Knock knock on wood
Updated: Aug 26, 2018
Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal
I'm celebrating my wedding anniversary back where it all began seventeen years ago in Liverpool. Back in 2001(18th August), Arsenal made sure my day was extra special by thrashing a poor Middlesborough side 4-0 away from home with goals from Pires, Henry & Bergkamp; Ah, the memories. McLaren managed Boro that day and seventeen years later he still loves a good walloping! 7-1 Steve, you can’t hide under a brolly after that s**t shower!
My mission come kick off for yesterday's game was where to watch it; my search hindered by the roads around my hotel being cordoned off for ‘Red Bull Drift shifters 2018’ which can only be described as organised skidding for the masses or how to avoid ‘The Bizzies’ in a chase with style. The Cornmaker eventually became the venue of choice. Just across the road from something called The Slaughter House (! 6-0 came flooding back 2013/14), this pub had all the right moves. Massive flat screen - ‘check’. Estrella under a fiver - ‘check’, punters who couldn’t give tiny rats arse who was playing - ‘check’. The only spanner in the works being the lack of commentary, I was in the land of Motown for the whole game. There’s something quite soothing about watching 22 men run around a pitch to the dulcet tones of the Berry Gordy gang, something which takes the edge off ‘the pain’. Even the etched gawp across Emery's face halfway through the first 45 was played out to “say a little prayer”, which I think Unai might be doing this morning.
Apparently for 17 years marriage the present you give is furniture (good job we brought that bed Mrs S), and yesterday's opening 30 mins was much like a visit to Oak Furniture Land, or at least being subjected to the mindless commercial in a dark room with no windows. The team news saw Guendouzi (only 2 years old in 2001, god I feel old) start along side Xhaka in a 4-2-3-1 formation; Iwobi coming in for Ramsey, and up front our goal-crazy, goal-machine Aubameyang (he eats goals). Refreshing to see Emery make changes - but Xhaka still in? I had doubts.
Chelsea started strong, taking all the knowledge gained from Arsenal’s opening game against City, pressing our back four into errors and playing cute little dinks into space behind our defence, which repeatedly seemed to cause Mustafi and Sokratis FFS moments. Ozil was missing, Xhaka was chasing shadows and Bellerin was having another difficult time up against Alonso and Pedro. The goal was coming and on 9 minutes the aforementioned delivered. The ball played behind Bellerin, who couldn’t stop Alonso finding Pedro for a tap in. Heads dropped and Arsenal were rocking all over the place; Emery scratching his head a la “what’s going on?”. At this stage Chelsea were fitter, sharper and stronger.
Then came 5 mins which summed it all up; Bellerin surprisingly finding himself in space crossing for Aubameyang for a tap in, surely..... no, our goal-machine choosing to go high. That miss was taken out back and given extra cheese, double bacon and extra large fries 90 seconds later, as a simple long ball caught Mustafi asleep and he just couldn’t defend against Morata, who cut inside and wrong footed Cech. 2-0 “every little bit hurts”, was the look on Aubameyang’s face.
Our ability to miss open goals punctuated the rest of the half - a further 4 tap-ins where presented; thankfully we managed to bag a couple. Mykitarian first via Iwobi, and then Iwobi himself finishing well from 5 yards, the young Nigerian having a strong last 20 mins of the half. At the break it was a case of both defences being poor, but Arsenal not being able to go in ahead felt like an opportunity missed.
During the break I had a quick look at how we've done at Stamford Bridge over the past 10 seasons.....
Lost: 6 Drawn: 1 Won: 1 (The RVP show)
Emery’s liking for hooking players that are under-performing was felt at half-time as Xhaka failed to make the restart, Torriera replacing him.....I can’t see The Swiss Cheese grater making the 11 against West Ham. If the end of the first was all about Arsenal dominating, the second was about Arsenal sitting on what they had, as if they felt so lucky to be in at 2-2 a point would a good thing. That lack of belief seemed to run through the team and ultimately made us pay the price. A sub for Chelsea bringing on Hazard on 60 mins felt like a manager going for the kill. Emery countered bringing on Ramsey for the hapless Ozil, another one in danger next weekend. I’ve always believed Ozil had a clause in his contract at being subbed, and judging by his face I think he believed it too. World Cup hangover? Maybe. I’d give him a few weeks on the bench. Lacazette entered the fray, and for a brief 5 minutes we looked dangerous until a sloppy overhit pass back into defence by the Frenchman found its way to Hazard on the left; he did his Hazard thing (Real Madrid, cheque book, please), our little tormentor giving Alonso a tap-in from close range through Petr Cech’s legs. 3-2 on 80 mins, game over.
For Emery there is so much work to do. My wife planted flowers outside our house six weeks ago, and at the moment there’s a lot of growth, but we have no idea if it’s just weeds. A bit like Arsenal, something's happening. Maybe after West Ham we will have a better idea.
Cech: Could do nothing about any of the goals, kicked long today more than last week but I still think he dithers a bit in possession, thus creating drama when there is none.
Bellerin: Got forward well but caught out defending and easily beaten, could be time for Lichsteiner.
Mustafi: All over the place in the first half, a bit more stable in the second.
Sokratis: Just isn't quick enough or aware enough for the Premier League on this showing.
Monreal: The best of our defenders, but that's not saying much.
Xhaka: Truly woeful and rightly hooked at half-time, needs to go on a course.
Guendouzi: Energetic and good with the ball, not everything works but he's always looking forward, and as pointed out earlier, he was only two in 2001....Jeeze Louise!
Ozil: Was he playing? Oh - there he is, wearing the number ten shirt!
Iwobi: Put in a real shift, got an assist and a goal.
Mkhitaryan: Poor game but scored; wouldn't play him against West Ham.
Aubameyang: Couldn't hit a barn door with a banjo. Off day.
SUBS: Ramsey: ran a lot 6/10. Torriera: spots danger but causes some as well 6/10 Lacazette: Looked sharp for first 5 mins but made an error for the winner 4/10
On to West Ham, a must win!