The pressing issue!
Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea
After a turbulent week which saw Aaron Ramsey finally put pen to paper, sadly for some Italian giant rather than the Gunners, reports of back room rifts and Ozil tantrums surrounding the club, the prospect of a home game against a top four side didn't exactly fill me with glee. Add to that the recent downturn in form, a Saturday night game with all it's intrusion and the fact it was *%$*(@g freezing, my trip towards the Emirates was taken under a considerable cloud without much optimism.
The team news when it arrived saw Unai plump for a diamond formation, with Ramsey at one end supporting the strikers and Xhaka at the pivot sitting in front of a back four. Ozil managed to tear himself away from his game console to make the bench.
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Sokratis, Koscielny, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Torreira, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Lacazette, Aubameyang
With the West Ham debacle still sitting in the gut it was imperative Arsenal started on the front foot, if only to keep the fans minds off the frostbite. The start was fantastic, pressing high up the pitch with energy and purpose, forcing errors in the Chelsea back line. Ramsey immediately getting through on goal but unable to finish. Lacazette and Aubameyang were closing hard, supported well by an organised midfield of Xhaka, Torriera and Guendouzi, Arsenal weren't giving Chelsea time to breathe and chances when they regained possession started to come thick and fast. On 4 minutes good work between Bellerin and Lacazette on the right hand side led to a firs time cross into the box, Aubameyang met it in front of the defender but failed to make the meaningful connection required. He claimed a corner but basically he just missed it.
Ten minutes later it was Koscielny holding his head in his hands after a pointblank header, unmarked and 5 yards out was planted straight at the Chelsea keeper. As that chance drifted over for a corner that horrible feeling came over me about, 'taking your chances', at some point Chelsea would wake up surely?
Arsenal continued to threaten and on 14 minutes took a deserved lead, Bellerin with a ow cross finding Lacazette in the box with his back to goal, the Frenchman took three delicate touches that took him away from the defender then BANG, he swivelled and launched a fierce drive up into the roof of the net. The power being too much for Arrizabalaga. 1-0 to the Gunners, a wonderful goal!
Chelsea were rocking and a few minutes later Aubameyang robbed Azpilicueta and was through on goal but was unable to finish, as he stumbled 10 yards out. At the other end Arsenal were defending well but nearly got sucker punched after a looping pass by David Luiz found Pedro onside (played on by Kolasinac), his first time lob looked like it was going to drop into the far corner, it didn't and was closely monitored by Koscielny. Reckon he would have cleared it.
Chelsea were enjoying a bit more possession but were being hassled out of it by good Arsenal work, even Lacazette and Aubameyang were chasing back and defending, where had this Arsenal team been hiding all season?
Aubameyang was trying his hardest to get on the scoresheet and nearly scored an absolute worldy with ten minutes to go until halftime, Kolsasinac bursting down the left hand side and crossing to find the Gabon striker with his back to goal, the resultingoverhead acrobatic effort went about an inch past the post.
"ooooh", was the collective shout from the Emirates.
Minutes later that "ooooh" turned into a full Woop Woop, as Koscielny doubled the lead. A free kick taken by Torreira found Kolasinac who headed the ball back to Sokratis. His fits time little 'dink' into the box caught out about three defenders and Koscielny stooped to head the ball home, .... I say head, a kinda shoulder. 2-0 to the Arsenal and well deserved!
There was still time for Chelsea to hit the post from a header, but as the halftime whistle blew the feeling was "a job well done".
No need for halftime changes from Unai, how could he change anything after that first 45!
Chelsea were always going to come out strong and they did, enjoying lots of possession, without ever really troubling Leno, "passive possession" is what that was called under Wenger and Arsenal fans know it well. The best chances fell to Arsenal first Kolasinac through on gaol chose to cut back when a shot was on and then Bellerin free on the right, delaying to long when Lacazette was free in the middle, the cross not clearing the first defender. That was two more goals Arsenal could have had and when you add them to the first half misses from both sides, the game could have been 6-2 by the 66th minute!
Alas that wasn't to be and Arsenal fans wistful thinking came back down to earth with a thud a few minutes later. Unai had made substitutions, taking off Lacazette and Ramsey and bringing on Iwobi and Maitland Niles, much to the disappointment of some fans, Ramsey yes, but Lacazette? Still, Maitland Niles in the centre would be interesting, unfortunately, he never got the chance as Hector Bellerin went down injured, waving his arm furiously it was obvious something horrible had happened. The stretcher arrived and off he went along with his season, very sad, and now meaning Maitland got switched to RB with Elneny coming on to the centre.
Ozil? well he was just dreaming about his cosy front room and pixels!
Maitland Niles is not a right back, he's very quick like Hector and quite calm in possession, he has lapses of concentration and defensively zero awareness of what's behind him. Despite a couple of good interventions from the young midfielder most of Chelsea's remaining work came down his side, Arsenal now had a weakness and it was there to be exploited. Iwobi had been brought on to play from the left and take long punts from Leno, the idea was for him to use his power either to hold it or get something on it with his head, after about five attempts, he achieved nothing, "must have lead in his boots" unable to jump or even look interested in heading the ball, it took Sokratis to go over and have a word before he got what he was supposed to be doing.
Giroud got on, much to the delight of the Arsenal faithful, (what they would have done if he'd got a hatrick I'm not sure, but enough respect was shown), but apart from that Chelsea failed to make Leno work and Arsenal were happy to see the game out including it's six minutes of injury time.
Game over - 2-0 and another clean sheet, (well that's two now). I great all round team performance showing Arsenal fans what the team is capable of if the right pegs are in the right holes, unfortunately for Unai, another peg has pegged it, so the search for a replacement RB within the club is now on. I like Maitland Niles but I fear his lapses in concentration, maybe 'living the dream' Jenkinson is the way forward for now.
Positives: The collective press
Negatives: Another season ending injury!
Leno: Little to do all game but still pushes when a catch is on. 8/10
Bellerin: Best player on the pitch until he got crocked, Arsenal will miss him. 8/10
Sokratis: A man beast and a leader in this game. 8/10
Koscielny: If this season is the end then what a cameo, glimpse from the past. MOM 9/10
Kolasinac: Improving defensively and in a four no less. 8/10
Xhaka: Worked hard and looked comfortable in a pressing three. 7/10
Torreira: A small man beast. Constantly aware and gave Hazard no time at all. 9/10
Guendouzi: Ran all day and another that improved in system of three. 8/10
Ramsey: Faded a bit in the second half but was everywhere in the first. 8/10
Lacazette: A great goal and a great performance, unlucky to be subbed. 9/10
Aubameyang: Missed another load of sitters. 7/10
Matiland Niles: Made a couple of good challenges but struggled positionally at RB. 6/10
Iwobi: Can't head a ball. 6/10
Elneny: Ran a round a lot. 5/10
Next up ManUre in the cup and another night ruined by the TV companies... cheers!