Lynchpin – A person or thing vital to an enterprise or organisation.
I am a massive Chelsea fan. Yesterday was horrible. We were terrible. Slow, lethargic and devoid of any sort of spirit befitting the Premier League Champions.
Showing His Worth
A lot of people have criticised Arsene Wenger this season, rightly and wrongly. They’ve criticised his seemingly archaic tactics, his refusal to change and his ability to spend money wisely. Lucas Perez has disappeared, Mustafi has declined badly post-Christmas and Xhaka had been an expensive mistake.
Not a Waste Of Money
Xhaka was fantastic, an absolute beast in midfield, Pirlo-like in his passing and domination of the ball, Kante-like in his ability to position himself to break up any attacks from Hazard, Pedro or Matic. Time and time again Matic surged towards the Arsenal area and time and time again he had to stop…check..and come back..faced with a player who was showing why Wenger shelled out 32m for him last Summer.
Arsenal started the game well, sharp in the tackle and looking to dominate the ball. Dominating the ball is only possible though if you have someone who you can play through. Someone to rely on in tight situations. Many times in the first 15 minutes Xhaka received the ball in midfield, played triangles with either Ox/Monreal or Bellerin/Holding and then turned and passed to either Ozil or Sanchez, consistently breaking the Chelsea press and putting their defence under pressure.
Post the first goal Xhaka was wonderful, playing a part in Sanchez’s chance cleared off the line and making two wonderful tackles to stop Chelsea attacks. It took until the 25th minute for him to misplace a pass! He was constantly demanding the ball in this, a pressure cooker game…the consistent chokers against a dominant league winner. He created another chance for Sanchez just before half time, a minute before he threw himself in front of a Moses shot. It was a near perfect first half performance.
Now, gauging a few Arsenal opinions of the Swiss dynamo…it seems he does often start the game well and then fades. A lot of people on social media along with the BBC pundits predicted a dominant Chelsea second half.
Not So. Chelsea started the second half well but were unable to sustain any sort of momentum due to Arsenals consistent spells of possession. The reason for this? That man Xhaka again. Still demanding the ball, still breaking the Chelsea press and feeding the forwards. No one could get near him. Matic tried, Kante pushed until the final whistle and both Hazard and Pedro gave it fleeting efforts but Xhaka shrugged them all off. He kept receiving the ball, playing his triangles and breaking the Chelsea line. Wash, rinse and repeat.
So dominant was his performance it was a genuine surprise when on 81 minutes, he was beaten by Willian and resorted to pulling him back, a professional foul in the truest sense and he earned a yellow card. This was nearly 90% into a game Arsenal shouldn’t win and only the second time Xhaka had made any form of error. He wasn’t seriously mentioned by anyone as a MOTM candidate but to me, he was far and away the best and most important player on the pitch.
A lot will go with Alexis Sanchez, his more flashy work coupled with his constant threat made him stand out. He is a genuine world-class player and he had a very good game. Azpilucueta was charged with man marking him and the best defender in the league had one of his worst games in a near faultless season.
The BFG. His first start of the season and Per Mertesacker, like Xhaka above, was near faultless. Consistently in the right position, always there to head the ball, take it off Costa’s toes or throw himself in front of a dangerous shot.
A word for Chelsea
This is the Chelsea side of the website so it would be remiss if I didn’t make a quick reference to my beloved.
As I said above, we were terrible. Listless, lazy…other words that mean the same beginning with L.
The good thing about this match is that it should hopefully inspire our eternally inept procurement team to actually sign someone in the summer. Unlike the summers of 2010 and 2015 where we didn’t strengthen and were subsequently found out, this defeat should put a rocket up the club to the point where we actually sign the 5 first team players needed. Conte is a fantastic manager. He has dominated the league with probably the third best first 11 so imagine what he could do were he backed in the summer.
Thanks for taking the time to read my debut piece….I’ll be back during the week hopefully with the start of my series “How Chelsea saved my Life”.