Is it too much of a dramatization on my part to call Arsenal's 5-3 beating of Chelsea a slaughter? Perhaps. But as a fan of the American television series CSI, the murder metaphor is too tasty to ignore, especially when some of the analyses I do on the blog, at least in my mind, resemble an autopsy. So allow me to indulge myself. We have a dead body in our hands and we need to know what happened.
What I'm trying to get at, in a rather long-winded manner, is that while the defensive mistakes contributed in a major way to Chelsea's loss, we should not focus on the defense as the ONLY reason why we lost. Chelsea had plenty of good chances in the first half, in the opening minutes even, to go way ahead of Arsenal and didn't. So, in this Part I of autopsy, we will look at some of the short comings from Chelsea's attack. (Don't worry, we will talk about the high defensive line in Part II.)
|Picture 1.1 Mata's Pass to Cole|
Not even 2 minutes on the clock and Juan Mata (light blue square) curves the Arsenal's defense wide open with a delicious pass from Chelsea's half. His right-footed ball is perfect for Ashley Cole (yellow square), who speeds behind Arsenal defense on the left flank. Fernando Torres (red square), meanwhile, is looking to make a move.
|Picture 1.2 Cole's Pass to Torres|
Cole (yellow) then bombs down the left before making a pass for Torres (red). Under pressure from Koscielny, Torres side-foots the ball off target with his right foot. To be fair to Torres, the chance was more difficult than it looked, especially with Koscielny breathing down his neck. But the Spaniard could have done better -- maybe take the shot with his weaker left or control the ball to and try to get a better shot with his right.
The bottom line is he should have at least hit the target. And a goal at that stage of the game will not only be an advantage in terms of result but also in terms of the psychology and the morale of the team. But it was not meant to be.
Sturridge's Bad Decision
|Picture 2.1 Bosingwa's Pass to Sturridge|
A few minutes after the first Chelsea chance, Jose Bosingwa (light blue square) puts Daniel Sturridge (yellow square) on the right with a special pass through rows of Arsenal players. The England youngster uses his pace well to get to the ball ahead of Arsenal's Andre Santos but...
|Picture 2.2 Sturridge with the Ball on the Right|
... he fails to make the right decision. Sturridge (yellow) was in that position to square the ball to oncoming Torres (red square) in the center as the silver line in Picture 2.2 suggest. From there, it would have been an easy tap in for Chelsea's number 9. But instead, Sturridge hung on to the ball a second too long and when he finally let it go, it was neither a shot nor a pass -- an easy save for Szczesny.
If Chelsea were two goals ahead of Arsenal within 5 minutes from kick off, who knows, this game could have been dead and buried in the first half. What's worse is that this is not the only chance that Sturridge squandered in this game.
|Picture 3.1 Lampard's First Time Pass to Sturridge|
This chance came after Chelsea has taken the lead via Lampard header at the 14th minute. Arsenal, just before the Chelsea goal, have also missed two good chances of their own, one by Gervinho and another by Robin van Persie, on the other end. From about the halfway line, Frank Lampard (light blue square) makes a master class first-time pass to Sturridge (yellow square) on the right. Again, the Chelsea forward did very well to make that run in between the Arsenal defense, but he failed to take full advantage.
|Picture 3.2 Sturridge Shoots|
Sturridge lets the ball bounce once or twice and then makes a complete hash of it. He did not connect properly with his left foot for the shot and missed the target.
Even if we were to say that the two previous misses by Chelsea and Arsenal cancelled out each other, at this point in the game, Chelsea could have been, again, 2 goals in front -- a state of comfort we failed to achieve on the day. With a two-goal cushion, the game could be very different for Chelsea. The nerves would have calmed down. There will no longer be a need to initiate attack: it would be Arsenal's job. The midfield can slow down and take control of the game while the attack waits for counter-attacking opportunities (which was exactly what Arsenal did when they took the lead in the second half).
Looking at all the chances, and the goals, that Arsenal had later in the game, someone might say that these misses by Chelsea in the first half do not matter. But I don't believe that for a second. The texture of a football game changes with every events on the pitch. And, I think that Chelsea could have been heading to a comfortable victory if chances like these were taken. Just like our inability to keep clean sheets, this is not a new problem. We missed plenty of chances against Manchester United too. And if we can do a better job of finishing, we could have at least gotten a draw against QPR last week.
Poor finishing is not the only reason why we lost the game obviously. But it should be considered as seriously as we consider the defensive mistakes we made. We will talk about those defensive mistakes in Part II. This is all for now.
Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Concerns?