Match Report: Arsenal 0 – 0 Chelsea

Premier League:  23rd December 2013

Giroud cahillSo with our bells firmly jingled at the Etihad last match day, thoughts turned to the final match in the passage of 4 big tests that loomed in December.  With pressure on both teams to register points on the board due to EVERYONE winning their respective ties, this match was always going to weigh heavy on all concerned.

The match started with caution as the overriding theme.  Jose Mourinho had set out his team to do exactly what he wanted and most expected; not to lose.  Cagey could not describe the quality of play on display, with both teams seemingly happy to give away possession as oppose to moving forward with conviction.  Chelsea’s timid refusal to move to far forward too soon, matched with Arsenal’s inability to hit a man with a clean pass in the final third.

On 32 minutes, Chelsea had by far the most clear cut chance  up until that point.  Chelsea hit Arsenal on the break via Frank Lampard, who layed off to Eden Hazard, who played a great ball over the top in return.  Lampard thumped a quality volley over the head of Szczesny and onto the bar.  Arsenal cleared, but the warning was there.

With the distinct lack of action in the final third being the order of the day, attention was drawn to the man with the whistle, Mike ‘sprout head’ Dean.  Dean seemed to decide to break the habit of a lifetime by keeping his cards in his pocket and his whistle away from his mouth for literally anything.

One such instance was the first of two huge decisions he made today, in the form of a quite dangerous challenge by John Obi Mikel on Mikel Arteta.  The ball was there to be won, both players were never pulling out of the challenge and Arteta arrived first to get the ball away.  Obi Mikel arrived a fraction later, but only managed to plant his studs into the side of Arteta’s leg.

Two views could be taken of this situation.  One could be that it was a genuine 50/50 ball and both players went in as hard as each other, so neither or both should face punishment.  The second is what the FA, pundits, players and Premier League era fans have come to understand as a red card.  If the tackle is not controlled, doesn’t get the ball and could be considered dangerous, the player is red carded and Obi Mikel managed them all.

That Mike ‘Pick a card, any card’ Dean didn’t reach for his, was surprising to say the least, especially as he was right on top of it and staring right at ground zero.  Either way, it wasn’t the first clear foul worthy of a card to not go our way and it could have changed the game immeasurably.

The second major incident occurred minutes later, when a neat ball was played into Theo Walcott in the box.  He managed to move the ball out of the way of Willian, who was closing down at pace, only for Theo’s leg to be hooked away by the Brazilian trickster.  Again Mike ‘totes not watching’ Dean was staring right at the situation from all of 5 yards and again he decided against doing anything.  To be fair, Walcott was already slightly unbalanced, but in a League where this sort of thing has been deemed a penalty many times this season, its easy to question why Mike ‘I bet Wengers fuming lolz’ Dean didn’t blow up.

Its games like this where you understand why Arsenal have only ever managed 1 win out of 15 with him in charge, especially as he seems to get the top of the table clashes as he’s inexplicably seen as some sort of bastion of referring excellence.  When Arsenal face up against a team with Mike ‘COYS’ Dean in charge, the team should know to put games beyond doubt without needing a correct decision from a limelight seeking muppet.Walcott - Lampard

The second half started much the same as the first, with both teams acutely aware that as things stood, a point would be in the bag.  As we entered the 60th minute, Mike ‘Mr. Bean’ Dean’s inability to keep the overly aggressive tackling in check began to present itself.  Ramirez came flying into Mikel Arteta again and made solid contact with the Spaniard’s leg.  Ramirez was rightfully booked,but it was too late to stop the tetchiness from mutating into down right hostility.

Not five minutes later, Dean got the card out again for Theo Walcott, who made contact with the on rushing Azpilicueta on the right wing.  Given some of the challenges that had gone on previously, you could only really chalk the booking down to Mike ‘my ball, my rules’ Dean wanting to even the card count up.

Things threatened to really blow up 2 minutes later in the 67th minute, when an innocuous thrown in to Arsenal, deep in Chelsea territory, saw Miroslav Ivanovic nearly take Mesut Ozil’s face off with a head high challenge from behind, that just grazed the god like German’s eye lashes.  Again, Mike ‘It doesn’t count if its against the Arsenal’ Dean got involved in breaking up the melee that erupted, only to trot off like nothing happened.

