Drogba-efficient Chelsea tame Arsenal’s meek attack

Didier Drogba was in inspired form once again for Chelsea against Arsenal but despite monopolising possessesion, the Gunners will have been disappointed not to have created more clear-cut opportunities.

When Arsenal decided to go down the youth policy route, Arsène Wenger was aware his side were going to be behind in terms of mentality. It may seem intangible but that know-how, tactical understanding and resilience is the missing ingredient and Wenger, in private and in the post-match interview grudgingly admits that. “They [Chelsea] are more experienced. They are 29, we are 23,” he said after the 2-0 defeat. And before the game he added: “We have really top quality. What we want to add is that fraction of belief. It is a lack of experience because when you have never won you make it more difficult and bigger than it is. And that’s the problem of this team at the moment.”

That gulf was exercised yesterday as Chelsea displayed a stoic determination to stay compact and lent some of that experience to drawing and conceding fouls while on the attack, looked to get numbers forward to exploit Arsenal’s gaps with Didier Drogba particularly in potent form. Indeed the Ivorian even sought fit to drop deep on a number of occasions so his side could retain possession and relieve the pressure that Arsenal were building. “Today I give credit to Chelsea for their defending,” Wenger said. “They had always the guy who came back in the box. They didn’t make silly mistakes. They have fantastic defenders and I believe many times they were out of position and managed to get back, especially one situation with Nasri in the second half and another with Bendtner.”

“Exceptional talent” it is hoped will carry Arsenal to the next level and for much of the defeat to Chelsea, that talent found itself moving left and right in front of the opposition’s penalty area. Arsenal lacked bite and despite monopolising possession, the second half was always going to be difficult with Chelsea defending deep. The key, it seemed, was whether Arsenal could score first otherwise the later proceedings was likely to be a repeat of the Manchester United game where openings would be hard to come by. But, the statistics were against them with the Gunners having only scored once in the first fifteen minutes in the league thus far (Burnley 1-1) and after Didier Drogba’s header gave them an early lead, it always looked a tough ask. “We were still a bit uncertain at the start of the game. When you went into it [the game] we were completely dominant. That’s how I explain that we conceded the first corner.”

Realistically, there was only one starter that was missing for Arsenal – Robin van Persie – and ever since his injury, it seems the team is trying to recreate the same dynamics he provided. Andrey Arshavin could not provide the same movement and with his natural instincts telling him to drop short, John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho were able to snuff that out. Theo Walcott was subdued although on one part he did minimise Ashley Cole’s forward forays and was a willing worker. Arsenal’s best threat seemingly comes from Cesc Fabregas and Wenger will do well to incorporate the Spaniard’s creativity higher up the pitch. Maybe a 4-2-1-3 is a more sustainable alternative? as Abou Diaby looked inhibited from getting in the box despite being one of Arsenal’s strongest runners although it seemed Wenger told him to take a more cautious approach. Emmanuel Eboue did breathe life back into Arsenal’s attack with his runs inside from right-back and Samir Nasri stationed wide to stretch play. Nicklas Bendtner  gave the side a direct outlet when he came on but to complement his presence, Arsenal needed crosses and willing movement in the box – but that was at a premium despite having oceans of ball in wide areas. The performance wasn’t bad – just the end product was missing.

Wenger will be right to see his side grow but in the meantime the two constants from his post-match analysis are effectiveness and organisation. The side must compress space better when not in possession as the style means defence will be disorientated. And in attack, the mentality needs to change to create more urgency. Bendtner may just be the key to click things in to place again but with only one point gained from a possible nine, in the league at least, it seems a little too late.

Chelsea Team Statistics Arsenal
2 Goals 0
2 1st Half Goals 0
5 Shots on Target 2
7 Shots off Target 8
1 Blocked Shots 4
4 Corners 8
12 Fouls 15
7 Offsides 1
1 Yellow Cards 2
0 Red Cards 0
83% Passing Success 81%
36 Tackles 28
69.4% Tackles Success 85.7%
41.6 Possession 58.4
37.4 Territorial Advantage 62.6

24 thoughts on “Drogba-efficient Chelsea tame Arsenal’s meek attack

  1. In your last article you highlighted the problems of zonal marking and that was exploited again in the second goal. All four players went to track Anelka, leaving Drogba free. The attack started with Song moving too far forward and Lampard ran into that space. Song needs to be more disciplined and understand that he is there to prevent the counter attack.

