good as they got throughout the match. Adding injury to insult, Arsenal lost Abu Diaby to another one in the first half. That's a big cause for concern, given how well Diaby has started the season after missing so many games to injury in previous seasons. Hopefully, Wenger removed him only as a precautionary measure.

Aaron Ramsey continued his run of relatively poor form. His work rate always impresses, but his passing has just not been good enough. Similarly, Gervinho who, despite scoring an excellent goal in the first half, often holds the ball too long and fails to see open teammates. Laurent Koscielny had a shambolic match, raising questions about whether he should have started, only two weeks back from injury, ahead of Per Mertesacker, who has played very well in recent weeks.

I shook my head when Arsenal replaced Podolski, rather than Gervinho, with Giroud in the second half. Podolski, who was basically invisible during the first half, looked the Gunners most dangerous player in the second, while Gervinho was pretty much playing a dervish whirling without direction. In any case, the replacement, Giroud, once again spurned an excellent chance to score late in the match after a fine pass from Cazorla.

While Arsenal fans will rightly be disappointed at the outcome, there are some positives from today's match. For one, the Gunners midfield played pretty evenly against Chelsea's very potent combination of Hazard, Oscar, and Mata. Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs continued to impress, running their legs off up and down the sidelines, contributing in the attack and getting back on defense. And the Gunners created as many legitimate scoring chances during the match. The two big differences on the day were two poorly defended set pieces and Arsenal's errant shooting. Going forward, Steve Bould clearly has more work to do with the defense and Arsenal simply need to hit the target with more of their shots, if they are to contend for silverware.

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