Arsenal Come Undone Against Chelsea After Mistakes and Questionable Team Selection

Before Arsenal’s loss to Chelsea on Saturday, Arsene Wenger said “results against direct opponents are always so important” and that the Gunners needed to show against the Blues that they “are capable to deal with all the kind of problems consistency demands.” Arsenal weren’t able to handle the obstacles Chelsea presented at the Emirates Stadium. And now the question becomes “Are Arsenal direct contenders for the title alongside the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, and Manchester United?”

Judging by Arsenal’s poor performance against Chelsea, the answer is no. Roberto Di Matteo’s side outplayed the Gunners on their home pitch. Old fragilities, such as an inability to defend set pieces, reappeared despite the presence of new defensive guru Steve Bould. A lack of decisiveness in the final third prevented Arsene Wenger’s men from stealing a point at the end. In other words, the frustrating Arsenal returned.

Even the new signings, who hadn’t been part of Arsenal’s previous failures, were disappointing. Arsenal’s creative leader of the attack, Santi Cazorla, was suffocated by Chelsea’s defense. Lukas Podolski did not have any influence on the match and was withdrawn in the second half by Wenger. The German’s replacement, Olivier Giroud, missed a fantastic opportunity to even the score in extra time.

Giroud hasn’t impressed since his move from Montpellier in the summer. Critics have likened him to Marouane Chamakh, but that would be a cruel comparison from Chamakh’s perspective since the Moroccan actually scored eleven goals and deputized well for an injured Robin van Persie in his debut season at the Emirates Stadium. While Arsene Wenger insists that Giroud will thrive in the Premier League, he hasn’t trusted the French striker enough to start him in either of the Gunners’ last two league matches. It’s difficult for a player to adjust to the English game when he’s only playing in 20-minute spurts.

Arsene Wenger made two questionable choices for his starting eleven against Chelsea. Firstly, Laurent Koscielny was preferred to Per Mertesacker after the big German center-back was named Man of the Match against defending champions Manchester City by a fan poll on Arsenal’s official website. In his post-match press conference on Saturday, Wenger said that the decision to start Koscielny ahead of Mertesacker was “based on the opposition we played.” Perhaps the Arsenal manager is suggesting that he thought Koscielny was better equipped to handle Chelsea’s pace. The explanation lacks logic because Mertesacker didn’t look the least bit sluggish against City. What the German lacks in pace is negated by his supreme positional sense.

Wenger’s second mistake Saturday was starting Aaron Ramsey on the flank. The Welshman is not a winger, even though Wenger continues to put him out wide.  Ramsey didn’t perform poorly on the wing at the Etihad Stadium, but he also didn’t light the world on fire. Arsene Wenger’s idea in starting Ramsey on the wing is that it will allow his team to keep the ball and give Jenkinson more defensive help on the right side. The only problem is Ramsey isn’t a good defender, and he also doesn’t do a great job at keeping possession.

While the criticism of Arsene Wenger’s team selection may seem like second-guessing after both players had (predictably) poor displays on Saturday, the reality is that many Arsenal supporters (including myself) were annoyed with the manager’s two awful choices when the starting eleven was announced prior to the start of the match.

A combination of unorganized defending, poor finishing, and questionable managerial decisions has placed Arsenal in a state of limbo. After last week’s hard-fought draw at the home of Manchester City, the Gunners’ were widely considered to be title contenders once more. A reassessment might be necessary following Chelsea’s victory at the Emirates Stadium, though it would be unfair to assess the Gunners on the basis of one terrible performance. At the moment, Arsene Wenger’s team is floating in between the title fight and the battle for the top four. No definite conclusion can be drawn from Saturday’s loss. In the coming months, as the season grinds on, Arsenal’s realistic ambitions will come into focus. At the moment, the Gunners’ fate is just blurry.

17 thoughts on “Arsenal Come Undone Against Chelsea After Mistakes and Questionable Team Selection”

  1. Chelsea played a good road game. Granted they didn’t create a lot of chances from open play but they did take advantage of their set piece opportunities. Hazard and Oscar did not have good games from an attacking standpoint but each gave an excellent shift by dropping back to help defensively.

    As for Arsenal, they were one miss away from getting a point. Somehow, some way, Wenger will have Arsenal in the top four. Until the year it doesn’t happen, you have to expect it b/c it seems for the past few years pundits have said Arsenal are no longer a top 4 team.

