Arsene Wenger gave a fair enough assessment of his selection in his pre-match conference but followed it up with further talk of his side’s infinite talent and potential. The Gunners were never outclassed and in turn never out played Chelsea, and while the pitch may have played a part in a scrappy game, had Wenger been more concerned with his side and more with Chelsea’s the outcome might well have been different.
Arsenal started better and in the opening periods showed their class, passing the ball with much calm while the movement down the left gave the team more fluidity. As it was, Gibbs took advantage of the vacant left flank and crossed the ball for Walcott to volley home. Robin Van Persie was also in the box, Diaby was lurking on the edge and Adebayor the man who supplied the pass to Gibbs. It was unfortunate Arsenal could not keep it up and as Hiddink was quick to change things, the Gunners stayed back.
Arsene Wenger’s side looked jaded at times and it showed with Van Persie’s injury but strangely the manager looked to be playing for extra-time rather than look to force the issue. The midfield trio of Ballack, Essien and Lampard never did look to strong for Denilson, Diaby and Fabregas who have got great balance and shielding of the ball. Chelsea were quick to snap at Arsenal’s heels with their high pressure game, denied Fabregas of the ball and with the skipper not getting as much of the ball, isolated Adebayor. “We didn’t have our usual fluency,” said Wenger. “They made it physical and the pitch slowed it down. Cesc tried very hard but overall it was a scrappy game.”
In the end, Chelsea took advantage of Arsenal’s weaker defence and with a little help from Fabianski, is what separated the two teams. The Gunners already beat Chelsea on their home turf with a 4-4-1-1 with Van Persie dropping back and was always Wenger’s formation of choice in previous eras.
Wenger admits his most greatest influences was the “Total Football” Ajax team of the late 60s and early 70s. A team which was built up with the core of players from the academy and played revolutionary football. This team has got all the ingredients to rule European football for years to come but with Arsenal’s unbeaten run in domestic competitions ended, having stretched from early December, Wenger’s faith unfortunately went momentarily missing as well.