Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea: telling the whole story

“Hey Tim, stats don’t tell the whole story”

Well, of course they don’t tell the whole story. Nothing tells the whole story except the whole story and even “the whole story” is a bit suspect unless it is written from an omniscient point of view.

Oh damn, wait, the story has a point of view? Well, then it’s not the whole story.

Take a finished novel, let’s even say a series of novels like the Harry Potter books. Surely that is the whole story, right? No, there’s tons of back story that J.K.* had to cut out, there’s interactions which she alludes to but doesn’t describe, and hell, you could write the books from a different perspective — like from Malfoy’s perspective, or from Neville’s point of view. You could even write the books from the point of view of someone who is inside the mind of the writer!

The whole story is boring, which is why writers tell stories from a specific point of view. And when I write my By the Numbers columns from the point of view of one of three evil masterminds: Lardon, the destroyer; Geekly, the meek; and Gofuckyourself, the angry Arsenal supporter.

As for today’s column here, I couldn’t imagine anything more boring than telling the whole story of the first half of Arsenal’s draw with Chelsea yesterday: “For Aaron Ramsey’s third pass, the ball curled slightly to the left and ended up not quite meeting the pace of Song. Song was forced to slow his run slightly and in the time he took to compose himself, Kalou closed down space and cut off his options. That was when inspiration struck Song “try a chip to Robin!” and he did. And the ball was duly kicked into Kalou, rebounded back and left Arsenal open for the counter attack…” etc, etc, ad nauseum.

From Lardron’s perspective the game started out like a bleeding wound, turned into a pus-filled bubo, and finished with the cannibalization of 60,000 Arsenal supporters. That is to say, it was “an horrible match.”

Switching back to Tim: I’ve been trying to think of a way to quantify the mythical “handbrake” and I came up with a method that looks at passes in the final third compared to shots. The idea being that “the handbrake” means that Arsenal lack an attacking edge and thus if there are a high number of passes in the final third without a lot of resulting shots then it would indicate the handbrake is on.

But in the first half against Chelsea, Arsenal had just 25 passes in the Chelsea final third and five shots or something. That’s a great pass to shot ratio but overall it’s a terrible amount of attacking from the home team. Especially in the context of knowing that Arsenal’s worst first half performance of the season in terms of passes in the final third was away to Liverpool where we managed just 24.

Just as telling is the criticism of Chelsea that they parked the bus against Arsenal as a sort of dry-run of their upcoming Champions League match against Barcelona. Sure, I accept that Chelsea sat back and looked to hit Arsenal on the counter. But the problem is that Chelsea had more passes in Arsenal’s final third than Arsenal did. And they had more shots than Arsenal in the first half. So, if Chelsea parked the bus then Arsenal… didn’t even get the bus out of the shed?

Wenger confirms what I can’t quantify (yet) and that is that Arsenal played with the handbrake on in the first half.

On our side I felt we had a very solid defensive performance. Going forward we didn’t find our quick passing game and the regret we have today is that we played offensively with a handbrake and not as clean technically as we can do. That is why we didn’t open them up enough. It was a bit similar to what we saw against Wigan and that’s a regret I have today.

So, I’m not sure how to quantify the handbrake but I know that I will find a way because it’s so bloody obvious when it comes on that it has to be quantifiable. Right?

Part of the blame for Arsenal’s slack ball movement in midfield falls on Ramsey’s shoulders and part falls on his teammates. In almost every way that I pointed out that Ramsey and the team needed to improve in order to fill Arteta’s rather tiny little boots they didn’t do.

Ramsey did pass the ball well, and that he lead both teams with 63/65 passes with 30 of them forward is a credit to him playing more reserved. But that was the only thing he did which was Arteta-esque. The rest of his game was like a caricature of Arteta rather than a replica.

In the first half, Ramsey was dispossessed 3 times (he ended the game with 4) and all three times seemed to be by Fernando Torres (who led all players with 4 successful tackles). I understand the frustration here, Ramsey needed to move the ball quicker and some of the blame for those 4 turnovers falls on his shoulders. But the team also deserves opprobrium; Ramsey needs an outlet to pass the ball too and I often saw his teammates running into the wrong spaces, leaving Ramsey on an island.

