By Walter Broeckx
If we would follow the logic of some supporters who came on this site in the last days we had no chance whatsoever to win against Chelsea. Their logic was if a team with the 4th highest wage bill cannot win against a team with a lower wage bill there is something wrong and the managers knows nothing, the players are rubbish and overpaid and the board is filling their pockets.
Well we sure cannot say that of the owner of Chelsea. He has put billions on the Chelsea and their wage bill. Their wage bill is around £60-£70m higher than Arsenal. In fact the last numbers I have seen is that the wage difference between Chelsea and Arsenal is as big as the difference between Arsenal and Wigan.
So following that logic we didn’t have much of a chance of winning this game. And yet before the game Arsenal was in third place and Chelsea in 6th place. 7 points behind Arsenal. Now you may wish to point out that this is the fault of Villas-Boas and that since Di Matteo is their manager things have improved. Well in the first 8 games in charge in the EPL Villas-Boas got 18 points and Di Matteo only managed 12 points. On the day Villas-Boas was sacked Chelsea was in 5th place in the league. Now they are in 6th place. So sacking the manager was not that really successful if you look at the numbers in the EPL.
The game itself turned out to be a tight game. I cannot understand the way Chelsea is playing. Men behind the ball and defending. A bit Wiganesque one could say. Without the goals. Arsenal was the team that knew that even a draw would keep them 6 points ahead of Tottenham and Newcastle who only if they win all their games in hand can come on the same height as Arsenal. And you can only be sure of the points after the game. Tottenham found out against Norwich, we against Wigan. So as it stands we are 6 points in front and it is their job to come at our level.
So Chelsea came to defend and Arsenal would not allow Chelsea to punish them on the counter. Leading to a lot of midfield play and Arsenal attacking but not over committing themselves.
To win a game of football you must have a bit of luck. Lady Luck was not on our side today. Van Persie saw a close effort coming off the post only to go outside. Koscielny directed a header to the top corner with Cech beaten but the bar once again prevented an Arsenal goal. Another Arsenal chance for Van Persie went straight at Cech.
There were moments when Chelsea had their “noses sticking against the window” [I guess that is a Dutch saying – Tony] but I cannot remember a lot of scary moments in front of Sczesny – although it is always possible that I have forgotten something.
The second half followed the same pattern. Arsenal trying to attack but not much coming in the form of goal chances. Chelsea just did the same trying to catch us on the break. In fact it became a bit of a boring game of football. Something that I have noticed before when I was watching Chelsea.
Meanwhile Dean was his usual self. Running around on the pitch with an air something in between: “I haven’t seen anything” or “I’m in control” while not being in control. Now I’m not blaming any loss of points in this game on Dean (that is something for our ref reviewer in charge of this game) but the way he signals advantage at times when there is nothing to give at all and the way he gives an imaginary foul and then suddenly points that he came back for another imaginary foul somewhere before would be hilarious… if it would be in other games. But at first sight he didn’t make any casualties this time so a point with Dean in charge is a golden point. Actually it is a bit like winning since with him in charge we normally start two goals down.
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The injury to Theo was a bit of a blow. He is one of our main assist providers so you never know what he will produce in a game. By the look of it I think it is season over for Theo. I’m afraid I will only see him in civi clothes when I come over in a fortnight for our final home game.
We tried, Chelsea tried to defend. And to give credit they defended rather well. But having said that defending is the easiest thing to do on a football pitch so I’m not that impressed about it. Van Persie had a good chance but I think he cut back one time too much. Should have finished like you did against Man City (which was disallowed for offside) with the right foot. Winning a game depends on such details.
At the end of the game we played with two left backs on the field (Santos and Gibbs), the returned from the death Diaby, and the shadow returned from the African Nations Cup: Gervinho. We threatened a few times but not enough to make it to a goal.
So it leaves us with a 6 points gap between Arsenal and Tottenham and Newcastle and a 7 point gap between ourselves and Chelsea. If, and this is a big if they win their 2 games in hand we are up to a very close finish for 3rd place. And with a loss of one player in each game for the moment we are feeling the pressure even more.
But next week we will see Benayoun back in contention and this could be a useful player at this time of the season. So it will be another 3 weeks of nail biting before the season ends. But just imagine if those fans who said we couldn’t dream of being third, were right. According to them we ought to be fighting against Wigan, Bolton, QPR to stay up. So if we could finish in third it would be a great performance after what happened last summer.
So one home game to go and I will be there. Now boys wouldn’t that be a nice moment if we could celebrate St. Totteringhamsday on that occasion?
Oh and Chelsea next week, watch out for the Busacca-moment. Before you know it, it will hit you.
Tony’s PS: Following Walter’s writing of this piece, Newcastle won 3-0, and Tottenham had a rather interesting affair at QPR in which Bale ran into the crowd. Now I think that was an offence – but the ref chose to do nothing. I wonder if there will be an enquiry.
Oh, no, I forgot it was Tottenham. They lost 1-0, and have something of a problem – but that is for another occasion.