Despite having such a terrible season so far, and Arsenal being towards the top of the table, I was actually quite confident of getting a decent result. Even though we won, I didn’t expect us to play as well as we eventually did.
In terms of what I’ve seen in the past few weeks, I was shocked to see us start so well. In the past few weeks, we have started slowly and lethargically, and we have played some really poor football in the first half. Sunday was the first time in a long time we started on the front foot, even in the opening stages of the 3-0 win at Selhurst Park, we put ourselves under pressure.
In terms of those opening stages, they were dominated by the brilliant Cesc Fabregas. For much of the season so far, Fabregas has had little to no impact in midfield with a lack of movement and has been slow on the ball and playing exclusively sideways passes. On Sunday he made the correct decisions when to pass forward and when to slow the play down and control the game.
It was his passing that set up what was undoubtedly the key moment of the match, with his perfectly weighted ball setting Diego Costa in behind the Arsenal defence. Despite what I’ve seen a few people say on social media, once Costa got to the ball in front of Per Mertesacker, the German was always going off. There was minimal contact, but he clearly impeded Costa, and there are very few strikers in world football who would have stayed on their feet in that situation.
What really confuses me though, what the hell is he looking at? When you’re inches from making a last ditch challenge and you’re looking in the completely opposite direction, how can you expect to win the ball? Once it was given as a foul, it was only ever going to be a red card, even in the eyes of Mark Clattenburg.
This came only minutes before the goal, which was only ever going to be scored by Costa. He’s so often the pantomime villain, but he dealt with the role pretty well today, given that he could of so easily boiled over, especially given the starring role he played against the same opposition in September. It seems to me that Arsene Wenger isn’t quite sure what the right way to deal with the Spaniard is yet.
The goal actually came from a brilliant cross from Branislav Ivanovic. It’s a long time since I’ve praised Ivanovic, given that I hold him as the man most responsible for the sacking of Jose Mourinho. He’s got a long way to go to earn the respect of the fans, but at least he’s trying to do so. Once he put it in the right area, there was no way Costa was going to miss. He is back.
After the opening goal, we should really have killed the game off. We kept all of our attacking players on the pitch, and Arsenal were pushing for an equaliser. I think there was a complete lack of direction, with some players looking to grab a second, while others were just comfortable sitting on 1-0. I’m pretty sure that this was mostly down to the fact we’re not used to winning, and there were a lot of nerves about.
Despite the confusion, we did carve out a couple of very good chances. Unfortunately, the best of these fell to Loic Remy, who is one of the best first touch finishers in the Premier League, but when he actually has to do work beforehand, he is pretty hopeless. I wouldn’t be too sad if he was sold, but we would need to get another man in, because we cannot rely on Falcao for the rest of the season. If this fails, I would be happy to see Dominic Solanke bought back from his loan spell at Vitesse, where he has been in pretty good form.
In the end it was probably the best defensive performance we have put in all season, even though we were playing against 10-men. For all that has been said about Mesut Ozil, he had no effect on the game, and was in Nemanja Matic’s back pocket all day.
On a side note, I am pretty sad to see Ramires go (if he is to do so), as he was always a reliable player for us, even if he lacked quality at times. He was always fully committed to the club, and I don’t think any Chelsea fan will ever forget THAT goal against Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Again this may mean we have to bring in another midfielder, especially with Fabregas performing much better in a more advanced role.
I know we have Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and I fully trust him in that role, but that would leave us with just three centre midfielders, not including Fabregas. If one was to get injured we would be in serious trouble. If we haven’t got the time to sign someone, I would be happy to bring back Nathaniel Chalobah from Napoli, because he is a very good player.
Given that the middle of the Premier League table is so tight, we can make up a few more places very quickly, and if we continue with that level of performance, we will. For now we turn to the FA Cup and an away tie at MK Dons, which I am confident we will be able to get a positive result in.