1 - 0 Frank Lampard 14'
1 - 1 Robin van Persie 36'
2 - 1 John Terry 45'
2 - 2 Andre Santos 49'
2 - 3 Theo Walcott 55'
3 - 3 Juan Mata 80'
3 - 4 Robin van Persie 85'
3 - 5 Robin van Persie 92'
Sometimes, you just have to take what you're given and love it. Like Chicken McNuggets for the starving man, it wasn't the greatest, yet nothing has ever tasted better, as Arsenal defeated Chelsea by a ridiculous final score of 5-3 today at Stamford Bridge to rise to 6th place in the Premier League. It wasn't one for the defensive coaches, but it was quite possibly the most entertaining match you'll see this year, and well worth waking up in the dark for. It was a street fight, a brawl.
My god. If the words here don't do this match justice, it's because I didn't have time to look as I was typing.
Chelsea had the best chance early on, as Ashley Cole beat Johan Djourou down the left and ran onto a through ball. His square for Fernando Torres was put behind by Mikel Arteta for a corner. which Arsenal survived. If it seemed as if it was going to be all Chelsea, it wasn't, though, as Arsenal immediately came up the other end, Aaron Ramsey putting a ball across the six-yard box that Cole had to deal with. They repeated their exact attack two minutes later, Djourou again completely out of position. Per Mertesacker was able to slide in to clear the low cross. It wasn't even to be all up the left, as Daniel Sturridge came flying behind on the right to square. Arsenal were being simply ignored on the flanks, more or less, and more clinical finishing from Chelsea could have seen them two or three up.
Chelsea won a free kick which Arsenal were able to clear, and clear they did. Theo Walcott escaped down the right past Cole, and played in a great ball for Gervinho. The Ivorian, however, missed his chance, fluffing it wide from six yards. A minute later, and RvP missed a chance, as Walcott played in another great ball, which the Dutchman could only hit over the bar. Two missed, great chances in two minutes, and Arsenal would pay.
Juan Mata picked up the ball on the right, turned one way and the other, and floated in a cross that was inch perfect. Mertesacker was out of position, Lampard having got behind him, and Chelsea's leading scorer added to his total pretty easily with a stooping header. Far too easy, 1-0 to Chelsea.
van Persie got to the byline on Arsenal's next attack, but nobody came into the penalty area with him, and his tempting ball across the six-yard box went begging. Chelsea came right back up the field, Mata (who was having an excellent game so far as a no. 10, moving laterally across Aresnal's defense) finding Sturridge again on the right. The game was wide open, though, van Persie staying onside, his touch letting him down at the final moment, though. 18 minutes gone, and about three great chances for either team.
At this point, the match started to settle a bit. van Persie tried to play Gervinho over the top, but the Ivorian handled. Cole shot from 25, but it was tame. 29 minutes in, now, and Lampard played a ball over the top. Sturridge left Santos well behind, but pushed his shot well wide of the far post in another silly miss for the match. Arsenal still were finding a little room to attack behind Cole at times, while stabilizing their own right side, but Walcott wasn't able to get the final ball to a red shirt, a deflection carrying it to Petr Cech.
Arsenal stabilized their possession as well, and 36 minutes in, it paid off, finally. Gervinho was played through by Ramsey, and having gotten behind the defense, he slid it across for van Persie to pip home easily. 1-1, 37 minutes gone, and it was back on. The away fans sang their appreiciation.
Chelsea are still Chelsea, though, and appeared to have pulled back ahead, but the flag was up on Sturridge (who had absolutely dusted Santos, in what was quickly becoming the mismatch of the game). Arsenal won a free kick at the other end, but van Persie could not repeat his Sunderland magic, putting it over the bar. The match slowly settled again, the biggest chance of the next few minutes being, well, headed away easily by John Terry.
Who then scored. Chelsea won a corner, and as Lampard swung it in, Terry ran unchecked through the mass of bodies to volley it home from six yards, Mertesacker left lying on his back. Frankly, it just looked like Terry wanted it more. Too easy. 2-1, just before the half. Arsenal were undone by a set piece yet again, and it was far far too easy. Halftime arrived, the sides close to even in possession, but Arsenal looking the more nervous in defense, perhaps.
Arsenal opened the second half with intent. van Persie escaped behind the defense, but his only option was to shoot, and Cech handled it. A minute later, Gervinho escaped down the left, got to the byline, and cut back for Ramsey. Terry quickly intervened, and Ramsey's effort went over the bar.
It was time.
