Chelsea 3 – 1 Arsenal
We knew they were faint but now any title ambitions are over for another season. Not without controversy either; how the referee and his assistant didn’t call Alonso’s opening goal as a foul is beyond me? He led with his arm, hurtling at pace toward a defender. It’s the textbook definition of dangerous play, and Atkinson’s failure to call the foul brings refereeing into more disrepute. It’s not a conspiracy, just incompetence.
It was a goal which changed the game but not irreversibly. We had the opportunities before half-time, to equalise but we didn’t take them. As usual. Gabriel, Bellerin’s replacement following the concussion suffered from Alonso’s challenge, headed straight at Courtois and although the Belgian made a flashy save, the header didn’t really need it.
But this is Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal in big matches away from home. We’re spineless, or in Mesut Özil’s case, Missing In Action. I’ve never been more disappointed after a defeat in this sort of match, I really haven’t. Maybe I have but this is still raw. We didn’t create anything worth calling a chance in the second half until the game was gone. The second goal was a killer with Eden Hazard waltzing through the midfield and defence to score.
Why Francis Coquelin didn’t bring the Belgian down is one of life’s great mysteries. Surely it needed a strong pull of the shirt, or a trip? Take the yellow card, for God’s sake man. The likes of Gilberto or Vieira wouldn’t have thought twice about it, nor would Matic or Kante. No, we’re left with our midfield rolling on the turf like a toddler. We’re not ruthless enough to win the title; when the moment comes, we don’t make the right decisions and that lies squarely at the manager’s door.
Koscielny compounded Coquelin’s error by backing off from Hazard. As a centre back, he knows he’s got to tackle players in those areas. Hindsight tells us that even conceding a penalty would have made no difference; Hazard scored and we were two-down. More bad decision making.
But it pales into insignificance compared to the third. What was Cech thinking? He wasn’t is the simple answer! We had the opportunity to clear the ball but instead planted straight at the feet of Fabregas of all people and he gave the sloppiness the treatment it deserved. Spare us the false respect. You lost that right when you left for Barcelona. There’s nothing there anymore, you’re just another player.
Giroud pulled one back, giving a bit of respectability to the final score but we got what we deserved on the day: nil points.
Where do we go from here? It’s obvious that this squad isn’t a title-winning group of players so some will need to leave. If that’s Sanchez and/or Özil, we’ll find another one to replace them. Reus or someone like that immediately springs to mind.
In the aftermath of today, if we get another manager, I’m ambivalent toward that as well. If he doesn’t want to renew, so be it. But Arsenal needs shaking up as a club and I’m not sure Arsène is the man to do it.