Drogba 39, Alex 85
Losing the first derby of the season, and falling seven points behind their title rivals in the process is never easy to take. But alas, this spirited performance suggests that Arsenal’s younger generation are coming of age. The Gunners started the game the livelier of the two, and had Laurent Koscielny managed to rotate his neck a little further, he may have given the visitors a second minute lead after he nodded over whilst unmarked and underneath the Chelsea crossbar. The occasion of a fiercely competitive, important league game at Stamford Bridge did little to faze Jack Wilshere, who endeavoured to provide the spark needed to trouble a side that have lost just once at Stamford Bridge in the league in over a year.
Having Abou Diaby available was a boost ahead of kick-off. The Frenchman teamed with Alex Song in midfield as they battled the trio of Michael Essien, Ramires and John Obi Mikel. For large spells of the game, the duo prevailed, as Arsenal probed and dictated possession. As Jack Wilshere roamed just in front of them, the Gunners were able to flow the ball from one sideline to another looking for that intricate final ball through to Marouane Chamakh. Wilshere thought he had cracked the resistant blue wall that stood before him at the edge of the box as he found Chamakh, only to be denied by a brilliant Ramires cover tackle as the Moroccan shaped to cut inside before shooting. Moments after Didier Drogba’s opener, it was Andrei Arshavin who had picked the lock of the Chelsea defence, only for Chamakh’s first touch to take him away from goal and towards the backtracking defenders.
On the back of a confidence-boosting performance in Belgrade, Lukasz Fabianski could do little about either of the goals yet in the wake of Alex’s rocket of a free-kick, that seemed to crush Arsenal morale, the Polish keeper twice denied Essien as Chelsea ran riot as the game neared conclusion. Despite the goalkeeper position being the main topic for discussions on improving the team amongst Gunners’ fans, it is the lack of a coherent central defensive partnership that may prove the biggest obstacle in Arsene Wenger’s search for silverware this term.
Sebastien Squillaci and Koscielny, both new additions to this Arsenal squad, combated the powerful Drogba effectively. Although they could do little about the forward’s instinctive finish just before half-time, the lack of communication remains, emphasised by Squillaci’s poor back header towards his own goalkeeper. It was the second time this week that Fabianski has had to race off his line to douse out an opposition attack, forcing Nicolas Anelka wide enough for him to get his angles all wrong, slotting the ball wide of an open goal. Despite Squillaci’s error, the former Sevilla man had ample time, yet there was no cry from his defensive colleagues to prevent him hastily nodding back to his own goal. Until an understanding is struck in this department, Arsenal fans could witness more moments akin to this week’s defensive lapses, with the outcome potentially far more damaging.
3 Sagna – 6 Koscielny – 18 Squillaci – 22 Clichy
8 Nasri – 2 Diaby – 17 Song- 23 Arshavin
70- 7 Rosicky on for 2 Diaby
41- Emmanuel-Thomas on for 19 Wilshere
87- 11 Vela on for 23 Arshavin