Arsenal left Stamford Bridge 2-0 losers yesterday after a match that was rough and tumble, a match that saw two moments of greatness prove the difference, and a match that Arsenal can build on going forward. Here are some things we saw yesterday (at least up until the point our DVR cut off the match due to the late start):
- Arsenal's new-found pragmatism. Last season, Arsenal went to Stamford Bridge looking to play their normal, expansive attacking game with fullbacks bombing forward and both pivot midfielders pushed up rather far, with wings all a-flyin' forward and not so much a-trackin' back. They got singed. This time, Arsenal's 4-1-4-1 (not always as solid as it sounds) worked more effectively to blunt Chelsea's attacks; Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck contributed a lot on the defensive side, and Diego Costa was held in check for the most part until his goal late on in the 2nd half. It wasn't perfect, there were still giveaways and sloppiness in defense, but it is something to build on and use in other tricky away fixtures coming up.
- Alexis Sanchez. Seriously. He is unreal. I kind of love him more than anything.
- Arsenal's work in 50-50s. One of the reasons Arsenal looked occasionally dominant in midfield yesterday was their willingness to challenge Chelsea's players physically, be it in the air or along the ground. At times, some of the work being done bordered on reckless, but Arsenal put in a good number of tackles--pretty evenly spread throughout the midfield and attack--and did a much better job of holding Chelsea at bay than they did last season.
- Jack Wilshere getting verbal with John Terry. It's what I would do; it's what we all would do. Honestly, I don't know what the England training camps are like, but I imagine 75% of training for England consists of "everyone getting angry at John Terry".
- Santi Cazorla and Calum Chambers getting worked by Eden Hazard. Chelsea's first goal will probably be remembered by neutrals as "that time Eden Hazard impersonated Ryan Giggs", and it was indeed a fine solo goal, but neither Cazorla nor Chambers did nearly enough to stop it from starting. Initially I was harsh on Laurent Koscielny for conceding the penalty, but short of just getting out of the way and letting Hazard through to shoot, there was little he could do--the damage was already done.
- Arsenal forgetting to close down Cesc. Everything was going so well for the Arsenal defense against Costa up until it wasn't--he was seeing none of the ball, was covered heavily when deep in the penalty area on Chelsea attacks. But then one person doesn't close down Cesc Fabregas, Cesc Cescs his Cesc over the top, and Koscielny neither played the ball nor Costa nor the offside trap, and Costa did the rest (rather well).
- Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho's little spat. I dunno, I just didn't care for it. The whole thing felt kind of embarrassing for both dudes. That's just me.
- The nature of the challenges in this match. By my reckoning, Gary Cahill and Danny Welbeck both should have seen straight reds for violent play in this match. There were a number of other pretty gnarly moments as well--Alexis crushing the side of Thibault Courtois' head to the point that the latter bled out of his ear. Oscar throwing 'bows and heading Kos in the face. Mathieu Flamini treading on Oscar's hand. It was all pretty spiky, and Thibault just got out of the hospital a while ago.
- Mesut Özil dribbling straight into Cesc multiple times. It's not that I don't like Mesut, but of all the guys to just dribble straight into and lose the ball to a few times in this match, seriously, next time, just choose Nemanja Matic or John Obi Mikel. Don't lose the ball to him.
Anyway. There were some good things. Let's build on those!