While Robin van Persie will undoubtedly steal most of the headlines – the rest taken by John Terry after his quite frankly hilarious slip – a lot of credit for Arsenal’s 5-3 victory over London rivals Chelsea deserves to be shared out between van Persie’s team-mates.
Although a lot of the post-match discussion will be about how poor each side was in defence, Laurent Koscielny can hold his head high. Despite his three defensive colleagues being all over the place in the first half, the French centre-half was impeccable through-out, making some superb interceptions and in particular flying across to block Juan Mata’s goalbound shot late in the second half.
Koscielny has been unlucky not to get the praise that he deserves this season, having been caught up in woeful defensive performances by his team. He has delivered impressive individual performances though, cutting out dangerous passes and crosses left right and centre.
Now that Vermaelen is finally back, they have a chance to form a solid partnership – they played together twice at the beginning of the season, against Newcastle and Udinese, and looked good, not conceding in either game. With many of the Premier League’s defenders on the decline – think Carragher, Terry, Ferdinand – they have the potential to be one of the best defensive duos in the league.
In front of Koscielny, the midfield duo of Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey stamped their respective marks on the game with all-action performances. The two combined brilliantly to set Theo Walcott free down the right, only for Gervinho to miss a sitter, before Ramsey sublimely slipped in the Ivorian to cut back for van Persie to tap in.
Arteta and Ramsey were crucial not only in keeping possession for Arsenal but winning it back too. Ramsey in particular used his vision to great effect, getting into space and delivering the ball to team-mates exactly where they wanted it. Arteta played a crucial role in the clinching fifth goal, getting forward to support Rosicky and slip in van Persie to hammer home.
Koscielny has been unlucky not to get the praise that he deserves this season, having been caught up in woeful defensive performances by his team.
The leadership Arteta has brought to Arsenal has seen a large improvement in their general play. He’s been an excellent calming influence, and doesn’t go missing in games, always making sure to stamp his authority on games.
Going into the game, Gervinho and Theo Walcott were always going to be important and that was how it went, as their pace, particularly on the counter attack, exposed Chelsea time and again. Walcott was unlucky not to get two assists to his name early on, but then took matters into his own hands to brilliantly squeeze between Terry and Ivanovic to blast Arsenal into the lead.
After a poor miss, Gervinho didn’t let his head go down and continued looking for chances, and made a great run to set up van Persie for the first goal. He continued to threaten down the left, and then when he wandered infield early in the second half took Bosingwa with him, leaving space for Andre Santos to exploit, and the Brazilian took full advantage of it.
Santos’ performance was a strange one. In the first half he was torn apart by Sturridge and Mata, and was lucky that his mistakes didn’t lead to more goals. However, in the second half Chelsea barely exploited his flank at all.
The key to this was improved support from his team-mates – the likes of Gervinho and Alex Song were clearly given the task of helping out Santos at half time by Wenger, and they offered a lot of support on and off the ball for the full back, which worked well for Arsenal.
The Gunners seem to have completely gelled now, and it appears Arsene Wenger was right to ask for time and trust. As a team they look much more united as he said, and are finally creating and finishing their chances. Team spirit is clearly high, as you could see from the joyous celebrations of the final goal and the final whistle. You get the sense that the only way is up for Arsenal. With Wilshere, Sagna and Vermaelen still to fully return, there’s certainly scope for them to continue climbing up the league.
As for Chelsea, it would probably be best not to read too far into this crazy match. It didn’t tell us much we didn’t know – defensively, they’re a bit suspect, and some of their players don’t suit Andre Villas-Boas’ style. Ironically, he’d probably have been more suited at Arsenal. John Terry clearly doesn’t have the pace anymore to play in such a consistently high line, and Lampard doesn’t seem to be suited to a pressing game.
Now more than ever you have to feel that Chelsea could do with an injection of youth into the spine of their team. Terry and Lampard in particular probably need replacing, but other than that it does seem like with a little fine-tuning, Chelsea will adapt well to Villas-Boas’ attacking style.
For more from Sam Drew check out Chronicles of Almunia
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