|photo by gordonflood.com||via PhotoRee|
Chelsea vs. Arsenal: the big fixture finally arrives as the last game of the weekend. How appropriate that Mike Dean is in charge of the game. I wonder how much Roman paid for his selection....
The game starts with an almost immediate bang as the Gunners miss twice from close range inside the match's first minute. Arsenal play aggressively right from the opening whistle as they press Chelsea high up the pitch. Obviously Le Professor Wenger has a very different gameplan in mind for this season's fixture at the Bridge. Arsenal play extremely physical football, crashing into tackles in an attempt to disprove their own coach's assertion that smarts matter more than brawn in today's game.
Chelsea respond and crank up pressure of their own after about 15 minutes, using long passes and corner kicks to threaten Fabianski's goal, which he does his best not to defend. Luckily for Gunner fans, Arsenal's defenders appear not to have received the memo and bail Fabianski out of trouble several times.
By the 25 minute mark Chelsea appear to have two to three more players on the pitch than Arsenal, as the Gunner's pressure strategy has opened up acres of space in the midfield. Arsenal grab back some of the momentum with a dangerous long shot from Arshavin, and after half an hour the possession is evenly split, with each team holding the ball 50% of the time.
Both Arshavin and Drogba prove wasteful with chances as a remarkably open game unfolds. Le Prof Wenger seems to be be willfully ignoring last week's lecture from the visiting Italian expert, Professor Mancini, on beating Chelsea with a defensive counter-attacking style of football.
Chelsea's goal when it comes is well deserved, Ca$hley Cole assisting on Didier Drogba's 13th goal in 13 games against the Gunners to give the Blues a 1-nil halftime advantage. The goal is painfully reminiscent for Machester United fans of Joe Cole's backheel into the net against the Red Devils last year; after 40 minutes of going toe to toe with the Champs, the Gunners undone by a slick move from a striker at the top of his game.
Well into the second half Arsenal re-apply the pressure as if sunscreen on a Florida summer afternoon, but once again come away with nothing to show for it as their final ball lacks quality virtually every time. Chelsea are content to play as if City on the counter, and Arsenal miss chance after chance with Chamakh continuing to head the ball usefully away from Chelsea's goal when he isn't busy dropping in the box as if shot by bow and arrow. Despite Arsenal's dominance, Chelsea almost score again and put the game out of reach with a half hour to go as Squillaci becomes momentarily confused about which team's name appears on his bi-weekly paycheck. Although he delivers the ball wrapped up in a shiny box with a bow, Anelka inexplicably misses a wide open net to take the three points.
It doesn't matter. Apparently confusing the battle of the Bridge with a pre-season friendly against Hereford United, with 10 minutes to play and the game still on the line Arsenal bring on the shockingly dangerous Jay Emmanuel Thomas for his first appearance of the season. The game comes to a conclusion soon afterward with a fantastic strike by the British Army as an Alex howtizer sends Arsenal fans scurrying for cover and the exits.
Same old Arsenal. Depsite bossing the game for long stretches, the result is a familar and unwelcome sight for Gunner fans: Chelsea 2- Arsenal nil. And that's farlieonfootie for October 3rd.