  2. Worst article do you even know football. Wenger ‘s selection was not bad at all and the only problem he missed out is startn ramsey instead of oxx but to me that was not bad at all coz he waz playn safe nd wanted to win possession in the midfield battle. Please ramsey if not the best is certainly good in keeping possession try and write something sensible to read next time. Just to point it out for you arsenal had the best game of the season so far loosing does not mean they had a bad game. Actually your article is full of wrong perception of the play.

    1. Eric u ar very wrong! Dis article points d mistake out clearly.. D omission of metersacker nd ox in d starting lineup cost us d match

    2. eric seem to react with anger rathe than analizing the article. the writer is absolutly right. Per has been one of the best players for arsenal since the turn of the year. His desciplined defending and positional intelligence is exceptional. As a fact he looks more of a captain than Vermalen

  3. The writer has got only one thing right according to my assessment and that is mertesacker omission. Its true that he may look without pace but he doesn’t neet it with his brilliant positioning in defence. A striker will either be off side or won’t pass him with the ball because of his positioning.

    He almost the planner of the defence even if Vermo is the captain. He receives and plans the for the ball in the whole defence. Watch him, very confident and clever.

    The rest of selection, there was no mistake at all. Actually before Diaby got injured, Arsenal was having an upper hand in mid field. Injury to Diaby and lack of Merte affected Arsenal totally.

      1. Can you explain why you think Chelsea didn’t play well?

        “Also, determining whether a team is a title contender from one game is silly.” Didn’t the author already point that out himself in the article? So, why do you still need to mention that to him? If you read the article thoroughly, you would have noticed quotes such as “A reassessment might be necessary following Chelsea’s victory at the Emirates Stadium, though it would be unfair to assess the Gunners on the basis of one terrible performance.” and “In the coming months, as the season grinds on, Arsenal’s realistic ambitions will come into focus.”

  4. jdoe i agree with you chelsea was luck and its too early for pinpointing teams as title is full of the writer seems comparing with man utd does it really mean that they are out? arsenal seems great so far up gunners.gunners for life

  5. People should stop arguing football with sentiment, who says chelsea did not play well, and who says team selection affected arsenal. Arsenal try thier best but chelsea won the game period. Before the game, there was so much talk that Asernal are better organise than chelsea and that Torres was not a threat but wht happen, the taking was in the field of play which chelsea did. Arsenal pls buy players, the season is just starting.

    1. Yes, Chelsea outplayed Arsenal, and I mentioned that in the article. Chelsea were the better team, but Arsenal did make some mistakes.

      Team selection was only a part of what went wrong for the Gunners on Saturday. Poor finishing and defensive errors (particularly on set pieces) also cost Arsenal.

  6. We all knw dat d omission of per was a mistake,rightly pointed i dnt tink chelsea totally outplayed us.we dnt tk our chances nd i tink dat is wat is most anoyin nd d way we conceeded dose goals….lik som1 said,we lost a match nd drew 1 in wich we shuld ve taken all points…
    Sayin arsenal ar nt title contenders i tink is utd lost at home 2,rmemba d ar still title contenders so y shuld arsenal b any diff afta 1 dfeat?

  7. Did you guys watch the game at all? Both teams played horribly! Chelsea won a bad game by both teams. How do you extrapolate title chances from that? If Arsenal had won it still wouldn’t mean much from a championship perspective either.

    Possession ARS 51% CHEL 49%
    Shots ARS 14 CHEL 10
    Shots on target ARS 5 CHEL 5

    It wasn’t an impressive game by either team. And one game doesn’t mean squat! If Chelsea loses next week will you claim they can’t win the league?

    1. Agreed. We’ll know a lot more about what clubs are serious title contenders in a couple months.

      But that doesn’t mean that the game wasn’t important. If Arsenal finish two points back of Chelsea, and Chelsea win the title, then people will think back to Saturday’s game at the Emirates. That’s probably not going to happen, but it’s a realistic scenerio.

      As an Arsenal fan myself, I have to admit that Chelsea simply outplayed us in our own stadium. Arsene Wenger even said in his press conference that his team wasn’t good enough and that they failed a test. Wenger doesn’t say that after every loss–only if he feels his team were outplayed.

  8. It’s really frustrating for me seeing Arsenal miss chances all the time. It’s times like these when I wish Van Persie hadn’t left us. We need to buck up on our finishing, otherwise we will find ourselves struggling to score goals and win matches in times to come. As for defence at set-pieces, I choose to believe that it was only this match and a one-time thing. I hope I’m not proved wrong. Anyway, with Steve Bould around, I won’t be too concerned. Wenger might have made poor team selections, but I guess just like any other manager, he makes mistakes too and we shouldn’t be too hard on him.

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