Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea: Frustrating

It is irritating when you get eliminated from the League Cup when your manager doesn't field a strong XI. But it's much more frustrating when the manager gives the game importance and yet you are knocked out. Story of our night, as Arsenal were convincingly beaten 2-0 by Chelsea in a game which will have profound implications when we look back at the season.

I got the sense that we were going to lose the tie in the beginning itself. The game seemed like a repeat of the Dortmund one, where they dominated possession but failed to create any proper chances. I was getting the sinking feeling that we were about to lose the game even before they scored the goal.

The goal itself was another moment of self-destruction. A communication error between Jenkinson and Wilshere led to Carl heading it reluctantly to Fabianski. The header was bad, Fabianski's positioning was worse, and Azpillecueta had the simple task to poke home. True, it was partly Jenkinson's fault, but not to the extent of barracking him and him alone for conceding the goal.

We never really looked like equalizing, and the rare chances for Nacho Monreal and Cazorla created throughout the game were more out of desperation than the result of good football. In fact, the only notable chance that we created was Ryo Miyaichi's, where Ramsey put a brilliant over-the-top ball, but Miyaichi failed to capitalize.

We got on Ozil in the 64th minute, which felt strange to me. We didn't really need his aspect of play, we needed Olivier Giroud. Bendtner was awful throughout the game, which was compounded by THIS moment of madness.  However, I feel that it wasn't entirely his fault for not playing well. He did not get those kind of crosses to head in, for one. It was partly the team's fault that he didn't get those kinds of passes, but that's little excuse for a person who had a shockingly poor day at the office, especially after looking motivated in recent times.

Mata scored almost immediately after Ozil came on, through a fine strike. However, the game was already done and dusted to me, and that goal simply was a dull thud on my diminishing interest toward the game. They played out the rest of the game quite contentedly, and while we had our half-chances, overall it was another unconvincing performance which led to a bad result. After Dortmund, no lessons learnt.

Wenger speaks of the defeat:

"I think what we lacked is that we were 1-0 down and in a big game that is giving yourself a very difficult task to do because you give the opposing team a chance to counter-attack. We also did not create enough chances."

For me, the most worrying part of the loss was how poor we were in the final third. It's remarkable how a team with Cazorla, Ozil, Wilshere and Rosicky can be so clueless in the attacking stages. Maybe it's down to lack of movement in the box or fatigue catching up - I don't know. I refuse to blame the manager for this game, because he took the game seriously and fielded a strong side, but it was the players who let him down with some obvious passing near the box.

We have performed unconvincingly in the last 3 games now. It doesn't seem to me that the team is learning from its mistakes, because defensive errors are being continued, and the chances aren't flowing like they were before. Maybe it's because the wingers weren't there to inject pace, or maybe it's because a bit of overconfidence is seeping in, but whatever it is, it needs to be stopped. Now.

Two weeks ago, we were on top of the world. Top of the group stage in the Champions League, and on top of the Barclays Premier League. Ozil was doing great, Ramsey was popping in goals and we were active in all three competitions, set to end our trophy drought. What could possibly go wrong?

It's amazing how football changes so quickly. Ozil's performances are dipping, Ramsey's solo playing is getting counterproductive, and the return of Santi Cazorla isn't working out as well as people thought. There are doubts on our Champions League qualification, we are out of the Capital One Cup and a loss against Liverpool (which seems far from unlikely now) will mean that we will lose our lead in the Premier League.

Make what you will of this game. Maybe it was a one-off, maybe Arsenal is a team that have bigger fish to fry than the Capital One Cup, or maybe we were unlucky and Mourinho's side were clinical. However, if you ask me, at this rate, we are plummeting towards another trophyless season. Something must be done right now to stop this fall, or we might see a very different Arsenal at the end of the Manchester United game.

It's a harsh fall to reality, this. Let's rise again.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )