Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal: Blues Humble Gunners to Leave EPL a Two Horse Race

Didier Drogba scored twice as Chelsea beat Arsenal 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. The brace takes his tally against the Gunners to 12 goals in 12 games as the Pensioners returned to the top of the league while consigning Arsenal's title challenge to the history books.

Arsenal started off like a house on fire; Diaby, Song, Clichy, and Diaby all going close within the first three minutes as the Gunners took the game to their title rivals. But it was Chelsea who drew first blood after Florent Malouda's corner was flicked on by John Terry and Didier Drogba swept the ball home after shrugging off a weak challenge from Song.

It was really poor defending by the youngster who has improved immensely this year but Drogba just pushed him off like he wasn't there.

The goal did not perturb Arsene Wenger's youngsters who flooded forward in search of the equalizer.

In setting up his team Wenger went with Walcott and Nasri out wide as a counter to Chelsea's lack of width. The tactic seemed to be working a treat as the Gunners spread the play every chance they got.

In between such play the Gunners were looking for little balls in behind the incredibly disciplined Chelsea back four for the 5'7" Andrei Arshavin to run onto.

The little Russian really should have done better in the 16th minute after Fabregas picked him out with a wonderful ball. Not realising how much time he had, the snap-shot did not trouble Petr Cech.

Minutes later Arsenal were two down. Frank Lampard picked up the ball in a central position and drove straight at the Arsenal defence throwing them into turmoil. Gael Clichy was caught in two minds on what to do and Lampard capitalised on this hesitation by putting Drogba through on goal. He duely delivered his second of the match and his 12th goal against Arsenal in 12 games.

It was another piece of terrible defending that completely eroded all of Arsenal's good play. Clichy is one of the best full backs in the world but he has been well below par since he recovered from injury.

Before the game, much had been made of the Gunners growing inferiority complex against Chelsea and United, however in the first 20 minutes of this game they looked good going forward but terrified in defence.

As the half wore on the physical dominance enjoyed by the Pensioners began to show as their disciplined side closed every avenue of attack for Arsene Wenger's men and looked the more likely to score next.

The hesitation and panic in the Arsenal team was evident in a simple collision between Song and Walcott when they collided with each other following another Chelsea foray.

In the true nature of a predator, Chelsea sensed this nervousness and went for the killer goal as their ruthless streak kicked in. This season the Pensioners have only dropped two points at Stamford Bridge.

Only the sublime Cesc Fabregas in midfield showed any kind of refusal to accept defeat.

Nice on the ball, Arsenal were simply atrocious off the ball and Wenger had a mammoth task to get his team back into the match. Arshavin as he mentioned himself earlier in the week is not the answer up front and the game was screaming for Bendtner to come on and at least offer a physical presence to shake Terry and Carvalho.

Wenger chose to stay with his original starting XI and you could almost sense Carlo Ancellotti rubbing his hands with glee.

Chelsea went for the kill almost immediately with Lampard putting Anelka through in a carbon copy move to the one that Drogba scored from. But this time William Gallas was up to the task and took the ball off the toe of the French forward as he was about to pull the trigger.

Minutes later the Pensioners went close again as the superlative Michael Ballack skipped past Fabregas on the edge of the box before firing tamely past Almunia's far post. The signs were there, Arsenal had to act now or lose heavily.

Bendtner was brought into the fray for the anonymous Theo Walcott and all of a sudden the Gunners began to eke out chances. With their options out wide now restricted, Arsenal brought Arshavin into the game and he started to open up Chelsea with clever runs.

The physical presence that Bendtner brought to the table also came into play. Carvalho got involved in a wrestling match with the big Dane and gave away a free kick just outside the box.

Fabregas stood up. Captain and talisman all rolled into one and not scared of taking responsibility, the inspirational Spaniard's brilliant effort was clawed away from the bottom corner by the outstretched Petr Cech.

It was to be as close to the goal as Arsenal were to get in the second half as a professional Chelsea side closed up shop. Brilliantly marshaled by the on-form Cech and their own talismanic captain, John Terry, the Pensioners were just too "cute" for Arsene Wenger's team.

While the Gunners went on to create some half chances, you always had the feeling that Chelsea were just toying with them and that the Blues could easily move up another gear if the moment was called for.

Salt was almost rubbed into old wounds when Ashley Cole almost added a third only for Almunai to clear. But the game was really over at half time.

The French manager has tried every trick in the book to cajole this young Arsenal team into the title race. From screaming down the house at Anfield at half time, to blasting his team after their defeat to Manchester United last week, to telling them they were good enough to win the league.

In the end, and this defeat really means the end Arsenal's title ambitions, it shows that Arsene Wenger and his team have come up short yet again. It was a valiant effort while it lasted and now the title race is down to two.