    The first goal was just bad defending against a side that is lethal from corners. Amazing.

    Upfront, Nasri was the biggest threat but maybe Chelsea were just content to let him have the ball. We need to declare this Arshavin experiment over now. He is not a false nine and playing him there takes away everything he is good at.

    Ancelloti abandoned the diamond for this game and played 433 to exploit the gaps he knew would be there. Wenger is clearly unwilling to make such compromises but he is leaving his young players exposed and needs to take responsibility for that.

    1. Good observations. I agree that Song should have played a bit deeper. Even against Man Utd, he got caught up the field a few times. I think Diaby’s power, strength and directness should have been utilised higher up the pitch. Why not drop Cesc deeper and play Diaby higher up? Diaby will attract players and create space for Cesc with his direct running. At least it will make sense in lobbing crosses into the box when he is there.
      Chelsea’s formation was very identical to ours. Ancelotti ditched the diamond for the 4-3-3. We were playing some sort of a 4-2-1-3. But Lampard and Ballack were playing at either side of Mikel.
      We need to press aggressively and compress play at least in the first 15 mins to avoid conceding space. Its time we put an end to the counter attacks which always result in goals. In the first half we had 10 shots but they had only 3 shots and scored 2 goals. Second half was completely different. Chelsea were miserly in defending and were happy to just sit back and do what they do best. Arsene should have brought on Bendtner and Eboue at the break, when it was obvious teams were going to sit back and defend. Teams employed the same strategy against Barca last season but Barca were good at compressing play. The difference between Barca and us is that Barca look to compress play in their own half when they loose the ball but we retreat to our half to look to launch a counter attack.



  3. The truth is that we were better than Chelsea in everything except scoring.

    We had more chances than they had, and we should have scored.

    Stats are no consolation. What we needed was to take points off them.

    But the stats of the game does show that we were better. We tackled better, passed better, created more chances & did not even make more mistakes as they made mistakes as well and we did not capitalise.

    The result was very harsh on Arsenal. But that’s football.

    Now the victor looks like a genius and the loser a fool. The truth is very much in between.

    Much has been made about not having a striker. Surely it must have counted for something. But Arshavin, Nasri & Cesc did have clear chances. Not being a striker doesn’t mean you get to lose your chances.

    1. Hi. Chelsea’s game plan was not to monopolise possession and take the initiative. They play the counter attack game(like most of the teams against us) so you really cannot say we played better. They executed their plan better and that was to find gaps, counter attack, sit deep and defend tightly. Arsenal’s game plan was to play possession football and rely on the creativity and movement of our players to create chances.
      Chelsea were better than us because they executed their plan perfectly and stopped us from executing our plans. We should have just finished off the chances we had.

      1. How can I not say we played better. We had more chances. Won more tackles. Passed better. Had more territory. Had more chances. Made fewer msitakes leading to chances.

        What exactly did they do better apart from score goals? And I’ve already said they did that better.

  4. Chelsea scored on a set piece for the first goal, big surprise. The marking was lax but one thing I don’t understand is why isn’t there a guy on the far post. As far as I can recall, Arsenal usually defend corners with a player at each post. If someone was there, there’s probably no goal. It’s SIMPLE errors like this that drive me crazy with this team.

    1. As Andy Gray pointed out in the post-match analysis, Arshavin was at fault because everyone and both post were marked-up but Carvalho was free at the back post but instead picking him up he kept pointing at him and passing-up taking responsibility as result Clichy left the back post to mark the near post space which Cesc was designated for the Cesc went to mark Carvalho. Thus that sequence left back post unprotected from moving Drogba.

      On the second goal, Clichy had a chance to stop Lampard turning in their own half before the counter started and to make it worse, both him and Verminator crossing over from centre to outside [and vice versa] gave Drogba the little time to get ahead of speed.

  5. “The truth is that we were better than Chelsea in everything except scoring.” — LOL, as if that means anything in football!

    “The result was very harsh on Arsenal. But that’s football.
    Now the victor looks like a genius and the loser a fool. The truth is very much in between”

    Not at all. The result was exactly the consequence of what Arsene Wenger has built. We deserved EXACTLY what we got. It doesn’t matter a DAMN about possession, chances created, number of tackles, yadayadayada.

    Last season we saw Chelsea come extremely close to eliminating the very great Barca managed by Guardiola from the CL. The only difference was one moment of magic by one of their supremely brilliant players and a generous referee.

