Chelsea vs Arsenal (Stamford Bridge) in recent history is a game Arsenal usually loses without a fight, and today was no exception. So, it might sound harsh to call-out Ozil in a match where we were poor from start to finish, attack through to goal-keeper.
However, our play-maker Ozil’s performance was a perfect mirror of our performance in general, while Hazard’s was the catalyst for Chelsea’s dominant and convincing display. Simply put, we never looked like finding the creativity, combined perfectly with fast penetration, to get behind the Chelsea defence.
1st HALF (TACTICS)
Chelsea vs Arsenal at whatever venue is always a game where Chelsea concedes possession to arsenal, waits patiently for Arsenal to lose possession and then launch a counter attack. The sad thing is that, despite predicting this approach, it almost always works.
The first half was played exactly in this fashion. Chelsea won the ball in midfield, released the ball quickly to the flanks behind our fullbacks who had pushed up field, and either had easy one-on-ones against our center-backs or were running at our defenders while on the back foot.
In contrast, when we had the ball, we always took that extra touch that allowed Chelsea’s back five (not even four) or seven (Kante and Matic screening the defence) back in place. So, we were always just passing in front of their defence and not finding any real penetration.
Eventually, in the 13′ minute, off a counter attack and quick cross, Costa headed against the bar and, off the rebound, Alonso headed in and in the process clattered into Bellerin. Thankfully, the dynamic right-back looks okay.
Another area where Chelsea was better than us tactically in the first-half was in committing professional fouls early in midfield, which helped them to avoid being booked. Moses in particular stopped Monreal from breaking free down the flank in this fashion a few times.
While we struggled to create decent chances in the first half, it was important that we didn’t concede a second goal. We managed to achieve that and should even have gone in at half-time level with a free header just outside the six-yard box by Gabriel and another low shot from Ozil, both saved by Courtois on the stroke of halftime.
All in all, 1-0 to Chelsea seemed a fair outcome in a first-half where we shaded possession, had an even number of chances and Chelsea had, slightly, the better chances.
2nd HALF (TACTICS)
This pattern of pinching the ball early and launching counter-attacks continued in and we almost went behind early in the 2nd half but for koscielny running across to nick the ball off Hazard as he was running through on goal.
Hazard would finally score Chelsea’s 2nd in the 53′, running at our entire defence and beating Koscielny and Mustafi, as he attempted a last-ditch tackle, to shoot past Cech.
Credit to Wenger who in the 65′ took a gamble that you would only take when chasing a game against the lesser-lights of the league by swapping our midfield enforcer Coquelin for Giroud in a desperate bid to rescue the game.
To be honest, having witnessed Chelsea vs Arsenal in the last 10 years, my feeling at the time was more of fear (of a Chelsea demolition) than hope (of a comeback).
However, in the 77′, Welbeck and Mustafi came close to pulling us back to 2-1 but any hope of a comeback was ruthlessly extinguished when in the 85′ Fabregas scored a third after a give-away by Cech.
Giroud got a consolation in the 90′ and that was the only positive in a match that had Chelsea-win written all over it from the first whistle (if not before).
CAN ARSENAL GO TO THE NEXT LEVEL WITH OZIL?
I know many fans might disagree with my position about Ozil or even call me mad, but I am starting to think (rather, conclude) that he is one of the major reasons why we fail against big teams, especially away from home.
I don’t think Ozil is as indispensable as his pedigree, stats or price-tag suggests. People (including me) talk about how he can change games with a moment of genius or how many assists he provides, but I just think he is not forceful or penetrative enough.
The best play-makers of the past in Europe (Zidane, Okocha, Ronaldinho) could force the issue in tough games. They would not only rely on playing the perfect through-ball, they would run and dribble past to create spaces, they would shoot from a distance or even score headers (Zidane vs Brazil, France 98) if the going got tough.
Ozil cannot score the kind of goal Hazard scored today. Granted, they have different styles of play, but Hazard also has Ozil’s vision combined with penetrative power and long-range shooting.
Ozil remains a top player, but at 42M and with designs of winning the CL or EPL, I’m convinced Arsenal can do better. We saw what even Mahrez did for Leicester last season (Not suggesting he is better).
WHAT ABOUT COQUELIN?
If he is not giving last minute penalty-kicks away, he is failing to break play when he has the chance right from midfield.
For the second EPL match in a row, he has failed to dispossess or at least foul an opponent running/dribbling through on goal – Hazard today and Capoue on Tuesday – and both goals have condemned us to ultimately irredeemable loses.
Again, Coquelin is a decent player, but he will not make us a truly elite club, the rank of EPL winners, again. Little wonder he does not get a France call-up three years after breaking into Arsenal first team.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? (HULL, NEXT, WILL BE TOUGH)
Chelsea vs Arsenal is one thing, Arsenal against relegation-threatened Hull, at the Emirates, is another thing.
That said, we will need to be at our absolute best to beat rejuvenated Hull who held United to a draw at Old-Trafford comfortably and have just beaten Liverpool by two goals as I write.
They haven’t just stopped losing games, they are playing well in defence and attack – it’s only a question of time before Marco Silva lands a top job.
For now, we must forget about a title challenge, as it appears destined for Stamford Bridge. We have a battle for top-four truly and well under-way.
I am and have been a massive disciple of Mr. Wenger. He has and continues to work wonders for Arsenal in many facets of the game. (You have to admire the emergence and integration of Iwobi and Bellerin in the last 2-3 years).
Nonetheless, for the first time, I find myself starting to entertain the thought or idea that while he guarantees stability and a place among the elites (CL, revenue, player attraction, overall brand), we might never be able to take that last step needed to become English or European champions.
Either way, he himself has said this summer will be decisive one way or the other.
Is this article too harsh on Ozil and Coquelin?
Share your thoughts below in the comments.