Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea: Spotlight Match Review

An important London derby took place on Monday, with Chelsea visiting Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal. The Gunners looked the sharper squad this day, and a big second half breakout sent them to a 3-1 victory against the struggling champions.

Arsenal v Chelsea Starting Formations

The home squad started in a 4-2-3-1 formation, manager Arsene Wenger’s tried-and-true. A trio of top performers returned to the starting lineup for the Gunners, with Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, and Theo Walcott all got the nod in the front 4. With Walcott starting, he took the right wing, while season standout Samir Nasri moved to the left wing. Alex Song and Jack Wilshere played behind Fabregas in the central midfield.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti brought Chelsea out in his preferred 4-3-3 alignment. The front three consisted of Didier Drogba at center forward, and Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou on the left and right wings, respectively. Nicolas Anelka was not in the starting eleven, nor on the substitute list. Frank Lampard returned to the starting lineup for this important match

The first half action was carried predominantly by the Gunners. Chelsea’s attack in the first half was very tepid; their strategy seemed one of defensive security, trying not to get caught out by the Arsenal attack. Two 20 yard strikes from Chelsea stood out in the first half as their only true thread: a Drogba on a one-on-one run against Koscielny, and Malouda’s set piece attempt just before half that couldn’t weave its way through the maze of players in the area.

Arsenal stressed the right flank attack of Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna against Ashley Cole and John Terry throughout the half. In fact, Terry was definitely a bright spot in the first half. Walcott was sprung several times, both down the touch line as well as across the outside of the area. Walcott giftedly moved the ball against Chelsea’s defenders, but between Terry’s play and Walcott’s lack of an incisive finish, his efforts proved fruitless.

As the half proceeded, Arsenal’s chances continued to accrue. Samir Nasri struck a perfect ball at the upper left corner from 22 yards, and Petr Cech was able to deflect it with his fingertips away from the goal. Finally, a run by Nasri up the left side was centered to Song. He passed to Jack Wilshire at the edge of the area, who hit what appeared to be a return pass. Three players were in the vicinity, but Song had the position to strike the ball well and just inside the right post. The half ended with the Gunners ahead by 1.

Chelsea brought of John Obi Mikel to start the second half, and replaced him with Ramires. Within 8 minutes, Arsenal had tripled their lead. Walcott escaped behind Ashley Cole, with the back undoubtedly wanting to help in the attacking half. Robin van Persie slid the ball through to Walcott breaking towards Cech. The winger snuck the ball to Cesc Fabregas, who dumped it into the gaping net. Less than two minutes later, Walcott stripped the ball from an unassuming Florent Malouda at midfield. Fabregas gathered the ball forward, and passed to Walcott into open space past a somewhat flatfooted Terry. Ivanovic could not recover in time and Walcott’s 18 yard blast past Cech to the far post gave Arsenal the 3-0 lead.

At the 56th minute, Malouda was subbed out for Kakuta, almost certainly to account for his gaffe that led to the third goal. Immediately, Chelsea responded. Branislav Ivanovic stretched past Koscielny and headed home a Drogba free kick to trim the lead to 2. The Blues’ final substitution came at the 61st minute, with the more offensive Jose Bosingwa entering for right back Paulo Ferreira. Ancelotti also changed into a very narrow 4-4-2 diamond, with Kalou pairing with Drogba up front. The four midfielders all maintained a central presence. Kakuta played the most forward, and Ramires in the defensive midfield position. Bosingwa and Cole providing the wing flank support.

Arsenal vs Chelsea Endgame

Arsenal was able to hang on from that point forward though. There were some tense moments, but Wenger made some substitutions to help stem the tide of fatigue, as well as to bring a more defensive tactic. By the time the 80th minute rolled around, Arsenal was in a 4-1-4-1 defensive formation, with Nasri and Abu Diaby (a substitute for Walcott in the 76th minute) sunken into a flat-4 midfield, with Song right in front of the defense. To the left is the tactical diagram from the final 10-15 minutes of the match

Arsenal took advantage of the return to form of Cesc Fabregas, as well as a couple of mistakes by Chelsea, to forge closer to Manchester United in the title race. Chelsea’s descent continues to fuel the questions surrounding the job security of Carlo Ancelotti. Another tough match for the Blues’ against Bolton may become a harbinger of what the future for Ancelotti and the defending champions holds.

