Chelsea will take all three points from this London Derby at Stamford Bridge, but after taking an early two-goal lead, the Blues were less impressive after the break as Arsenal came back into the game but failed to find an equaliser in a nervy last ten minutes. Here are five quick observations…
Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez opted to include all three of Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, but rather than play Oscar on the right and Hazard on the left, the two players actually played on the opposite flanks. This was the most fluid that Chelsea have looked in attack under Benitez, with Mata given more freedom to drift into the channels, allowing Oscar and Hazard to occupy central areas from time to time. Mata and Hazard played particularly close together, with the Belgian still always looking to come inside despite not starting on his favoured left wing. Deeper in midfield, Frank Lampard was partnered by Ramires, with the Brazilian highlighting on a number of occasions in the first half, his excellent ability as an energetic dribbler from deep central positions.
After 16 minutes Chelsea were two goals up, and both were the result of poor positioning from Arsenal’s right back Bacary Sagna. The home side took the lead on six minutes after Mata received the ball on the left hand side of the 18 yard box, where Sagna should have been marking him, after Chelsea broke on a quick counter attack and switched the play from the right wing over to the left. Chelsea’s second was the result of Ramires this time taking advantage of the space in behind Sagna, as Chelsea yet again hit Arsenal on the counter. This time round, the Brazilian was fouled by Arsenal’s goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny, and Lampard scored the resulting penalty.
As Chelsea dominated the first half, it was noticeable how deep Arsenal began to sit in order to try and soak up pressure. Jack Wilshere had initially started in the hole, ahead of Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin in a 4-2-3-1 but after around 20 minutes, the Englishman was playing just as deep, with Arsenal in a 4-5-1 off the ball. With so many Arsenal shirts in their defensive third of the pitch, there was plenty of room between their midfield and Olivier Giroud up front, and as a result both Lampard and Ramires held their positions and sprayed the ball from side to side with ease, allowing both Ashley Cole and Cesar Azplicueta to push up from full back. As the diagram shows, there were no tackles made in this zone of the pitch throughout the 90 minutes, and only three interceptions.
Walcott vs. Cole
With Arsenal improving after the break, one of the most exciting battles on the pitch involved Cole against Theo Walcott down the Arsenal right hand side, as the away team looked to get in behind the Chelsea defence. Cole was forced into making three tackles and six clearances, whilst Walctott completed four dribbles over the course of the match and was fouled twice. Walcott had also been incredibly hard working when Cole pushed forward in the first half and the Arsenal winger’s goal was well deserved on 58 minutes. Santi Cazorla played a fantastic through ball through the heart of the Chelsea defence, into the patch of Walcott who had curved his run superbly from the right wing, and applied an excellent finish past Petr Cech.
With Mikel Arteta unavailable, Francis Coquelin was given an important role for Arsenal today in dealing with not just the movement of Hazard, Oscar and Mata, but also the drive of Lampard and Ramires from deep. The Frenchman did a very decent job in his holding role and recorded some impressive stats; completing 29 of 35 passes and three of four take-ons, as well as making three tackles and an impressive six interceptions. However Man of the Match was Ramires who completed 84% of his passes, three dribbles, won a penalty, made three interceptions and a staggering nine tackles.
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