Arsenal (0) 1 - 2 (1) Chelsea|
Millennium Stadium, Sunday 7th August 2005
Lauren (Hoyte 78) Toure Senderos (Cygan 72) Cole
Ljungberg (Reyes 72) Cesc Flamini (Gilberto 45) Pires (Hleb 45)
Bergkamp (van Persie 45) Henry
A well-taken goal near the start of each half from Didier Drogba saw
Chelsea lift the meaningless season opener in a game which seemed
to confirm that it'll probably be business as usual this season.
Chelsea played pretty conservatively, allowing Arsenal more of the
ball and relying on their excellent defence to keep us out and
their counter-attacking to punish us for not breaking through.
Arsenal played pretty football but failed to penetrate until
it was too late. Perhaps too pretty.
The first goal came on 8 minutes when newcomer Del Horno hit a
long pass to the edge of the box on our right. Senderos probably should have
dealt with it but allowed Drogba to nip in front of him, chest it on,
and hook his shot over Lehmann. Very nicely taken, you have to say.
Their second came when Gudjohnsen headed the ball on for Drogba
to run onto. Again it was Senderos that was caught on the hop as
the striker raced on. He managed to scramble back enough to
distract, and Lehmann came out to force Drogba wide (perhaps
making enough contact with the player to be lucky not to
be penalised, too). With back to goal Drogba swivelled and
fired it into the net past Toure who'd done well to get
back to the goalmouth.
A few minutes later Arsenal's craft finally paid off, albeit
with a little luck. The ball was played wide to Freddie on the
right side of the box and his cross should have been cleared by
Ferreira, but instead just got a slight deflection as it
continued across the face of the goal, and Cesc did well to stretch
out and poke it home.
Apart from that, Arsenal had created few clear cut chances inside the
box. Most of our efforts at goal had been medium to long range
shots few of which made a decent connection. A typical moment was
when Pires fed the new skipper on the edge of the box... with back to
goal Henry teed it up for himself and spun to strike, only to send it
low and slow, straight at the keeper. Another, Henry running onto a
ball into the box on the right only to try squaring it for a
teammate that wasn't there (but who would have had a tap-in) instead
of giving it a blast himself.
The nearest the game came to real excitement was when Makelele made a
prick of himself halfway through the first half. Cesc had been tripped
and grabbed the ball with his hands as he fell. The free kick was given
our way, but Makelele had a kick at the ball while it was in
Cesc's hands on the ground. Daft. Even if it was their free-kick,
you're not supposed to kick at other players when the ball's dead.
But Cesc over-reacted and the pair of them ended up booked.
Our best moment, jammy goal notwithstanding, was a rampaging
run upfield from Toure to meet a cute ball by Henry from the corner of
the D, playing the ball behind Pires's run to meet Toure's. He hit it
well and forced Cech to make a good save diving to his left and just
tipping it round the post.
So, did we learn anything at all? Mixed feeling about the 2 positions
that Arsenal fans ought to be wondering about. In central defence
Senderos was exposed and twice came up second best against Drogba.
Another time his control let him down badly when he tried to
take the ball on his chest only for it to bounce away from him
and staright to Robben. To be fair, Phil chased him back well as
Robben took the ball to the side of the box, and the ref did well to spot
that Robben's resulting fall was more a result of diving over the defender's foot
than being tripped by it. It'd be unfair to suggest that Senderos
is a weak link, after his excellent first season. But until Campbell's
also available one does have to wonder about this position. Is Cygan
really the only cover we've got there? And what's the story behind
our strange failure to take on the experienced Christenval?
Central midfield however was reassuring. Cesc had a terrific game,
and Gilberto who came on at half time (his first action after returning
from the summer) possibly even more so. I think we have to assume that
these 2 are the first choice for now, with Flamini as back up for
Gilberto. It's interesting to see that Hleb came on for Pires on
the left, arguably the midfield position we least need a new
player in (Pires/Reyes/Clichy), unless someone's leaving (nah,
surely it's too late for those Bobby to Turkey rumours to turn
into anything more?).
Of course, everyone knows that the winners of this fixture
rarely go on to win the league. Hmmm. Probably best not to rely on that reasoning too much.
Incidentally, anyone see the hilarious article in this week's Time Out suggesting that London teams should all merge into one? Utter madness. Strange they couldn't find any writers that know anythign about football.