Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea: Could've Been Worse

Somewhere, there is a person alive who decided this morning: "Hey, I'll give this football thing a shot. It's Arsenal, it's Chelsea...I keep hearing how big these teams are, I bet this'll be a great game!"

Somewhere, there is a person alive who will never, ever watch football again.

In a sense, this was a predictable result (in fact, I got the scoreline exactly right in predicting this on a message forum a few days back). My thinking was that the Arsenal defense would be much improved from the Wigan game with Laurent Koscielny back, whereas Chelsea would play their reserves and not exactly be themselves with one eye on next week's return leg vs. Barcelona. In the end, that was exactly what happened.

As expected, Chelsea rung in the changes, with only Petr Cech, John Terry and Gary Cahill keeping their places from the first Barca game. For us, Aaron Ramsey took over for the injured Mikel Arteta, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was preferred on the left to Gervinho. The rest of the team picked itself.

Right from the beginning, the visitors sat back with the intention of soaking up pressure and playing on the counter. What they perhaps didn't legislate for was an Arsenal side bereft of ideas or passion, listlessly shambling along in the midfield as if they were running in a tar pit. With nothing to counter, Chelsea opted to not take the initiative themselves for whatever reason. I get that they didn't want to overexert themselves with a bigger match coming, but given their precarious position in the league, it seems strange to me that they didn't make a conscious effort to jump on an Arsenal team that looked to be there for the taking.

The home side did have more of the ball, but the passing was atrocious and Ramsey in particular had yet another godawful game. He was caught in possession on several occasions (more than once by the otherwise anonymous Fernando Torres) and offered nothing going forward. The absence of Arteta will be keenly felt on this evidence,

Still, the Gunners had the closest approximation to actual chances in the early going. Tomas Rosicky was unsuccessful on a long drive, while a gorgeous set piece from Theo Walcott was not quite met by Robin van Persie on the far post. The men in blue did manage a few efforts though, Wojceich Szczesny easily saving from Boswinga before needing a better one to keep out Florent Malouda.

A few minutes later, a wild foray out of his area from Szczesny was avoided by Salomon Kalou, but the Arsenal defenders prevented him from making anything of the chance.

The best chance of the game fell to Laurent Koscielny, though. Right before the stroke of halftime, a long free kick from RVP was met well by the completely unmarked Frechman, the Chelsea defense in complete tatters for the only time on the day. Cech was helplessly beaten, but the ball solidly struck the crossbar and skittered out to safety.

Yes, kids...with 42 minutes gone, our only chance to win the game came and went. The above accounts for just about the sum total of interesting incidents in the first half, and it still easily outshines what was to come.

Have I mentioned that this was an absolutely putrid match of football?

The second half amounted to this, really:

  • Half the world got yellow-carded, often for innocuous challenges. Well done, Mike Dean!
  • Theo Walcott went off injured, and his season is done.
  • RVP, under pressure, could only shovel a weak shot into Cech's body.
  • Arsene Wenger made yet more baffling substitutions, with the excellent Rosicky taken off for Abou Diaby and the Ox was withdrawn so that Andre Santos could play left wing. Meanwhile, Ramsey played all 90. Again.
  • Diaby somehow managed to go all 30 minutes or so without re-injuring himself. Miracles do happen!

That seriously was it. The resistable force met the moveable object, and the result was a 0-0 where they could have played until the sun went nova and came up with the same scoreline.

On the bright side, this means that it would take a historic collapse for Chelsea to overtake us for 3rd, while our nearest and dearest matched our result at Queens Park Rangers. The downer was that Newcastle won, but all in all this could have been a lot worse for our Champions League ambitions.

Still, this is yet more evidence that we need serious strengthening in the off-season. I just that the manager finally agrees.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

 Szczesny 7, Gibbs 7, Koscielny 8, Vermaelen 7, Sagna 7, Oxlade-Chamberlain 6 (Santos 6), Rosicky 7 (Diaby 6), Ramsey 5, Song 6, Walcott 7 (Gervinho 6), van Persie 6

Man of the Match:  He nearly got the winner, and while I failed to mention it above, he made one absolute world-class tackle on Daniel Sturridge to prevent a scoring chance. It's among the easiest selections I've had all season - Laurent Koscielny takes it for me.