So, the first half came and went and I was left wondering why Arsenal looked so timid. Arsene believes there was a little hangover from Wigan and perhaps that does explain the game because like a good hangover, it blew off after 45 minutes of light jogging.

Arsenal came out in the second half with a renewed impetus and looked most likely to win the game with several great chances. Toward the end, Ramsey was playing more forward and he played a Song ball over the top which Robin tried to volley but blasted wide. We’ve seen him score two of those goals this season but I suspect the effect of playing almost every minute of every game this year for Arsenal has finally started to take toll.

In League play alone, Robin has played 35 games and a total of 3064 minutes this season. His previous two seasons at Arsenal he played 41 games and a total of 3023 minutes. It’s no surprise that he’s going through a poor run of form at the tail end of the season. That said, I have to wonder why Arsenal bought Park, Gervinho, and Chamakh if they are going to just run Robin into the ground?

Defensively, Arsenal were excellent and added a clean sheet to their haul of five in the last seven games. Sturridge was dominated by Arsenal and ended the game being dispossessed an eye-popping 9 times. If you think Ramsey is frustrating, you should read what Journos and others say about Sturridge on twitter.

I especially loved this tackle by Koscielny:

There was another bizarre moment when Theo Walcott was left on the pitch despite the fact that he had clearly pulled a hamstring. Just a few moments later he came up limping and now he’s got to be done for the season. This is why people wonder what is going on with the Arsenal physios. Everyone wanted him removed from the field, why was he allowed to continue?

In the end, Arsenal did enough to get the point and perhaps for some that’s not good enough. For me, I’m vowing not to panic until I see the ship is fully sinking and the lifeboats have all gone out to sea. Despite the draw, Arsenal are firmly in third place with 65 points. With Tottenham’s loss and Newcastle’s win, Arsenal’s nearest competitor for fourth is no longer Tottenham but Newcastle, who, if they should win their game in hand, would still be behind Arsenal on goal difference. Also, third is starting to look like a damn good bet because Newcastle have to play both Chelsea and Man City in their final four matches and while Tottenham are within 6 points with 12 still up for grabs, they are really listing badly and they have to play Fulham, the new kings of London:

Should be an exciting couple of weeks of football.


*We’re on a first two-name basis, she calls me Tim Todd.

28 thoughts on “Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea: telling the whole story

  1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1NorCalArsenal

    And that is the rest of the story.

    The Manchester results today mean city will still be engaged in the season when they play Newcastle. Chelski seem to think that they can win the CL this year so a top 4 finish is not needed. And the tiny tots are in a full melt down.
    Like our chances for third but we have to really play to win our last 3.
    Stoke rolled over for Newcastle but something tells me they will play well against us.
    Norwich has looked poor lately and are just glad to be staying up. I hope WBA feel the same for the last game.
    A whole week to talk about Stoke. Then again, let’s not.

  2. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Teampossible

    Let me just say this before I continue: Laurent Koscielny is one of my favorite players at the club, because he epitomizes everything I admire about the footballers at Arsenal. They appear modest, they seem intelligent and they always look like “the good guys”.

    But, I would be very hypocritical if I wrote I liked that tackle, because I’ve spent years spitting venom against the players who go recklessly into challenges, and let’s be fair, this was as reckless as they come. Sturridge managed to pull away in the last moment, but I wouldn’t want to imagine what would happen if LK’s raised bott ended up in his leg.
    I’m not bashing him, like I said, I like him maybe even more than Vermaelen, but let’s be objective – that was rather Stoke-ish on his part.

    As far as Ramsey is concerned, I sadly don’t see him improving in the last couple of games like I expected. Like Tim stated, Sturridge was dispossessed 9 times, but it was mostly by our defenders and in the attacking area. Ramsey kept losing the ball in Arsenal’s territory, which led to some semi dangerous attacking opportunities for Chelski.
    I rated him higher than Wilshere two seasons ago, and I just hope he reestablishes him again next season into the player he was, because at the moment he is really contributing less than every other Arsenal player on the pitch.
    Ouch, my comment appears rather negative today. Sorry for that.
    Just wanted to get it off my chest.

