Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea
At the final whistle of Sunday’s game, Chelsea’s players celebrated wildly, jumping up and down and beating their chests, to the bemusement of the home crowd. In fairness they had been outstanding………….at impersonating a lower league side visiting a Premiership team in the FA Cup.
In such circumstances, the lower league team, mindful of their own shortcomings against the powerful and supremely talented opponents they are facing that afternoon, tend to sit deep, putting in a defensive rear-guard action for the entire game, in the hope of stifling the game and their opponents and securing a lucrative replay. When they achieve their aim, they invariably celebrate wildly at the final whistle, despite not actually having won the game. The key point being that such is the gulf in class between the two sides, a draw is akin to a victory for them.
Arsenal weren’t playing against a lower league team on Sunday, but to the casual observer, who didn’t know any better, it would have been difficult to tell the difference. Chelsea came to the Emirates stadium with absolutely no intent to get forward and attack. In one spell with only fifteen minutes left, the away side were happy to pass the ball amongst themselves at the back, barely crossing the halfway line. In fact such was Chelsea’s lack of ambition that Wenger decided to take off defensive midfielder Coquelin as his screening of the defence was not needed.
Yet most if not all the newspapers this morning will laud Mourinho for a wonderful defensive performance, rather than deride him as the cowardly manager he clearly is. Every time his team plays against a top side, Mourinho sets them up to defend deep and hit their opponents on the counter attack. They are tactics which frustrate those who really love the game but in fairness are tactics which have seen Mourniho rarely on the losing side against the top teams. However Sunday was different. Such is the lead Chelsea have at the top of the table, that an Arsenal victory yesterday would not have made any difference to the inevitable fact that Chelsea will win the title this season. Therefore this was the perfect opportunity for Mourinho to release the shackles and show the World what a great manager he really is, by allowing his team to take the game to Arsenal and attack them. What better way to rub Wenger’s nose in it than to beat him at his own game.
The problem is it takes guts to do that. The likes of Bayern Munich and Barcelona are lauded the World over because regardless of their opponents, they take the game to them, beating them with the style, verve and wonderful attacking play which has attracted so many to the World’s most popular sport. Mourinho, despite having spent vast sums of money throughout his career, has never had the courage or the skill to develop a side which plays the beautiful game in the beautiful way it was intended.
Of course his loyal supporters will point to his record as justification for the means he employs to win trophies, but Sunday’s game was dull and if these are the performances one has to endure to see their side win the Premiership, I would rather Arsenal continued to play as they do and didn’t win it.
The Gunners lack of success was given as one of the main reasons for Fabregas having not returned to North London in the summer, as the build up to Sunday’s game intensified, with Wenger encouraging the home crowd to give their former captain a warm welcome. The Spaniard has proclaimed his admiration for the Gunners on numerous occasions but as they always say, actions speak louder than words. The fact he was booked for diving and trying to win a penalty against the club who gave him his big chance in the game and made him one of their youngest ever captains, spoke volumes. The boos he received when being substituted towards the end of the game were completely justified.
Although Arsenal were extremely frustrated at the final whistle, ultimately it was down to the home side to break down the Chelsea defence. With their opponents sat so deep, the Gunners need to play at a high tempo, interchanging passes quickly with plenty of movement off the ball. They did this in the first half and their combination play was most impressive at times, but it was the final ball that let them down and let Chelsea off the hook.
With the middle of the pitch so congested, Arsenal tended to get the ball out wide before crossing into the box. But with only Giroud in the penalty area, up against Terry and Cahill, this largely played into Chelsea’s hands. Maybe Wenger should have really gone for it and deployed Welbeck alongside Giroud in the latter stages, giving the Gunners more of a presence in the box.
Still, with minutes left, Welbeck had the chance to win the game but fluffed his lines, as the ball flew across goal, the Englishman failed to connect with sufficient force to turn the ball in, with the goal gaping.
John Terry’s manic celebrations at the end as he attempted to add to his tough guy image by taunting the home fans from the safety of the halfway line, having just seen his side secure a draw, spoke volumes. Terry, Mourinho and Chelsea are a perfect match; they are just as classless as each other.
Arsenal on the other hand will always be a cut above. The Gunners may not win the league this season, but their fans can be extremely proud of the club they support. They conduct themselves in the correct manner and approach the game of football in the right way. These are attributes which cannot be bought.