Monthly Archives: September 2012

Mata

Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea: moments of madness

There are 3420 regulation minutes in a 38 game season and yet us fans might remember just 15 or 20 of those minutes. Extraordinary people might remember 90 or even 180 minutes of that season – the equivalent of one single game’s worth of memories every year – but if they did there would be a lot of padding because the truth is that football turns on so precious few moments. A single season can be condensed into a simple YouTube video but the other 3400 minutes of the season matter just as much as the 20 that we remember. They are the minutes where your team’s consistency determines the place it will finish in the league table. In short, every minute counts but they count for different reasons. Arsenal hosted Chelsea yesterday and contrary to popular belief, the Gunners controlled the majority of the game but they ended up on the losing end becaause of two very small moments in which the Blues were just slightly more effecient.

I can’t say that Arsenal were poor overall yesterday. The Gunners generated 17 shots against Chelsea and many of those shots were big chances. Giroud’s spin around Cech and shot into the side netting was the most memorable, but that’s only because it was nearly the last kick of the game. Cazorla had four shots, three of which were gilt chances and all of which he blasted well off target. He averaged 10 shots per goal at Malaga and is now sitting on 23 shots and just 1 goal for Arsenal in the League. I have no problem with Cazorla taking shots, in fact I encourage it because Arsenal need a goal-scoring midfielder, but I’d like to see a few more on frame.

At this point in the season, Arsenal’s offensive performances seem largely dependent on how well Cazorla is doing. Cazorla not only took four shots, he also got his teammates four open looks, all of which they wasted. Di Matteo must have read this into Arsenal’s game and attempted to neutralize Cazorla by overloading the midfield. So, it’s a credit to him that 8 of Arsenal’s 17 shots came from his boots despite all XI Chelsea players trying to keep him off the ball.

Arsenal compensated for a clogged center of the pitch by bringing Jenkinson and Gibbs up in turns. Both fullbacks were 1st and 2nd on Arsenal in touches and 2nd and 4th in passes and the most common pass combination was between Chamberlain and Jenkinson. So, it’s no suprise that Arsenal’s only goal of the game came from an Ox cross on the right side of the pitch. I had a few drinks after the game yesterday and tweeted that Jenkinson has earned a starting spot over Sagna. That may have been a bit of premature pronunciation brought about by drink, but the fact is that Jenkinson has done very well in Sagna’s absence and made it hard to drop him.

Mannone on the other hand hasn’t made Wenger’s choice very difficult at all. Mannone hasn’t looked decisive or “commanding” in his area in any of the games he’s played in. And though that may be a bit harsh on the Italian as the second goal was deflected by Koz, the reality is that he was rooted to the spot and how he doesn’t claim that ball is a mystery. Was there miscommunication at the back? Did someone call the keeper off?

So while Arsenal were wasteful in front of goal, there was an even bigger problem in yesterday’s game, the problem that Arsene Wenger pinpointed after the match:

We played against a good team, but we gave the game away. They had three shots on goal and scored from two soft set-pieces. Defensively, we were just not at the level you need to be in a big game like that and that’s where we were punished.

This is, to me, a public indictment of Thomas Vermaelen’s performance yesterday. Many people will say that Per should have been in the game because he’s better at organizing the defense. But Thomas Vermaelen is Arsenal’s first choice center half and the captain of the team. Can’t he organize the defense? Can’t he tell people where they should stand?

It was pretty clear on every set piece that Di Matteo’s plan was to overload Arsenal’s zone at  the far post and force them into either man marking or into a zonal defense that didn’t rigidly adhere to lining up on the six yard box. Vermaelen’s job as captain is to organize the defense. Saying that Per should have been there is a red herring: Vermaelen should have taken charge.

And not only that, but Veramalen can go forward all he likes, just so long as he doesn’t jog back like he did for the second goal. Jogging back and then kicking Mata to concede the set piece, then the jumbled and disorganized way the team dealt with the free kick is below standard for an Arsenal captain. Wenger is right to take him to task and hopefully Vermaelen will respond.

It’s a bit harsh, I know. We are only in the 6th game of the season and it takes time to install a new defensive system. A system which has only allowed a second best four goals this season. I’m sure Bould, Vermaelen, and Wenger will be working on all this in practice. Moreover, Chelsea were very lucky with Torres getting away with quite a bit of pushing and holding for the first goal and Mata’s second goal was deflected by Koz.

But I think Wenger’s criticism is fair and especially pointed with Olympiakos and West Ham coming up. Olympiakos are the West Ham  of Greek football and will gladly concede 60 minutes of possession to Arsenal just so long as they can get a set piece in a dangerous area and lump it into the box. West Ham, meanwhile, will glady conceded 89 minutes of possession as long as they can get that one minute where the keeper hits the ball onto Andy Carroll’s head, then they can somehow scramble the ball over the line, and then Kevin Nolan can do his chicken dance.

