In the comments following this match I stated that I thought there was some progress made last night. Whilst the point may not look that great as we could not lift ourselves back to the top of the Premier League, the way we approached the game was different to past meetings with a Mourinho Chelsea.
That’s not to say it was a great performance, the part the conditions played cannot be underestimated, against a strong wind in the first half we struggled to control possession, Chelsea were content to follow the game plan that has worked against us so often in the past ten men behind the ball, let us take possession to the half way line and them press to try and get the ball back and counter at pace with red and white shirts stretched between the half way line an their 18 yard box.
Bearing in mind we were playing against the wind I couldn’t fathom why we were trying to hit so many high balls, surely we have all played in conditions like this at some point in our lives and so must the players and the way we have all been taught to play against the wind is keep it on the deck.
I can’t really discuss the first half without mentioning Mike Dean, he seemed to have decided pre match that due to conditions he would allow a few tackles to go by without punishment, and so it was that Azpuiceleta (I had a go at spelling it right :) ) got away scot free for upending Ramsey about half a second after Ramsey had played the ball, that set the standard for the rest of the half. He also allowed Lampatd to slide through the back of Sagna and take man and ball and have a throw. The two key decisions followed a little later first he allowed Mikel to get away with what looked like a dangerous lunge on Arteta, and immediately after with Arteta still lying on the floor waved away appeals for an Arsenal penalty when Theo was clearly tripped by Willian in the Chelsea penalty area, a big decision and one he got wrong, although he clearly was in a mood not to give anything controversial.
Chelsea had the clearest chance of the half and probably the match when Arteta allowed Lampard to run past him while no one pressured Hazard on the ball, he found Lampard but thankfully the ball cannoned back of the bar to safety.
The second half we promised more pressing further up the pitch and having more of the game in Chelsea’s half. I spent most of the second half urging us forward but worrying about Chelsea countering every time we over committed men forward. This is what Mourinho’s Chelsea teams have done to is over the years, and in years gone by we would get carried away trying to break them down and give away an easy counter attacking goal, and although Chelsea did muster a few attacks in this way we were rarely playing 2 on 3/4 at the back which we have seen in the past, we were not playing for a draw but we were making sure we didn’t lose if we couldn’t win. Is that progress? Well from naivety shown only a few weeks ago when playing Dortmund at home I’d say yes.
We did manage to create two chances for Giroud, the first following a lovely chip pass and great movement from the big man, but he snatched at his shot and sliced it wide, the second chance came from good work from Gibbs on the left but Cech and Terry combined to present Giroud finding the net.
The game petered out to a 0-0 draw with Mourinho replacing attackers with less adventurous players and finally a centre forward with a centre back.
So a point at home, putting us back level on points with Liverpool who face a trip to City on Boxing Day, that game will help us one way or another.
The biggest annoyance to me was not Ramsey’s off day or Giroud’s failed attempts it was seeing the basic errors made by senior pros, gambling when they should play safe, trying passes when Row Z an reorganising is a better option, I want us to play attractive football (and win obviously) but there is a time and a place, and sometimes the boot through the ball is the best option. That is the biggest lesson we need to learn, it’s down to the players on the pitch to do it, no one is going to complain of they do that on occasion, it’s how you win League titles.
Gooner in Exile