Red card was correct
Arsenal players have been unlucky with some refereeing decisions in the past, but this criticism cannot be applied in this game. Clattenburg had an excellent game, and if anything could have awarded a penalty against Arsenal.
Per Mertersaker’s decision under the circumstances was correct, as there was a very good chance Costa would have scored from this attack. Conceding shortly thereafter was very unfortunate, and it made the sending off that much more frustrating.
The referee let the game flow as much as possible, and awarded some correct yellow cards in the process. We cannot blame the referee for this game – we didn’t take our chances and allowed a sub-par Chelsea walk away with all three points.
Two points from nine is a poor return
Any of the last three results in isolation would not be terrible. Getting any points away from home at tough grounds should be viewed as decent, while losing to Chelsea is something we seemingly do every season these days.
However, when you string these results together, it paints a bleak picture of a team that simply cannot handle the pressure of a tight title race.
Arsenal could have got all three points at Liverpool, and on the basis of the last 60 minutes of the Chelsea game deserved at least a draw. Unfortunately, you seldom get what you deserve and the results speak for themselves.
This is not the end of our title challenge
As much as outspoken fans would like to have you believe that this was a “must-win” fixture, and a loss now means the title is out of our reach, this is simply not the case.
The current top three have only recorded two wins in their last five games, and Arsenal is only three points off the top. A couple of poor results from Leicester and Manchester City and we could be topping the league yet again.
We play Leicester in a couple of weeks, and there is still plenty of time left this season to take – and maintain – the lead.
Taking Giroud off was a mistake
Per Mertersaker’s dismissal created a huge problem for the manager – and an attacking player had to be sacrificed in order to bring on a defender.
There was no possibility that a midfielder would be taken off to accommodate Gabriel.
I believe our strategy going into this game was to utilize pace and play on the counter. With this in mind, taking Giroud off made sense.
However, Giroud offers a variety of attributes that are important to our attacking play. His layoffs are masterful when we decide to walk the ball in, while his heading is strong if crossing the ball becomes a better option. Without him, we were not successful in doing either.
We will never know if he would have made a difference had he stayed on, but neither Walcott nor Campbell did enough to justify being left on the pitch.
There is a psychological issue with this fixture
Arsenal’s record against Chelsea is incredibly poor and I can barely remember a time when I looked forward to the clash with our West London rivals – or enjoyed the game itself.
This season’s Chelsea is in freefall, barely able to get a point let alone a win, and playing some of the worst football of the club’s recent history. Despite this, they have just secured a relatively comprehensive double over a team that is supposed to be challenging for the title.
The fans’ perception of this game seems to have seeped into the players’ minds too, as everyone looked nervous and apprehensive in the opening half hour of the game. Just as Arsenal’s players are unable to raise their game against Chelsea, their players almost always play their best football against us.
We had hoped that the Community Shield win against them would have helped us break this psychological issue, but we now need to wait until next season before we get a chance at redemption.
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