Stylish and steely: those are words that together you don’t often associate with Arsenal, but those were also the exact words Arsene used to describe our team’s performance against Chelsea in his post-match interview, and it was so apt.
It was such a complete and accomplished showing, one which was vital for the pride of Arsenal Football Club, the team and Arsene himself, against a fellow London team that has dominated us for the best part of a decade.
The match started tentatively with both teams sizing each other up and offering no wholehearted attack, perhaps mindful that other top contenders – Liverpool, City, Utd and Spurs – had won their matches and would not risk losing and being cut further adrift in the search for a win.
Nonetheless, in the 11th minute, Alexis showed that he and Arsenal had other plans when he showed awareness, tenacity, strength, pace, composure and and technique by deftly chipping Courtois when through on goal, having dispossessed a sluggish Cahill around the halfway line. From then on, Arsene and his boys never looked back.
Iwobi whom a lot of positive things have been spoken of recently here on Arsenal Imbued, by Arsene and the media in general was having another masterpiece and in the 14th minute he took out the entire Chelsea back-line with a diagonal pass that released Bellerin into the right side of their box-18 from where he squared the ball to an unmarked Theo to tap in – with such vision, speed-of-thought, composure and precision, it’s sometimes hard to believe Iwobi is still only 20. He reminds you of Pires with his height and grace on the ball.
With such vision, speed-of-thought, composure and precision, it’s sometimes hard to believe Iwobi is still only 20.
Great as it was to go two goals up within 15 minutes, you also felt Chelsea had enough time to come back into the game if we were sloppy. As if to underline that point Costa twice played in Willian on the right hand of our penalty area in the 20th and 23rd minute and was only denied, firstly, by a very narrow angle of shooting and subsequently by Koscielny and Coquelin blocks.
However, all that fear was put to rest in the 39th minute when our solid defensive unit gave us a platform for a counter-attack brilliantly led by Ozil who showed pace, vision, and determination to not only play Alexis in on goal but to get on the end of a return pass(chip) and volley in our third.
A deserving end to a first half that the manager described as ‘nearly perfect’ – the only sore point being the injury to Coquelin.
When Xhaka replaced Coquelin towards the end of the first half, it was with mixed feelings; on the one hand, one quality player was replacing another (When last did Arsene have that luxury in the no. 4 position?), on the other hand, you wondered if it would not upset our defensive organization.
Another minor concern was Xhaka’s red-card record, although not with Arsenal.
Giving our history of red cards against Chelsea (we have a record high 7 cards against them in the EPL and 3 in the last two matches), it was vital not to make any reckless tackles or get involved in avoidable squabbles that would reduce us to 10 men and offer them a way back.
That maturity, street-wiseness and tactical awareness was exactly what our second half performance was all about. We contained Chelsea so easily that they didn’t register a shot on target until the 80th minute.
This defensive resolve was best underlined when in the 72nd min Bellerin chased down an equally rapid Pedro to nick the ball off him as he was bearing down on goal with only Cech to beat. This aspect of our performance is what would have pleased Arsene the most and would serve as a template for future matches against top opposition.
Overall, the 3-0 scoreline did not flatter us at all. It was indeed fair reward for a complete and masterful performance.
Alexis can indeed be our Suarez
Arsene Wenger in the opening week of the new season said he believed Sanchez could be our Suarez:
He has similar qualities and good timing to run behind the defenders…
I was one of many who started to doubt after our first two matches of the season, but I must admit I was wrong – so it appears so far at least with his superb showing yesterday, his PSG goal and his overall record of 5 goals + 2 assists in 6 games as a center-forward this season.
Overall as an attacker for AFC, Alexis Sanchez has scored 47 goals in 100 appearances – Thierry Henry has a record of 48 in his first 100. #Brilliant – Arsene and Arsenal just have to do their best to make him sign a new contract.
Mustafi & Koscielny growing
As the games have rolled on so has the center-back partnership of Mustafi and ‘Bosscielny’ blossomed.
Keeping a clean-sheet against Chelsea – with their wide array of attacking weapons – and Costa, without even picking a single yellow-card would do their confidence a world of good. They easily nullified Costa’s physicality, Hazard’s direct dribbling, Willian’s set-piece delivery and everything else Chelsea had to offer.
It’s still an emerging parnership no doubt, but I have never felt this excited about our center-back pairing since Sol Campbell & Kolo Toure.
Did Fabregas play yesterday?
Ideal preparation for Basel
We’ve not been so fluent at the Emirates, especially in the CL, in the last year and a half, but if there’s a performance that should restore our swagger and fluidity, it is crushing CFC.
All our attacking players, including the substitutes, are brimming with confidence. Individually, they are finding form, scoring and assisting – Wengerball appears to be back to its best!
The only danger is to underestimate Basel who have proved tough opposition for Man Utd and other top premiership sides in recent seasons. If we play 85% to yesterday’s level and right from the start, we should have too much for them.
It should be a nostalgic and emotional occasion for Elneny and Xhaka and they should also have one or two handy tips for us.
Perfect anniversary present for Arsene
Eulogizing Arsene Wenger deserves a whole article of its own. The man is an absolute legend for Arsenal.
The last time he was celebrating a major landmark, his 1000th game, it was marred by a 6-0 trashing by Chelsea, so it’s only fitting that the same opponents are beaten so comprehensively to hand Wenger a special present on the occasion of his 20 years in charge of Arsenal.
Congratulations Arsene #ArseneKnows #OnlyOneArsene
What are your predictions for Arsenal vs Basel?
Can Sanchez be our Suarez?
Share your thoughts in the comments