I’m sure there are those who would contend that we would’ve lost this game in the past, as a result of the Gunners’ tendency towards gung-ho naivety, but in some respects I would’ve almost rather we had gone down with a roar, than grind out a frustrating point with an uninspiring whimper.
Bearing in mind that the chant of “boring, boring Arsenal” used to be our own badge of honour, many moons back when “1-0 to the Arsenal” was our team’s trademark, it was just a tad ironic that we were left taunting our opponents at the final whistle, for having edged ever closer to the Premier League finishing line with a hard-earned point, with our own former trait of not giving a hoot about providing sufficient entertainment.
Respect where due, Chelsea came to our place and did their job. We failed miserably, to inject the tempo and thrust to ensure a far less comfortable afternoon for the champions in waiting.
Doubtless John Terry’s presence in every single league game will be viewed as a significant factor in the Blues campaign and as much as it pains me to admit it, he probably deserved his MotM award on Sunday. Yet what hurts far more is the fact the Chelsea backline rarely had to break sweat.
The Gunners were guilty of playing to the Blues’ strengths, instead of attempting to stretch our opponents, by dictating a faster, more fluid encounter. As much as I adore the genius of Mezut Özil, our inspirational playmaker has an infuriating tendency to ghost past an opponent, only for him to stop, take all the momentum out of a counter attack and gift the opposition an opportunity to retrieve defensive shape, as he lays the ball off sideways.
Alexis Sanchez was just about the only player in red and white who displayed the necessary unstinting willingness to drive at the opposition, in an effort to make something happen.
Perhaps Bellerin was overly concerned about leaving us exposed at the back. Especially when Willian was Chelsea’s most impressive player first half and looking like the one most likely to capitalise on us taking our eye off the ball. But when you consider Hector was the only inclusion in Arsène’s starting XI with genuine blistering pace, it was bizarre that it was Monreal on the opposite flank offering the only width (aided by the fact that Ramsey’s not exactly a natural winger).
Drogba is no longer the force of nature he was in his youth and despite his prolific scoring record against us, I hoped we might benefit from his appearance after the break, with Chelsea having one less on smothering duties in midfield. Maybe Mourinho wasn’t avoiding an encounter with Arsène in the tunnel, but was dashing off to slip the valium into the Gunners Gatorade. Least it looked that way, judging by the lethargy, as the Gunners began the second half on the back foot.
One of my principal criticisms of Le Prof is that he NEVER does anything different. We’d all be utterly gobsmacked at the sight of some ingenuity, in a novel set-piece routine. Instead of which, we suffered the customary sight of balls being whipped into the box that were ‘meat and drink’ to the Blues superior aerial ability.
With Giroud offering the only target in the penalty area in the first half, we did at least try to get more bodies into the box after the break. But the changes, when they eventually came, proved far too little, too late. It’s hard to recall the last time that we witnessed Walcott’s pace but it was his and Welbeck’s speed that was always likely to prove a more troublesome prospect for Chelsea.
Meanwhile the wait goes on, for Arsène to finally quiet his nemesis with a victory. Still, there will be plenty of footie fans who’d love to be in our shoes, vying for second place with a cup final to come.