Defence is the best form of attack, at least this was the case in Sunday’s clash at the top. As the Gunners fired blanks in front of goal, Chelsea capitalised with potent finishing.
Amid allegations of infidelity John Terry’s formidable figure at the back prevented a further backlash of media hostility. The club captain’s week of turbulence was momentarily subsided as he helped guide the Blues back to top spot in the league. Making a considerable contribution in the opening moments the former England captain showed moments of instant relief, with no immediate reaction to the goal, the Chelsea no.26 released some built-up frustration as he returned to the Blue half. Knowing any lapse in concentration would lead to added media censure, the European defender of the year necessitated a performance to avoid claims his future was concluding. The inspiring centre-back is certainly taking the right form of action to recoup his England armband from the grasp of Rio Ferdinand.
Another pinnacle stature in the tie was Arsenal foe, Didier Drogba, the Ivorian amidst his promise of a hat-trick, struck twice to once again put Wenger’s men to the sword. The former Arsenal follower profited from lackadaisical marking in the Red box to convert a Terry header home. Within twenty minutes Chelsea had doubled their lead, as Drogba lashed home after a well executed counter-attack. The powerhouse almost added to his brace in the latter stages as he leathered a free-kick goal-ward, Manuel Almunia could only look on as the ball crashed off the underside of the bar and back into play. The brute force of Drogba has seen the Blue accumulate 12 goals in his previous 12 games against the Gunners, it’s an unusual record but one that is gratefully received by the Chelsea faithful.
Carlo Ancelotti’s bold decision to ambush the Gunners in a 4-3-3 paid dividend as the formation allowed the Blues to defend in numbers and counter-attack fluently. Diligent shifts from Flourent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka were influential as the plan was effectively employed. More suited to the 4-3-3 Frank Lampard was able to control proceedings, delicately creating chances with well paced passes throughout the game. Jon Obi Mikel’s strength was able to dominate the challenge that ventured from Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas in the middle of the park and on the right flank Ashley Cole (booed throughout from the away support) nullified the imposing threat of quick-paced winger Theo Walcott with considerable ease. The left-back also posed substantial threat of his own, breaking forward at times only to be denied by last ditch tackles. On the few occasions that Arsenal did successfully penetrate the Blue backline, Petr Cech stood firm to deny Andrey Arshavin and Nasri’s close range efforts.
The victory takes Chelsea back to the summit of English football, their two point lead over Manchester United was recovered and their title credentials reaffirmed after a score draw with Hull earlier in the week. A nine point lead over Arsenal should see a two horse race commence between the English giants. Chelsea face a battling Everton side this Wednesday, the blue of Liverpool were defeated in Saturday’s derby but have picked up form in correlation with their returning squad. A hard hit injury list stricken the Toffees progress pre-Christmas however with Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill and co all revitalising their fitness and form, the game will provide no respite for the Blues after their tough Arsenal clash. A 3-3 score-line in the reverse fixture earlier in the season will provide necessary warning lights heading into the tie.
The Chelsea fans will hope top-scorer Saha is cursed with adverse effects to signing a new contract with the Toffees. It is unlikely this will be the case, but the Frenchman was one of few poor performers in the Liverpool game, particularly unsettled by the vicious nature of the tie. Chelsea’s brute force is likely to prevail once again although the Everton midfield proved in Saturday’s early kick-off that they refuse to shy away from a tackle. Chelsea need to pick up all three points on Merseyside to avoid their Arsenal triumph falling to become merely redundant. Ancelotti may name an unchanged side although it is doubtful he will retain the 4-3-3 away from the Bridge.