There are 2880 minutes left in the Premier League season, it’s hardly over. Arsenal will need to continue to dominate the majority of those minutes, hoarding the ball and creating chances. But it’s just as important that they are wary of those few moments where the West Hams of the world will try to exploit any perceived or real weakness. That’s what Chelsea did yesterday only slightly more efficiently than Arsenal.

Qq

Giroud looks releived, like a man who had been waiting for an hour to take a piss at an open air festival

Arsenal v. Chelsea: a bucket full

Who: Arsenal v. Chelsea
What: English Premier League matchday 6
Where: Ashburton Grove, North London, UK
When: 4:30am PST
Referee: Martin Atkinson
TV: ESPN2 HD (USA)
Announcers: Probably Ian Darke and that Liverpool guy who doesn’t like Arsenal much (Steve McManaman)

I hardly think I need to remind anyone, even new Arsenal supporters, that Chelsea Football Club are the scum of the earth. Every component of the whole that comprises Chelsea FC is rotten; the owner has corrupted the very fabric of sport in England — artificially raising the prices other teams pay for transfers and for player salaries, the players are dirty cheats who are captained by a man found guilty of racially abusing another player but who will still play tomorrow as he mulls over an appeal, their fans are horrible people who think that self same John Terry is a “national treasure”, and even their twitter account reads like it’s written by a Yob.

Chelsea are the exact opposite of Arsenal. We are their nemesis and when we beat them, it’s the rightful embodiment of divine justice. That’s why it felt so good to win 5-3 at their hovel last season.

It’s all come full circle for Chelsea. Prior to the match last October, Terry was embroiled in accusations that he racially abused Anton Ferdinand. He played anyway and I have to think that decision would haunt him, if he were a man with a conscience. The Stamford Bridge faithful before the match waived banners supporting their hero. And when he scored off a corner on the death of the first half, the crowd erupted with glee at the prodigal son returned.

And the match went back and forth with first Santos equalizing at 2-2 and then Theo taking the lead with a powerful run through several fouls. Then Lukaku threw Santos to the ground after a loose pass from the Arsenal fullback and there was no call. Unmarked, Juan Mata made it 3-3 with a wondergoal from 30 yards.

But then there was a simple back pass and John Terry pretended to slip (at least that’s what it looked like to some) because he knew he would be beaten to the ball by Robin van Persie. Robin rounded the keeper and put the ball in the net. If I were to signal any one point, I think that was the beginning of the end of Terry’s career. Since then he has seen a steady decline in playing ability culminating in what looked like intentionally having himself sent off in the Champions League semi-final so that he wouldn’t have to play in the championship game.

And now Arsenal host Chelsea and this week John Terry has been found guilty by the FA for his racist abuse last year. And again he will play despite the looming 4 match ban. You have to wonder what kind of sociopath could not only play football through that, but play in one of his team’s biggest games of the year.

John Terry is the face of that team, the captain, and the first name on the team sheet. He epitomizes the club, the fans, and the owner. John Terry is Mr. Chelsea. And that’s why beating them is so fun. Because they are bucket of cunts.

So while Chelsea are come full circle and are back under the cloud of racism as should happen with their nemesis, there’s a new and more positive energy about Arsenal.

Steve Bould has the players all talking about defense. Wenger even admitted that the system he plays doesn’t need a defensive midfielder because defense is (suddenly) everyone’s responsibility. Though I would argue Arteta is still the most defensive midfielder in the team.

Podolski is giving interviews where he says things like “I hope to play with Cazorla for the next four years”. And Cazorla is making people forget about the traces of Barcelona DNA that are still left in the shower.

Arsenal’s defense have only let in four goals, Gervinho is scoring goals playing as center forward, Olivier Giroud got his first goal against Coventry, and even Theo Walcott scored a brace. It’s a good time to be an Arsenal supporter and despite the fact that Chelsea are going to be our toughest test of the season so far, there’s a good feeling about the team and the club.

So, put away the stats for a moment. Put down the financial reports. Ignore the history. Forget about Martin Atkinson. There’s going to be high drama tomorrow at 4:30am and time enough to analyze everything to death after the game.

Qq

Man City 1-1 Arsenal: video highlights

Take a break from reading Arsenal’s financial reports and watch some highlights of Man City v. Arsenal courtesy our friends at the YesNetwork.

Jenkinson destroys Lescott and sets up Poldi who blasts into row Z.

Gul Lescott scores

Cazorla with a speculative effort from distance.

Gervinho with a speculative effort from close.

Koscienlny blasts into the top of the net.