So, there we have it: out of the League Cup before the quarters for the first time in eleven years.
I thought the Chelsea team looked a strong line up even before kick-off. With 669 international caps between them and a starting xi & bench that cost upwards of £250 million, no wonder Jose could afford to dress as slovenly as many of the away fans did in shouting, munching & belching their delightful way through N5 last night. And to the moron who lit a pathetic blue flare in the away end – enjoy your five year banning order son. It may also give you time to learn a new song about our manager, though I doubt it. Plus ca change & all that eh?
To be fair Chelsea looked far more streetwise than us - how many times have we said that since Wayne Bridge netted at Highbury in the CL in April 2004, the date that marked the end of Arsenal’s hegemony over the Blues? And yes they may have benefitted from a second dodgy backpass & call (or lack of) in the last two games, but the stat that really worried was the one that told me only one of their first eleven last night started their previous game against Man City last Sunday.
Now that’s what you call strength in depth.
Even if Eto’o was a shadow of the player I saw play for Mallorca against the Gunners in the CL at Highbury back in 2000, let alone in his Barca years.
And from a footballing perspective it’s always sad to see a former powerhouse weakened by the passageof time & injury, as was the case with Michael Essien last night, even if he is still the scorer of one of the best goals against Arsenal in recent history, an absolute screamer that I saw from the away end at Stamford Bridge in 2005. Yet it was a concern that he still exerted a large influence over midfield matters yesterday.
For our part I thought Carzorla showed some neat touches & ingenuity, Ramsey & Wilshere battled hard & Ryo showed promise, even if a bloke behind me summed up his game by shouting: ‘Believe in yourself.’ Chelsea certainly did. When you have players of the calibre of Juan Mata, David Luis & Cahill unsure of a starting berth then you are bound to see players perform with conviction, if only to prove the manager wrong.
Unfortunately what Nicklas Bendnter does these days is prove the majority of fans right. He looked disinterested, off the pace & most damagingly lacking in touch, technique & positional awareness. In fact the fastest he moved last night was when Wenger subbed him just after Mata’s damaging strike that abruptly deflated the momentum that was building following Ozil’s introduction.
A bloke in the beer queue joked that if Bendnter was on sale in a supermarket he’d be 18 months out of date. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so serious.
In all it wasn’t a bad performance from Arsenal, albeit one that didn’t teach us anything we didn’t know about our players: what was far more instructive was seeing in the flesh the discrepancies in the strengths of the two squads.
And for me that realisation was far more damaging than getting knocked out of the League Cup.
Even if, as someone who first saw Arsenal play Chelsea in the days of electric fences, lunatics in the East Stand benches & white wall of the Shed, blue bubble cars parked in front of the dog track and being caged in the open expanse of the away end for what felt like days on end whilst Neanderthal groundsmen flicked the finger at you as they took the nets down: the fact is I still bl**dy hate losing to Chelsea with all my marrow.
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