Yesterday felt like progress for Arsenal. The result didn’t go the way Arsene Wenger or the fans may have liked, but sitting in the ground on so many occasions in the past when it’s felt like the club are a million miles off Chelsea’s pace, well, I felt like yesterday was far more positive than the negative post-match press surrounding the draw.
Many seemed to forget that most teams that head to The Emirates to play in the fashion Chelsea played have a quarter of the wage bill and 10% of the talent pool.
When world-class players come to stifle a game, it’s always going to be tough for teams like Arsenal to take a positive result. At the highest level, it’s a game of marginal gains and the smallest details make the difference. Yesterday, it just didn’t quite click moving forward. The North Londoners attacking players were a few percentage points off their usual and it cost them two points.
For me, the positives mostly centred around the fact that Jose Mourinho didn’t have a game plan built around Arsenal weaknesses. Last season he could focus in on our lack of pace in their frontline and sluggish centre midfield. Not yesterday.
The result wasn’t there, the Jose hoodoo is still intact, but one result (a draw against the Champions elect) shouldn’t throw away all the positives the second half of the season has brought so far.
More reports later:
GK David Ospina, 7: Made a fabulous save in the first half when Ramires was in on goal. Perhaps guilty of napping when Oscar broke through, definitely had lady luck on his side when the referee didn’t pull a red card for the clattering he dealt the Brazilian.
DF Hector Bellerin, 6: Performed admirably at the back in the main, his finest moment coming when Oscar chipped the keeper, his recovery vision allowed him the time to clear wide with a diving header. Going forward, he was pretty average. Slow in his decision-making and generally confused in execution. A few moves broke down in dangerous fashion in the second half.
DF Per Mertesacker, 7: He read the game well yesterday. He threw himself into the physical battles using his height well and the made some valuable interceptions. He and Koscielny used all their experience to form a mean partnership that kept Chelsea very quiet. Per even has a chance on the edge of the box that he dragged defenderishly wide. The fans forgave him.
DF Laurent Koscielny, 7: Dominant on the ground, he made time to cover his full backs and he mostly dealt with the pace and trickery posed by Chelsea. The one exception was the misjudged foot he threw out for the Oscar chipped chance
DF Nacho Monreal, 8: One of his best game in an Arsenal shirt. Assured, confident and productive at both ends. His true value for me was going forward. He was always in the mix for an overlap and his crosses merited more than the 0 goals Arsenal produced.
MF Francis Coquelin, 8: One of the single most important discoveries of Arsenal’s season showed he can cut it against whoever he’s up against. His power and pace through the middle gave Chelsea so little time on the ball yesterday, a key factor in keeping chances at a premium. The fans love him, he’s the most exciting player in the role since the not very exciting Gilberto Silva.
MF Santi Cazorla, 6: Not his finest performance in an Arsenal shirt. The game didn’t arrive for him and he made a bit of a hash of a good chance in the second half.
MF Mesut Ozil, 6: Faced a bit of a press room backlash post game from Thierry Henry and to be fair, from a number of angry fans in the ground. I feel for him, he’s at the mercy of his forwards. Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez were awful, Arsene Wenger didn’t opt for pace until very later on, so the German didn’t have much to play with. A player like Mesut is only as good as the people he can feed
MF Aaron Ramsey, 5: Deployed out on the right for the most part, it was a real mixed bag for him. He played some stunning back heels, a move as synonymous with the Welshman as step-overs were with Cristiano Ronaldo in the early days. However, it’s the wastage elsewhere. He was guilty of holding onto the ball for too long at times, he broke up moves with sloppy play and he didn’t offer much threat on goal. Did a solid job holding the centre of the park when Coquelin was subbed out.
MF Alexis Sanchez, 5: Very average game for the Chilean. He huffed and puffed but to no avail. He looked tired and out of ideas.
FW Olivier Giroud, 5: Spent most of the game in the pocket of an inspired John Terry. He contributed very little to the game.
Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott, NR: Bold move from the manager to bring these two on. Their pace could have been utilised far earlier. They were both pretty rusty so not much impact felt.