Sunday, December 16, 2007

Arsenal prevail in war of attrition against Chelsea

It was a great match. Poised, competitive, at times hard nosed and at times flowing. Arsenal were too much for Chelsea though as William Gallas sealed the three points just before the half and it remained there despite lots of attacking football to end 1-0.

Arsenal, in truth, deserved the result. They created more chances and defended better. They have Manuel Almunia to thank for some good saves and an all around faultless display. You can’t say the same for Peter Cech, as it was his error that led to the goal as he came for the ball during a corner and missed it completely to gift Gallas the chance. Gallas rose well above Tal Ben Haim, on as a substitute for the injured John Terry, and nodded the ball into the unprotected goal.

Chelsea threatened after the half, especially in the last 20 minutes as Arsenal appeared to tire. They had a flurry of close calls but could never squeeze that extra bit of quality out of themselves to salvage a point. Arsenal need to do a bit of fitness work though, they looked wooden-legged in the last 10 minutes but had 4 amazing chances on the break as Chelsea were entirely pushed forward looking for that equalizer.

It was a hard fought game, testy at times. Ashley Cole was booed throughout and was regularly whacked by the Arsenal players. Gael Clichy was excellent in defense, quick, he cancelled out Shaun Wright Phillip’s attempts to play down the wing. Centrally, Gallas and Toure were excellent.

For Chelsea, they seem quite capable of winning the easy ones, but this makes it 2 losses in a row against the Premiership’s big guns since the departure of Jose Mourinho.

The Blues lost to Manchester United in Avram Grant’s first game in charge, now to Arsenal. It’s much as I suspected: Chelsea have lost that extra 2% that Mourinho added, and at this level, that extra 2% is the difference between losing 0-1 and winning 2-0.

Arsene Wenger had never beaten Jose Mourinho in 2 seasons, now the new guard has lost in their first attempt. In time, you might see this trend continue and it will be Avram Grant’s undoing. All along I have considered him lucky to have such a professional team, luck only gets you so far.

As for Arsenal, yet another determined display. Coming on the heels of dropping 5 points last week, this is as welcome a result as Arsene Wenger will ever see. With their nose still ahead in the Premiership chase he will need to see a few more to make it happen this year.

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