Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea: Satisfactory

For the last couple of months really, I regarded our home game with Chelsea as likely to be the biggest, highest pressure game of our run-in this season and I think having lost the Wigan game last Monday I think that was a fair billing for it. However, much like Chelsea’s encounter with Tottenham a couple of weeks ago, the game never really hit the sort of intensity that you would associate with the occasion.

Certainly, Chelsea’s tactics played a part in the surprisingly turgid nature of the game, they seemed primarily concerned with not losing and looking at the league table I can’t see why they would take that approach. Their chance of finishing in the top four seems to diminish by the week in the league and to my mind they badly needed three points yesterday, yet they placed an awful lot of faith in their ability to catch us on the break, and even late in the game they didn’t waver from that approach. Maybe they’re gambling on winning the Champions League this season, and from the amount of changes in their lineup from the midweek match with Barcelona that seems a fair assertion. But whilst they’ve got every right to at least entertain the notion, being as they are 1-0 up on aggregate in the semi-final, it seems a big leap of faith for a team that still has to navigate the not inconsiderable challenges of Barcelona in the Nou Camp and then either a European Cup-starved (by their own standards) Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in their own stadium. 

Arsene Wenger noted the paradox after the match, saying

…it was a little bit of a strange game because before the game I thought it would be an open one – we had to win, they had to win. They decided to lock up the game and catch us on the break only, with two wide players who are quick, and Torres.

Certainly our inability to find a goal to win the game can partly be attributed to Chelsea’s tactics but the manager has also noted that we didn’t really seem to find top gear either. Last season against Chelsea at home was one of the most accomplished by an Arsenal side in recent times, we pressed hard and played at an incredible tempo and they just couldn’t live with it, this time around it seemed like inspiration was lacking a little bit. Chelsea presented a tough lock to pick and they did, to give the devil his due, defend well in the main. We seemed to lack the ideas to penetrate, perhaps missing the calm incisiveness of Arteta, especially since Tomas Rosicky appeared to be less than 100% after his reported illness in the week. 

A 0-0 draw isn’t the worst result for us, especially when coupled with QPR’s victory over Tottenham in the late kick-off, it keeps Chelsea at arm’s length and whilst Newcastle did win which means they’re three points behind us with a game in hand (though our goal difference is much superior), it does introduce the credible suggestion that they might usurp Chelsea and Tottenham for that last Champions League place and whilst I find Alan Pardew insufferable in the extreme, I would still find his success at the expense of two of our bitterest rivals most enjoyable.

For us, the knock-on effect of this result is that we still have three “finals” as it were in front of us. Stoke away next week is a massive test. I can understand if the week’s result against Wigan made us play a little nervously against Chelsea but the team needs to get that out of their head for that game. There is nothing those Cro-Magnon Mongoloid knuckle-draggers from Stoke would like better than to cause us a problem qualifying for the Champions League so you can bet that they’ll be right up for it next week, and we will have to be too. 

We’ve lost Theo Walcott with a hamstring injury, very likely for the rest of the season which may mean a chance for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to really stake his claim ahead of next season. That lad, as well as Ryo Miyaichi who has quietly had an excellent loan spell at Bolton, is surely destined to play a big part next season. His chance however, starts now. Indeed if he does well enough he might even be in contention for a place in the England Euro 2012 squad, something I couldn’t care less about but which I’m sure would delight The Ox.

So, not too much else to say really, a 0-0 draw that wasn’t great but not the end of the world either, and it’s on to another big game next week.

For now, that’ll be all from me. Take it easy and I’ll return soon.

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