    I thought we might have such a game-changing player in Arshavin but clearly he’s not up to it. The simple, basic FACT is that a full strength Chelsea (and Utd) have absolutely NO PROBLEM DEALING WITH THIS ARSENAL TEAM and the stats on possession/chances created/tackles are COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT. They can deal with all of that very easily.

    Burnley and Hull can contain Chelsea, we can’t. That’s right, relegation fodder can contain the hard men of Chelsea when they’re at full strength, with Drogba and a good manager–we can’t. Those teams (like Mourinho and Ferguson) modify their styles and approach when needed against tough teams. Wenger doesn’t.

    I didn’t expect a win yesterday so I wasn’t surprised. Hoped for a draw. What yesterday proved once and for all is that AW is not building a winning team. The clue is in what he said about our home game v. Utd and in the aftermath of yesterday’s game. After the Utd game, he said “we were not at our best” – we did not perform at our top level. After yesterday’s game he said the defeat was difficult to swallow because his players “gave absolutely everything” and “we were the better team” — exactly.

    Which means at our best we cannot beat a full strenth Chelsea team with Drogba playing, simple as.

    WE SIMPLY ARE NOT AS GOOD AS THEY ARE AND ANYONE WHO THINKS OTHERWISE IS A FOOL. Being technically more gifted does not make a better football team–that’s football basics. The Galacticos were brilliant so long as they had Makelele and a good balance of artists and grafters. The minute they became just a team of artists and egos, they declined. The reason Utd have won the the league in the last 3 seasons is because they have good squad players like Fletcher and Park who allow the greater talents to thrive, and who fit readily into Ferguson’s system.

    We were the better team at OT and still lost. We don’t have the cutting edge to beat Chelsea and Utd at their best and even when when they’re not at their best. AW is not building a team that has that edge. Sure, Chelsea have more money–but it’s not only about money. With the same budget, AW could’ve had a balanced team with more experienced veterans and small/technical players combined with tall/physically imposing players. But he didn’t choose to have that.

    And anyone who thinks the striker issue is irrelevant really has no clue either. We beat Utd last season at home with RVP. We beat Chelsea on their home ground with RVP. (Mind you, even with RVP yesterday I don’t think we would’ve won but we had a good chance of a draw).

    So once again, Chelsea easily contained us with their physicality, gamesmanship and clinical finishing. Unless something changes dramatically and quickly, I will just learn to accept that we will be 3rd or 4th in the league for years to come, enjoy the football on offer, and just learn to live with this nearly-men status until we’re back up again. It will be years of course and–unles AW makes serious changes in personnel and (more importantly) training–it may not happen until AW is gone. We simply have no answer to the tactical acumen and physicality of Utd and Chelsea.

    All the creativity and possession in the world doesn’t change that basic fact.

    1. marcus,

      Why did you bother to write so many words. I’ve heard all those cliches from the pundits 200 times.

      Any personal insight you bring to the issue?

      The fact is that, your actions on the pitch are what should get you a result. If you did so many things right but lose, it’s absolutely fair to say you did well but still lost.

      To tell me it’s exactly what we deserve is for you to hide your head in the sand.

      1. OG, why do YOU bother to type up the same, boring, repetitive, utterly predictable defense that AW trots out nearly every single time we lose or draw – we created more, we had more possession, yadayadayada. It’s the same exact thing AW and his kneejerk defenders say all the time — as if it’s at all relevant to winning trophies. I can assure you the players don’t care if they played better than Chelsea, all they care about is they lost and they’re not in the title chase. And as for creating more? We hardly made Cech work at all.

        Anyway, I was not as upset about this loss as the one on Sunday v. Utd because the players’ attitudes were far better. The only positive thing about the match was the players’ greater commitment than against Utd.

    2. Marcus, as for the last couple of games, I think you have some points. But as you note, we are much much better with RVP playing. Quite simply, that is what we are missing. With RVP healthy this year, we win the league. Take Drogba from Chelsea and maybe they do — they have that much depth. Take Rooney from ManUre and no way they win it. We can argue that our guys are more fragile, but not that our fit squad could not have done it.

      1. California, I agree with you up to a point. It’s true that we might’ve had a better chance of drawing or even winning with RVP. But I still have my doubts because even with his presence we’d still be conceding goals with schoolboy defensive errors that strong teams like Chelsea and Utd would take advantage of. After all, even with RVP we couldn’t keep clean sheets against middtable and lower table teams before his injury.