With time ticking down and both sides still trying their hardest to stop the tie turning into an entertaining match, Arsenal finally rolled into gear. Some neat play by the advancing Rosicky, freed Ramsey to dink a wonderful ball diagonally over the top of the Chelsea defence to the left side of the box, to an unmarked Giroud.

Giroud could only contrive to slice his volley wide, when a striker in his position, at this club, should have at minimum tested the keeper.  Cech wasn’t able to fully cover the near post, so a guided effort could have seen him beaten and Arsenal on the road to victory.  It was not the easiest chance for a striker to take, but if its going to fall to anyone, you’d want it to be your number 9.  Yet again, ours failed to deliver.

Arsenal carried themselves with a bit more urgency and in the 85th minute, a golden opportunity presented itself for Giroud again.  The hard working Kieran Gibbs was released down the left after a threaded pass from Rosicky.  Gibbs had time to compose himself and fizz in a fantastic low cross into Giroud, who had positioned himself perfectly following a run at the heart of the Chelsea defence.  Where the start of the season would have seen the net bulge, this mid season tie only saw the ball diverted just over the bar by the top of Petr Cech’s thigh.  Absolutely agonising for any follower of the red and white.

Mourinho promptly soiled himself and withdrew the poop Fernando Torres (£50m lol) for the insane David Luiz to make sure of the point.  With Chelsea rolling back the years and hoofing it anywhere but in the direction of their goal, there was still time for Arsenal to win a corner and swing it in, only for it to be met by the head of Thomas Vermaelen, who evaded everyone apart from Azpilicueta who was positioned on Chelsea’s left post.

The game ended 0-0, we secured a point to make it 2 points out of a possible 9 and draw an end to a nightmarish run of games.

All in all, if someone had offered me being 2nd on goal difference by Christmas day, through to the next round of the Champions League and having gotten some huge ties out of the way at the start of the season, I would have bitten their hands off.  While 2 points out of a possible 9 is disappointing, we are now in an excellent position to really kick on if we really release the purse strings come January.

Even if its someone that isn’t a household name (its always been the exception to the rule for the Arsenal to bring in top talent for big coin), we just need a genuine alternative to Giroud.  While billions around the world are getting excited about what exactly that big box contains under the Christmas tree, I’m almost salivating at the thought of who our shiny new alternative will be come 31st January 2014.

If it’s Bendtner, I vow to give up watching football and start following the cut throat and sometimes down right vicious world of Senior competitive lawn bowls.

 

 

Match Ratings

Szczesny – 7 –Competent display tonight, did what he had to do without much fuss.  Wasn’t really tested properly to warrant more.

Sagna – 7 – Whipped in a few excellent crosses and was dangerous going forward.  Handled Eden Hazard very well.

Mertesacker – 8 – Much better from the big man.  Dealt with Torres easily and snuffed out most things in the air.

Vermaelen – 8 – Great game from the forgotten captain.  Snuffed out a lot of danger going forward when it arose, recovered well when opposition players seemed to get the upper hand.  Its nice to have proper depth at CB for the first time in ages! 

Gibbs – 7 –Played really well, there was a lot more traffic down the left than normal attacking wise and Gibbs took the baton up.  Could have walked away with an assist today.

Arteta- 6 –  Was on the end of some brutal challenges today, but kept ticking over.  Misplaced quite a few passes, which stalled our movement forward somewhat.

Ramsey – 6 – Not his best game in an Arsenal shirt.  He played a suicide ball that nearly cost us save some poor finishing from Chelsea.  Generally very sloppy, but a few glimpses of pure brilliance that could have glossed his display over.

Walcott – 6 – Was more grafter than danger man today, but the team needed it.  Should have had a penalty.  It was very difficult to get behind/through a very deep and compact Chelsea today.

Ozil – 7 – Looked decent in spells, but wasted some sterling opportunities to put his foot through the ball and go for gold.  Was not sharp enough today by his own standards.

Rosicky – 6Played with urgency, made others around him play with urgency.  Ultimately, wasn’t consistent enough with his attacking ability.

Giroud – 5 –  Poor again today, turned the ball over a number of times, should have done better with his first clear cut chance and was inches away from converting his second after his first genuine run at the heart of the defence late on.  Desperately needs some relief.

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