Morning Positive people,
In contrast to yesterday’s blazing sunshine a still day with patches of brightness this morning. An apt metaphor for my mood over the past 24 hours in relation to football.
First, the game itself I think, because that is what football is about. I often barely mention the content of the game but today, I find it helpful to remind myself at least what took place, on the pitch, with the ball.
An early start at the Bridge but the concerns that some had voiced in relation to tiredness after our return from Zagreb did not appear to trouble us in a bright opening 15 minutes when the home side were forced back. Sanchez was pressing Ivanovic hard. Theo put in a couple of good runs from deep with balls played in behind the Chelsea centre back which caught them both momentarily flat footed and required a quick recovery in one instance and Begovic’s help in the other.
After that opening quarter Chelsea came back into it a bit more, Hazard was involved on their left and Fabregas was knocking some useful one-twos around the edge of the box. Kosc and Gabriel solid, Bellerin busy but in control. Aaron working nicely and the source of our one good first half shot. A stoppage for a knee injury to le Coq was worrying especially having seen the replays but, surprisingly perhaps, he was up and trotting after a sit down. Tough boy and his contest with Matic was a real pleasure to watch as both tackle hard and neither has a propensity for theatrics. For the remainder of the half the sides traded punches. No alarms at either end for the keepers. It appeared the first half would close at 0-0 with both probably neither surprised nor disappointed at the stalemate.
And then there was an incident, more of which I shall come to in due course below.
The second half commenced in an entirely different mood, ten men, a sense of outrage, and also the withdrawal of our midfield enforcer, with the relief of his earlier apparent recovery erased. A much harder task, but do-able against a side who in the opening 45 minutes had not demonstrated much in terms of attacking quality or threat on our goal. PSG had shown how to tame these blue “babies”, and surely we could do the same. My horizon for the game’s result had reduced, I admit, from the three point win to the hard earned but entirely deserved draw.
And then the Zouma goal !! Like you I watched it then, and I have watched it since. I could point the finger at Sanchez and/or Monreal so far as trying to stop the Chelsea player, or Kosc for playing the Chelsea line onside but getting underneath the ball. I There was a collective ‘switching’-off’ which the home side took advantage off. No one player was culpable. I know, I KNOW ( and you probably do too) it was a move they have practised and practised on the training ground, and you know we have practised defending against on our training ground. And yet there we were, a goal down just eight minutes into the second half and with the hill having risen in gradient appreciably.
Nevertheless, and to the credit of every player in an Arsenal shirt we did press forward at 0-1, we did take the game to Chelsea, we pushed them back and made one great chance on the hour with Zouma and Cahill floundering that Alexis put over the top from four yards out. It was no easy chance, and Begovic was well positioned to frustrate the Chilean, but the miss a symptom of our current goal scoring malaise. In its way the miss was as crucial a moment in the game as many other more vividly remembered ones. The game went to and fro. The Ox and Giroud appeared, and even with ten men the handbrake was definitely off.
Chelsea seemed to pull themselves together again and began to press us. Santi’s second yellow compounded our misery and Chelsea’s comfort. After that we rather lost momentum though not our organisation. I noticed a couple of minutes before his exit he had failed to keep up in midfield when chasing a Chelsea player so I think with so much work to do his day was done anyway. Pity because he had led from the front as a captain of the side should.
I can’t be arsed to describe the second Chelsea goal. We all saw it and it is not worth further reference.
Moving on, inevitably, from the football we have the controversies of the afternoon. Or strictly speaking just two controversies. First is the Spanish Brazilian Diego Costa who is, it appears widely agreed (save for one deluded Portuguese) a nasty piece of work, with no interest in playing football and, judging from yesterday’s and his recent displays, not much talent for it. I do not want to watch his shit. If his performance is what football is about then stadiums would be empty and television cameras elsewhere. The disappointing thing yesterday was, as Arsene correctly pointed out, Costa behaves like that game after game, week after week. And yet we, and particularly Gabriel, and the referee fell for it. As With the Zouma goal I have no doubt at all that the squad, every single one of them was fully aware and carefully briefed about Costa and yet ……..
If you want evidence the headline of the match report this morning on Arsenal.com it has us beaten by goals from Hazard and Costa ! Or is that headline humour?
Which brings me to Mr Dean and despite my general respectful support and effort to understand the difficulty of refereeing a game of professional football his performance yesterday was poor. I thought the performance of both assistant referees and of Mr Oliver as 4th official left a lot to be desired also.
I have no dispute in Dean or any damn referee pulling out cards and sending off players. There are rules in football, despite what Mourinho would have you believe, and if those rules are broken then punishments, even the red card sanction will follow. What I object to was his failure to apply those cards and those punishments evenly and to despatch the prime source of violence and bad behaviour to the dressing room when he should have done so (see above). Dean was guilty of lamentable inconsistency yesterday.
Onward we struggle towards the Lane on Wednesday, another hard contest and no time for self pity.
Enjoy your Sunday.