    1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1tino

      I disagree with your assessment of Koscielny’s challenge. I think you’ll have to admit the English have told us, that as long as the player wins the ball anything else is collateral damage. You’ll also see note that Kos has his ‘eyes on the ball’ and there is ‘no intent,’ to injure the player.

      Yes if he made contact with Sturridge it might not have been pretty, we can say the same Benayouns’ tackle during the Man City game. However, Arsene asks the players to defend with commitment. He used that word a few times in regards to the Wigan game. I think he was saying Scz was not committed for the two goals. When players are afraid to challenge they fail in the EPL.

      We appreciate the challenge because it is timed to perfection. The comparisons to the ape men of stoke need not apply.

  3. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1DF

    Ramsay is like Song before Song became Songinho.
    There is nothing we can do but wait, in the same way we waited 6 years for RvPersie to come good and save our season this year.
    I wonder now RvP is tiring, Theo’s season ended; who is going to bring us the goals? The run-in favours us now, but we have to beat Norwich & WBA (which beats Liverpool today) at least….having two draws can be dangerous. Losing to Stoke is not acceptable…

  4. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Alzation

    I always felt you could quantify the handbrake by the number of one touch passes in the final 3rd. The more touches a player takes, the more the handbrake is on. I guess it’s the time it takes for a player to pass to a teammate

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

      That’s my view too on the handbrake. The less touches before passing the better. I remember I read an interview with Xavi Hernandez (I think) where he was speaking about the “med toq” (half a touch) that is asked of barca’s players. Less touches imply too that the players around are moving without the ball, thus making themselves available for the pass.

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

    Arsenal appears to have a post injury curse. Normally, when most players in their prime or sub-prime get’s seriously injured it takes them a few months after training with their squad to get match fit and restore their previous glory.

    Not so with the Gunners. It took Rosicky some 3 seasons to do so; Diaby, well! he hasn’t made it back yet; Ramsey, verdict is still out, Eduardo never recovered; Vermaelen still looks a little shaky this season and it took RVP some 4 years to regain his mojo.

    Will be interesting to see how the Wilshere saga plays out. Why can’t we be like Ben Arfa and Valencia? Both of them suffered serious injuries and came back in full flight.

    Since we have the best medical staff and training facilities in the EPL it must be a curse. At this point I’m blaming it on the Board because they got rid of David Dein and PHW in particular since he obviously has no respect for the fans which keep the club afloat and allows him to drink $600 magnums of Champagne in the executive boxes.

  6. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1ace

    Tim,you are trying to make us change our opinion on ramsey.sorry its not going to work.seeing is believing.we’ve all seen that ramsey is not good enough atm. Here is another story from yersterday’s match.mata easily dribbles ramsey near the technical area. Ramsey turns and jogs after mata, not attempting to outrun mata,just jogging behind him, in effect escorting mata infield. You can’t numbers for little things like that. Atm ramsey isn’t good,and he isn’t going to get better overnight.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1tino

      Did you read the article? How is Tim trying to change your opinion? Is it subliminal because I just don’t see it?

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1NorCalArsenal

    RVP player of year in league. Sagna should have been included in the team except for injury and I would have put Arteta in over Parker.
    Bale is also a question for me. But the media do love him.

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

      I can understand Sagna’s non-inclusion, he was out for a long time with injury. But Walker is still a surprise. I thought Micah Richards would have been in there.

      Koscielny’s omission is largely about the perception of Arsenal as a team of calamitous defending. So until we shed that tag, I don’t know if Kos will ever get the credit he deserves from the rest of the league. Listening to games this season, it was apparent that commentators assumed that Vermaelen was still our number 1 CB, and that Kos would compete with Mertesacker. Whereas it has been apparent to most supporters for a while now that Kos is our most important defender.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

        Valencia should have been in ahead of Bale too.
        It’s interesting that the title winners have only one player in the team (Rooney), and he hasn’t even had a particularly good season, or been their best player.

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1lordgunner

    team of the season is a joke should have been krull or vorm /sagna/koscielsny/konpany/baines/silva//yaya/valencia/dempsey/shreck/rvp

  9. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

    Tim, if we finally do clinch 3rd over the Scum in white, will you have an epic gloating blog? If you’re not even going to let off a little sarcasm and mocking in their direction, surely you’ll be ready to explode if it actually happens.

