Arsenal Drogged, Title Aspirations Smashed


The word “drog” should be in the dictionary(no not the urban one). “Drog” – verb- Completely dominating one’s opponent in the style of an Ivorian footballing machine.

It was an all too familiar story at Stamford Bridge. Dider Drogba, 12 goals in 12 games against Arsenal. The man simply does not play his age. At 31, he’s still running with the pace of a 26 year old. There is no doubt that the Gunners are sick to the sight of him.

Prior to the game, Sir Alex encouraged Arsenal to batter Chelsea. Wishful thinking on the old fox’s part? Chelsea are now back on top, 2 points clear, and Arsenal’s titles hopes hang by a thread. But what exactly went wrong for the Gunners?

The 5 Could Nots

1) Arsenal Could Not Defend

Same old story. Set pieces are still Arsenal’s Achilles Heel. Disgraced former England captain John Terry lost his marker and rose to head the ball towards the far post, where Didier Drogba lost his marker to stab the ball home. 2 players, 2 markers lost.

For the second goal, Vermalen inexplicably left Drogba alone on the right. Perhaps he didn’t see Clichy speeding back to assist Gallas in the centre. Who knows? He could have stuck with Drogba and forced him to go wide, possibly preventing the concession of the second goal. Instead, he joined Clichy and Gallas in the centre and when the ball reached Drogba, there was only going to be one outcome.

They say a good keeper is worth at least 15 points in a season. Almunia, for me, is worth only 2. His defence does not seem to feel confident about him keeping goal. He has not earned the respect of his team mates, and that is where the problem lies. Arsenal need a goalkeeper who isn’t afraid to bark at his players and be the alpha male in defence. Peter Schmeichel did it. Peter Shilton did it. Edwin Van Der Sar is still doing it. And they have all won trophies with their respective clubs.

2) Cech Could Not Be Beaten

Too good. Cech was simply too good to be beaten. It was a brave Peter Cech, one that seemed to have been missing for the past few games. Last night, he claimed corners, dove at player’s feet, and demonstrated remarkable reactions to deny Arsenal again and again, notably Arshavin’s volley, the 1 v 1 with Nasri and Fabregas’ freekick. Almunia could take a page or two out of Cech’s book.

3) Wenger Could Not Read Carlo’s Tactics

The Italian job comes to mind. Carlo Ancelotti knew exactly what to do against Wenger’s Boys. He knew all too well that Arsenal’s big problem was not with passing, but with finishing off moves. Chelsea sat back and allowed Arsenal to play their passing game, and the moment Arsenal felt settled and comfortable enough, someone would nip in to steal the ball, and with lightning speed, a counterattack would be launched ie. Second goal. Mr Wenger, however, stuck to his guns. To be fair, Arsenal’s response after going 1 – 0 down was surprising, and quite pleasing. They looked hell bent on causing trouble for Chelsea. Arshavin, especially, looked in the mood for destruction. Sadly, it was not their day.

4) Walcott Could Not Play

Anonymous. That is the word to describe Theo Walcott last night. At times, I had to remind myself that he was playing. He could not pass, he could not run, he could not beat Ashley Cole. To be fair, he has been in and out of the side too much, and has not had sufficient play time to establish any sort of consistency. It was essentially 10 against 11 until Bendtner was introduced, who I maintain, should have started the game. I’m not the Dane’s biggest fan, but against a team of muscles, you need a big guy up front.

5) The Boys Could Not Beat The Men

Alan Curbishley, guest pundit on the night, made this excellent point. Chelsea have a team of men. Terry, Lampard, Malouda, Drogba, Ballack, Carvalho, Anelka, these are men who will grab the game by the scruff of the neck and make something out of nothing. Arsenal don’t have any players of that calibre. Cesc? Too soft. Arshavin? Too small. Nasri? Too small. Song? Too small. Walcott? Don’t joke. Echoing Patrice Evra’s comments last year, it was truly another case of Boys vs Men. Except the metaphor is more aptly used in this instance than that one.

Other notables:

Sagna cannot cross

Much of Arsenal’s game revolves around quick full backs making runs up the pitch and sending crosses in. Sagna’s crosses were so terrible, they actually made me wonder if Eboue would’ve done a better job.

Arsenal do not shoot

Pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass… ball’s lost. Arsenal fans should be familiar with that story. Too many passes, not enough shots. Arsenal need to take some risks. A low, angled drive could result in a pinball effect, and ultimately land in the back of the net. God forbid Arsene should encourage that sort of scoring method.

Drogba cannot be stopped

No explanations required here. Didier Drogba simply cannot stop scoring. It doesn’t seem like any defense in the league can handle him at the moment. And it’s not for the lack of trying either.

The truth is, Arsenal never looked like title contenders. Even if they did make a strong point at the beginning of the season, one must remember that there is a formula to creating champions. And Arsenal haven’t got it. A strong centre forward is still missing. A world class goalkeeper, a tall centreback and a defensive midfielder the likes of Patrick Viera. These are all elements that have been missing in Arsenal’s game for too long. Arsene can stick to his “beautiful football” philosophy, but last night, Chelsea’s passing left me breathless. It was quick, it was accurate, it was hard, and it was as pleasant to watch as anything Arsenal’s ever produced. With the transfer window shut, Wenger must attempt to manufacture a winning formula using his existing players.

The statistics tell another story, though. Looking at the numbers, Arsenal look like winners, like the better team. A wise man once said to me, “If you need statistics to tell you what’s good or bad, you’re probably not very bright.” Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea had a game plan that involved allowing Arsenal to play their way, and they worked it to perfection. As for Arsenal, it looks like yet another season’s title hopes down the drain.

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