For all his mistakes in the first half, when Song played a through ball to Andre Santos in the 48th minute, he made sure. Storming in on Cech, he simply shot, and Cech was too slow. 2-2.
It was all kicking off now. Wojciech Szczesny came way out of his goal to take out Ashley Cole, and was lucky to escape with only a yellow card. On the resultant free kick, Lampard took a vicious curler towards the far post, but Szczesny was equal to the task, making a good save. Arsenal tried to escape, but Gervinho was stopped at the last moment by Ramires, or he was off to the races. If anyone thought the second half would be slower, they were wrong so far.
Gervinho beat Bosingwa easily on the Chelsea right, but he was indecisive coming across the box and lost the ball.
Chelsea were caught napping on defense again, standing straight, and when a deflected ball fell to Theo Walcott, he danced in--lovelylovely stylee-- and lashed a shot past Cech. 3-2 to Arsenal now. Santos nearly broke through immediately afterwards, and the game was only at 56 minutes. Completely mental, and surely more to come...
Gervinho missed another decision as Ramsey looked to make a run through the Chelsea high line. Lampard lined up a free kick just past the hour mark, and Szczesny did just enough on the punch at the far post to survive. Ramsey did work in the box just after, but Cech was there to smother. Chelsea came flying up the other end. The game was more or less in orbit. Arteta played through Gervinho, who was onside, and Cech had to sweep.
Chelsea's line was actually making Arsenal's look good.
As Arsenal looked for another way through, Chelsea's passing started to get more wayward. 66 minutes gone, and the Gunners were gaining in confidence, but still needed to settle.
Meanwhile, David Luiz and Thomas Vermaelen watched from the bench, wistfully, wondering what could have been.
Another ebb was coming, 69 minutes in, getting a little chippy. Lampard floated in a free kick from 35 yards, which Arsenal just managed to clear. Gervinho tried to break on the counter, but Bosingwa was able to hold him off. Chelsea came up the other end, but Song tackled Malouda well. Up the other end, Walcott got blocked off the ball, barely legally.
Romelu Lukaku came on for Ramires, signaling a change in shape for the Blues as Andre Villas-Boas looked for something new. Aresnal nearly found another, as van Persie's touch wasn't quite there, but he controlled at the byline. He didn't spot Arteta, or it could have been 4. Ramsey ended up shooting a deflected shot for a corner, which came to nothing.
Carl Jenkinson came on for Djourou as Wenger looked to perhaps get fresh legs on to face Chelsea's left side. Raul Meireles came on for John Obi Mikel, Chelsea really looking to attack now.
Gervinho lost his dribble, and Meireles looked to find Torres, who was offside. Yellow cards arrived for both RvP and Branislav Ivanovic, as the two got in a bit of a scuffle. There were about 15 minutes left in the match, Arsenal trying to slow proceedings and hold their lead as Chelsea threw all their resources towards and equalizer.
Theo Walcott made way for Tomas Rosicky, in another somewhat puzzling move from Arsène Wenger.
It was not to work. Santos gave the ball away, Lukaku bullied him off it, and Meireles fed Juan Mata. He made no mistake, taking a wonderful shot from 20 yards that gave Szczesny no chance. It was a great shot, and it was 3-3.
Again, he makes 55k a week. At Chelsea. Arsenal could have had him.
But if it wasn't yet weird, it was going to get weird.
Arsenal were trying to stabilize things again, but it was John Terry that would lose his footing. A speculative ball towards van Persie looked to be no problem, but Terry slipped. RvP couldn't believe his eyes, walked in on Cech, rounded him in lovely fashion, and rolled it into the back of the net. 4-3 to Arsenal, six minutes left in regulation.
Thomas Vermaelen came in to "man the barricades," as ESPN's Ian Darke put it. A Chelsea free kick fell for Mata, whose shot was blocked at the last moment by Koscielny in brilliant fashion.
Song got a yellow for hauling down Cole during a counter, the free kick falling to Mata again, who was blocked.
It was soon to be over, and van Persie was again the reason. Arsenal countered from the free kick, and they made it work this time, Arteta finding van Persie on the left, who took one touch and blasted it past Cech (go to the corner flag? Bah! I spit on your corner flag), who was able to get a futile hand to it. 5-3 to Arsenal, two minutes of stoppage left, and game in the bag. Robin van Persie's second career hat-trick couldn't have come at a better time.
It was an unbelievable match, and an invaluable mental boost for Arsenal.
It was also Wenger's 500th win. Congratulations to him.
CLUB IN CRISIS