    I just want a massive troll post aimed at those numpties.

  10. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    Premier League team of the season. Hmmm… I know the rankings are based on player votes, but I have to imagine the media’s love affair with Tottenham has had a massive effect on how they voted. Though, I suppose they might have been asked to vote before or around the time of their metamorphosis into shit.

    The omission of Koscielny and Arteta is criminal. Scott Parker? Really?

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1NorCalArsenal

      Parker and Bale both puzzle me.
      Arteta is far better than Parker at making his team “tick”. And I could name several ahead of the diving Bale. I am sure most votes were before the tots swoon.

  11. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Ssinderias

    About Koz’s tackle:
    1. It was more an interception than a tackle, Stutridge wasn’t really close enough to consider this ball to be 50-50
    2. Koz gets the ball ( if standards are held to be the same for all clubs, which they are not, even by us Gooners at times because we are such harsh critics of our club, our players, our manager, our board, our bloggers, etc )
    3. No intent and no contact at all with the opposing player
    4. Playing conditions are dry and sunny. Wet and muddy conditions reduce control of the tackling player’s motion or follow through after the challenge. Kozzer was always in control of his motion

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1marky

      yep, spot on.

      im scratching my head a bit reading this thread, some have taken issue over a clean, contactless tackle, i know it was a bit hollywood, but no danger or intent to harm. nothing has been said about JT being verminated when the ball was out of play!!

      is it because it was SO enjoyable???? ;)

  12. Vote -1 Vote +1Greg

    Selection for the Stoke game will be interesting with Walcott out. Can I be the first to say 4-4-2?

  13. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Greg

    On the PFA business, I kind of love the fact that Spurs are so overrated at the moment, and Arsenal so underrated. I love the fact that we have Sagna and Arteta instead of Walker and Parker. I love the fact that over the last 4 months Rosicky has pissed all over Modric and nobody has even noticed.

    This isn’t because I hate Spurs – I actually feel kind of nothing towards them. It’s because I hate the pundits and the journos who have to jump on a bandwagon every season and who chose our neighbours this year, when – all rivalry and jealousy aside – it was plain to see that they were being overpraised.

    I hate the press so much that when we’ve been successful in the past their cheerleading and celebration of Arsenal has actually decreased my own enjoyment. It’s like trying to have a night out with your mates but some fatuous dickhead keeps butting into the conversation.

    So I love this position where we are right now – they don’t think we can win anything, but they can’t pretend we’re anything but good. So they mostly leave us alone. And I have this strong feeling that if we have a good summer we’ll be surprising a few people next year who have written us off in the past. And that will be oh so sweet.

  14. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Great blog today. Whole or not – a really good story.

    We are now 2 wins from the last 5 and seem once again to be stumbling to the finish line. But we are hardly alone in that. It’s end of season and several clubs are losing form, as evidenced by the weekend results. I take special enjoyment from Barcelona’s consecutive losses, and of course Man U.

    Still, from our fantastic run in March we all have to believe there’s more than enough in the tank to secure third. All things considered, it will a significant achievement for one of the most mediocre Arsenal teams of the Wenger era.

    What a year. Was thinking about our players and aside from RvP of course, Arteta is a candidate for Gunner of the Year. Ox, Song, Koz and Szczesny are in there as well. For the oft-discussed Ramsey, maybe he’ll benefit from a loan spell, though I doubt Wenger would ever do that. Is it another “false dawn” or has Vela really improved?

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Tino

      I think Vela has always had the talent but I don’t think he ever got a chance to prove it on the pitch. We are quick to complain about the patience shows with players, such as Ramsey, Fabianski, Walcott or even Song, but Vela didn’t get as much game time as the above. Sub appearances here and there are hardly the best way to give a player confidence.

      Vela also seems like he is generally happier in Spain and would like to stay there. I can’t imagine Wenger stepping in his way for two reasons. Wenger can’t guarantee Vela playing time and the player doesn’t want to be in England.

  15. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Congratulations to RVP who single handedly carried this team on his back for winning the PFA award.

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