  6. pheteesh:

    “Nasri was the biggest threat but maybe Chelsea were just content to let him have the ball.”

    Of course, they didn’t feel threatened with any of our players having the ball.

    “Ancelloti abandoned the diamond for this game and played 433 to exploit the gaps he knew would be there. Wenger is clearly unwilling to make such compromises but he is leaving his young players exposed and needs to take responsibility for that”

    Exactly! That’s because managers like Ancelotti, Ferguson, Mourinho, etc. all occasionally make tactical changes according to the teams they will face, esp. if they’re top class teams. Ferguson and Ancelotti do respect the talent in our team so they adjusted their tactics accordingly and very easily took advantage of our predictable, one-dimensional style and tactics.

    Wenger doesn’t do this. He just tries to impose our style on our opponents, regardless of who they are. It’s staggergingly poor management.

    1. Wenger did change the system for this game (And he did for Man Utd too):
      – He dropped Denilson, played Diaby and had him sit deep alongside Song
      – He pushed Fabregas further forward into a “number 10” role
      – Dropped Rosicky, played Walcott and had him attempt to stretch play down the right
      The problems came when Clichy gave away a freekick carelessly then abadoned his post on the corner, then Song and Diaby both decided to not bother covering the centre of midfield and join the attack over and over, Lampard spotted this and we all know what happened.
      These tweaks are more than equal to the changes Ancelotti and Ferguson made for these two games and Mourinho is pretty rigid himself, he just has a much more defence orientated setup regardless of the opposition.

  7. Respectfully Ole Gunner, I have to disagree with you that we were better than Chelsea. Chelsea never intended on going toe-to-toe with us, they knew if they tried, it would be serious trouble. They knew if they sat back, and played on the break, they’d have chances to score. Arsenal on the otherhand never realised this, and tried to go toe-to-toe, and failed. There is more to football than just fancy patterns and keeping the ball, you need to shoot, and you need to defend properly ALL THE TIME.

    I seriously wonder what we do in training, especially off the ball. I also think we must really hope Wenger adjusts his tactics in different games, a 3-5-2 for extra protection if he thinks the midfield can’t stop counter attacks. I’d like to see a 4-3-1-2, with one of Rosicky/Nasri/Arshavin as the ‘1’ behind strikers, with Fabregas one of the ‘3’. I’m sick of seeing Nasri/Rosicky as wingers or starting wide, they came as playmakers, so play them as playmakers. It is no wonder they don’t score often, they like to make plays, if they get the ball in a dangerous area, they try a killer pass than shot.

    Also probably time to buy a genuine winger, one who can stretch the pitch properly, Walcott is too timid and has no tricks, we have no one who can run at defenders and take them on in wide positions.

    Rest assured, if we do not become more compact and more tactical and also more defensive, we will be knocked out of the Champions League before the semi finals, what a shame.

    1. Agree, Arsenal can’t employ either Nasri or Rosicky on the flank, they are not quick enough to stretch the field. THEY ARE SIMPLY NOT WINGERS!

      1. You still haven’t shown how they played better. Is sitting back how they played better?

        Yet they still made defensive mistakes that led to 4 clear chances.

        I mean, they even made more mistakes leading to goalscoring opportunities.

        The fact that their strategy worked doesn’t mean they played better. It means they won.

  8. Unfortunately when we are high up the pitch attacking the transition when we lose the ball always hurts us against good opposition.

    It seems that every year a new defensive leak occurs. A season or two ago it was long balls over the top in open play. this seems to have been reasonably well plugged as Vermaelen is very aware and bosses Gallas.

    However now we are getting torn on the counter as men seem to be unaware of what to do.

    When wenger first joined he established a cut and thrust philosophy with Vieira, Overmars, Petit, Bergkamp, Anelka etc. Later Henry came in after Anelka.

    We had pace and power in these players. We didn’t have to have 80% possession of the ball and play triangular shapes etc. Did he not see this as winning football??

    Why then the change to a possession based game and constant interchanging of positionsetc?

    It seems he had a winning a formula and then abandoned it due to financial constraints but has got too many of the same player in. Quick and technical trying to come to terms with the physicality of the Prem.

  9. One more thing to the deluded OG, who insists we “created more chances.” The fact is that we hardly exercised Cech. He didn’t have to work too hard. Look at the stats:

    CHELSEA shots on target: 5
    ARSENAL shots on target: 2

    CHELSEA shots off target 7
    ARSENAL shots off target 8

    Wow, really impressive difference there.

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