Chelsea suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of their London rivals after a superbly entertaining match that was full of great goals, open play, and hopeless defending. England duo Frank Lampard and John Terry put Chelsea in the lead at half-time, either side of Robin van Persie’s effort. But Chelsea could not hold their 2-1 advantage, losing 5-3, with van Persie going on to bag a hat-trick.
With David Luiz shaky at the back, Ivanovic was preferred to partner John Terry. Ramires was passed fit and came into a midfield with Mikel and Lampard. Torres, back from suspension and with Drogba serving suspension, led the attack, flanked by compatriot Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge.
Chelsea started brightly, having a shot after a minute that was deflected behind. The early threats continued, Djourou was running ragged at right-back for Arsenal and Chelsea were capitalising. Fourteen minutes in, that pressure was to turn into the first goal of this extraordinary encounter. John Terry, rested mid-week, slung a ball wide right to Juan Mata, who in turn crossed beautifully into the box. Frank Lampard, behind 6’6″ defender Mertesacker, headed low into Szczesny’s goal to score Chelsea’s 6,000th Premier League goal: 1-0 Chelsea.
With Santos and Mertesacker not the quickest of defenders, Chelsea tried to exploit that flank further. But it was Arsenal who came up with the next goal. Mikel lost the ball and Gervinho crossed to van Persie, who slid home: 1-1.
With half-time edging nearer, Chelsea had a corner. Ivanovic and Terry both went up, and it was the latter who shinned it into the goal. The ball trickled into the net, but with Szczesny’s footing wrong and Arteta who wandered away from covering that post, it turned into a goal: 2-1, on the stroke of half-time.
The match picked up where it left off, Arsenal having chances in quick succession to equalise within a minute of the re-start; Chelsea had not woken up, but fortunately van Persie could only hit Cech’s legs and Ramsey scooped over.
Chelsea looked to break back, and when Cole was taken down by Szczesny running out of his own penalty area, there were shouts everywhere of red card. Andre Marriner only produced a yellow, much to the home supporters’ frustration. From that free-kick, Szczesny saved again from a Lampard hit. But it was Arsenal who was to get the next goal – the equaliser.
Andre Santos, for all his poor defending, got up into the Chelsea box. With Bosingwa not there and Sturridge failing to double up on the left side, Santos had all the time in the world, and calmly slotted it past Cech: 2-2.
Arsenal’s third was to come minutes later. Boxed in by three Chelsea defenders, Walcott hit the deck. With Arsenal fans appealing for a free-kick on the edge of the box, and Chelsea players protesting that it was not a free-kick, Walcott got back up and within a flash put it past Cech’s near post. Chelsea players looked bemused, but with Marriner not deeming it a foul or free-kick at all, to almost stop play and assume that you had to appeal against it cost them. Chelsea could not argue – Walcott wheeled away in delight, and the Chelsea backline could have done much better: 3-2.
With more chances created and more abysmal defending, Chelsea knew they needed to attack: on came the powerful Romelu Lukaku and Florent Malouda. But it was another of the front-line who scored the equaliser for Chelsea with ten minutes to go: Juan Mata. On the edge of the area, and with little around him, Mata decided to have a pop at goal. So beautifully struck, it arrowed perfectly into the bottom corner beyond Szczesny’s reach: 3-3.
With momentum on Chelsea, AVB urged his team to attack to win. But Arsenal got back into the lead almost immediately. Malouda’s back-pass to JT was off-key, and when JT slipped as he went to reach it, it was all Robin van Persie’s. Through on goal and with no-one but Cech around, he calmly stepped past the keeper and rolled it into an empty net: 4-3, and there is never an easier goal than that.
With Chelsea desperate for something now, they attacked. Mata had a few shots that were blocked, but when they lost the ball from one of their own corners, Arsenal could break. Van Persie received the ball on the left-wing and rifled it into Cech’s top corner – the ball swerving tremulously: 5-3. Game, set, match.
For the neutral, this season is serving up some real gems: 8-2, 6-1, 4-3, now 5-3 here. But where has typical, sturdy Premier League defending gone? Both were so poor at the back it was a surprise that it was only the eight-goal match.
As for Chelsea, a second league defeat. And if you remember from my QPR match analysis, AVB must be careful. This is the first time Chelsea have shipped in five goals in the league since 1989. In other words, a long time ago.
Part of me blames the lads, part of me blames Roman. None of me blames the manager. The first part: the lads. AVB knows his stuff, that no-one can deny. But Chelsea did not win, and this must mean the players did not execute the stuff AVB would have wanted. The other part: Roman. The owner clearly wants us to play attacking football. Sources close to him said he would prefer to win 4-3 than a boring 1-0. But equally, would he prefer to lose 0-2, or 3-5, like today? Surely the former, this time. When you want to play attacking football, you have to be realistic. If you set your team out to play more attacking, then of course the manager will focus less on defending in training – all his efforts will be into attacking. But whilst attacking all looks beautiful, one must not compromise that will defending. If you can play beautifully, do that. But do not sacrifice the solidity of the defence. Chelsea have done that today, and the last nine matches, where we have failed to keep a clean sheet.
Out defensive frailties have been shown, now our attacking capabilities must be shown too, starting on Tuesday mid-week, against Genk.