What has Hull City got that Arsenal does not?
It took just two strikes by you know who – Didier Drogba to sink Arsenal early in the match. And as was their wont the Arsenal defense went to sleep on both occasions. Song failing to box out Drogba for the first goal after Terry headed the ball down from a Malouda corner.
The defense was then caught in a footrace as Lampard booted the ball downfield which Drogba latched onto muscling his way through Diaby and Clichy and with a clinical finish secured his second goal. It came just as the Gunners were enjoying a fair bit of possession with Arsenal coming close to equalizing through Arshavin.
Drogba has scored 12 goals in 10 matches against the Gunners. It was game, set, and match.
Arsenal are now 9 points behind with 13 games to go. They meet a resurgent Liverpool this Wednesday in a match that might decide the also rans. Winning the Premiership just got beyond reach. And if the Champions League loss to Man Utd is what affected our performance last weekend then there is every reason to presume that in reciprocal fashion, these losses will have a detrimental bearing on our European pretensions too.
Lest I become the nattering nabob of complete negativity, the Gunners did not throw in the towel to their credit. In the second half there was a spell of about 25 minutes where the ball did not leave the Chelsea half as an increasingly assertive Arsenal moved the ball with ease. And the defense stood up to the task of stopping any counterattacks. Critics might interject and say that all that possession led to no result. However when a club goes through a crisis in scoring such as Arsenal in these last four games, it is good to focus on what they did right as a sort of psychological salve.
Unlike against Man Utd, Arsenal looked assured in possession and created a number of chances. At some point it looked like a rope a dope with Chelsea soaking up the pressure and relying on Cech to make some good saves. It was quite enjoyable watching the Chelsea defense looking wobbly but their experience and Arsenal’s prediliction of walking the ball into goal made their task easier.
This being Arsenal it seemed no one wanted to take the responsibility of pulling the trigger. Arshavin had the clearest chance after Fabregas floated a beautiful ball but with only Cech to beat the little Russian shot it straight at the Chelsea goalkeeper. It might have been a different story with that equalizer. Diaby and Nasri also came close but their touch and moments of hesitation cost them.
In a tactical move, Wenger decided to start Theo Walcott to back up Sagna in neutralizing Ashley Cole and Florent Malouda. His defensive duties came at the cost of his attacking instincts which meant that the right flank looked inert. Nicklas Bendtner replaced Walcott bringing a bit more variety. He was brought down by Ricardo Carvalho a few feet from the box. Fabregas free kick through a crowd was denied by Petr Cech at the very last moment. Wenger trotted out Emmanuel Eboue and Tomas Rosicky as the final throw of the dice but it amounted to little.
It was left to the woodwork to deny Drogba his hattrick.
The match was also an occasion for the Stamford Bridge faithful to thumb their nose at Fabio Capello’s decision to strip John Terry of England’s captaincy. Signs proclaiming their support for him were everywhere. For his part, Terry conducted himself as a leader showing no signs of distraction. A big cheer went up when Terry hobbled with a second half injury and with his thigh heavily strapped went about his job manfully. Somehow all this contrived to make Capello look peevish.
As for Wenger, these matches are hopefully telling him something is wrong. We as fans can berate and tantrum all we want. Some of it is throw the baby out with the bathwater stuff which is counter productive but surely by now there must be some sort of self realization.