7 thoughts on “Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea: Spotlight Match Review”

  1. 2 things:

    1. I am surprised at the timid nature of Chelsea’s substitions. 1 was a fullback for another fullback, 1 was a holding midfielder for another holding midfielder, and although Kalkuta has some offensive spark, Malouda has been one of the bright spots in Chelsea’s offense. I didn’t see any of these making a positive impact on the game.

    2. When Chelsea lost the ball they did okay in getting back in position but ceded too much territory without a challenge. This allowed Arsenal time to get significant numbers forward and Chelsea found themselves defending in and around their box rather than 30 yards upfied where they lost the ball.

    1. Two excellent thoughts. Not sure if his neutral substitutions were a result of him feeling as though he doesn’t have the depth of personnel to make an aggressive switch, or if he was playing for the circumstance. We are in a busy part of the schedule, and Chelsea probably has a better chance at 3 points vs Bolton. That being said, the Chelsea of last year could probably get 6 out of the two matches.

      The lack of pressure on the midfielders definitely allowed them space to wreak havoc. Seemed like they were willing to drop into a shell and pray that the Gunners couldn’t make a long shot. But the breakdown on the Song goal changed the entire complexity of the game, and as soon as Chelsea had to scratch back, Arsenal received some help, and Walcott showed a lot of presence both in the excellent setup to Fabregas as well as his accurate shot to make it 3.

      1. Watching as a neutral, and hoping for a draw, I am not sure the match showed how good the Gooners were, or how much Skelsea have fallen. I was very surprised (and impressed) with how Wilshere and Song were allowed to control the midfield – usually Skelsea have bullied the Arsenal in this part of the park. By the Russian letting certain players go – Ballack, Carvallo, etc., Skelsea’s squad players could barely compete in the Championship never mind the Premiership.
        Based on todays result, I think we (Spurs) have a better chance finishing ahead of Skelsea, or Man City, rather than that other lot in North London for a CL slot!

  2. One thing I noticed was that heatmaps show Kalou and Drogba playing right on top of each other (literally) in average positioning. Now you could say that one of them was supposed to be more on the left, but they both played like center forwards. I’d say that the forcing of Malouda to push up to support that side on Chelsea’s attack allowed for Arsenal to attack easily. Walcott’s goal was product of a through ball and his run, coming from that side that Malouda and Cole were supposed to defend on. With backup from Sagna, Arsenal easily exploited the flanks for some productive goals. I’ve never seen Chelsea beaten like that before.

  3. Ratings for Match – Arsenal – Fabiasnki 5, Djourou 6, Koscielny 6, Clichy 6, Song 8, Wilshere 7, Walcott 7, Fabregas 7, Nasri 7, Van Persie 6
    Chelsea – Czech 5, Ferreira 5, Ivanovic 6, Terry 6, Cole 6, Essien 5, Mikel/Ramires 4, Lampard 5, Kalou 5, Drogba 6, Malouda 4, (sub) Kakouta 5

  4. i think the coming in of Fabreges,Van Persie and Walcott proved too serious for the blues.When Carlo Ancy teased us about our fear of Drogba, there was a cold shiver in my spine…wait a minute,we were not on the pitch.We were just flexing the musles of one who gives instructions not flexing the legs of those who were actually on the pitch.In my football followership position these were great moments for the gooners.Walcott outwitted those left footers..not one bue two.It was a marvel to look at Alex.At one time i thought it was Essien in Red,the Stamina,he is simply irreplaceble.Finally the calm which the guffer had on the touchline was excellent.The wine is now maturing.Thank God it was a holiday i wouldnt have wathed that beauty.

    1. I wasn’t impressed by Robin van Persie yesterday. It was nice to see him start a match, but I believe Arsenal would have been even more dangerous in attack if Marouane Chamakh had started instead of RVP. The Dutchman contributed little except for a few misfired shots.

      The Gaffer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *