Drogba provides ruthless finish to familiar tale of Arsenal failings
Chelsea 2 Arsenal 0
Monday 04 October 2010
At a break in play during the first half, Ashley Cole found himself close enough to the Arsenal fans that it was impossible to ignore the abuse directed at him from their corner of the ground. So he just pointed to the sleeve of his jersey and the golden Premier League crest that is worn by the champions alone.
As a rebuke to the Arsenal fans it is pretty-much unanswerable. Arsène Wenger's side are an accomplished team and for periods yesterday they played by far the better football but, to steal an analogy from Jose Mourinho, everyone knew how this movie was going to end. Chelsea looked like the champions and Arsenal just looked like Arsenal.
By which we mean there was no killer instinct in Wenger's side. They started quickly and might have scored within the first minute through Marouane Chamakh's header. Jack Wilshere was again a revelation for one so young. But the crucial moments in the game, those moments when the game is decided, were monopolised by Chelsea and from the moment they took the lead in the 39th minute they looked unshakeable.
That Didier Drogba scored the first goal gave the afternoon a fatalistic feel for Wenger's side. Drogba is the man who always scores against Arsenal – he has 13 goals in 13 games against them – and his presence is like a curse on Wenger's team. And because Drogba is so physically powerful so it follows that Wenger faces the accusation his team are simply not up for the fight.
But it goes a lot deeper than that. Arsenal have strong players too, they create chances and they can dominate matches. It feels like they have gone so long since they have beaten Chelsea or won a trophy – none of this current team, Gaël Clichy aside, were around for the last one in 2005 – that the problem is self-perpetuating. Arsenal cannot shake their inferiority complex. Before long yesterday they found their natural role in these encounters.
Afterwards, Wenger talked about how "easy" his team had found it dominating the game. He is a great manager and an engaging individual but it has got past the point when anyone tries to point out to him that he is ignoring the painfully obvious. Ray Wilkins was faultlessly polite about Arsenal. Rather as someone might be about a scatty relative who keeps disgracing themselves at family gatherings.
Something is badly missing from this Arsenal team and it is not just the seven first-team squad players out injured. Wenger was explicit that he believed this team was good enough to beat Chelsea. What was missing was the ruthlessness to bury Chelsea. It was not there in Chamakh's header in the first minute nor Laurent Koscielny's miss from a yard out from the resultant corner.
Carlo Ancelotti, who returned from Italy on Saturday night following his father's death, has restored the menace to Chelsea that they lost over the three years that Manchester United were champions. It was there yesterday. Chamakh pulled out of a tackle with John Obi Mikel in the build-up to the first goal. Ramires played in Ashley Cole down the left and his cross was expertly guided in by Drogba at the near post.
There were some formidable performances in this Chelsea team, albeit understated. Ramires looked excellent in midfield with his fierce turn of pace on the counter-attack. John Terry and Alex da Costa were solid. Michael Essien did not always get the better of Wilshere but he and Mikel were a bulwark against the attacking threat of Arsenal.
Wilshere makes his team tick. Only 18, he is always in a position to receive the ball. He never wastes a pass and for one so young his judgement is incredibly sound. Time and again he fetched the ball from his back four and moved it forward but Wilshere alone cannot win matches for Arsenal. He needs Chamakh to play more like a Drogba. He needs Andrei Arshavin to get involved. Chelsea's second goal on 85 minutes was a glorious hit from Alex whose free-kicks are becoming an event in their own right at Stamford Bridge. He charges at them like an old-school West Indian fast bowler and there is never much deception about which corner his shot is likely to be directed at. Lukasz Fabianski's problem yesterday was that he was never going to get there in time and – even if he had – he might not have stopped the ball.
Nicolas Anelka could have wrapped the game up after an hour when a terrible mistake by Sébastien Squillaci let him in on goal. He went round Fabianski but put the ball wide of the post.
At the final whistle, the young Arsenal substitute Jay Emmanuel-Thomas bagged Cole's shirt and quietly tucked it out of sight in his waistband. Not everyone at Arsenal loathes Cole and there was no disputing who, between him and the away fans, had the last laugh yesterday.
Chelsea 4-3-3: Cech; Ivanovic (Ferreira, 73), Alex, Terry, Cole; Mikel (Sturridge, 89), Essien, Ramires (Zhirkov, 83); Malouda, Anelka, Drogba. Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk), Van Aanholt, Kakuta, McEachran.
Arsenal 4-3-3: Fabianski; Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy; Diaby (Rosicky, 70), Wilshere (Emmanuel-Thomas, 81), Song; Nasri, Arshavin (Vela, 87), Chamakh. Substitutes not used: Szczesny (gk), Denilson, Djourou, Eboue.
Referee M Dean (Merseyside)
Man of the match Drogba
Possession Chelsea 53% Arsenal 47%
Shots on target Chelsea 6 Arsenal 5Attendance 41,828. Match rating 7/10.
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