Saturday 24 February 2018

Blues' three amigos turn tide for Torres

Arsenal 1 Chelsea 2

Henry Winter

Remarkably restrained after a derby-day victory, Roberto di Matteo was asked whether as "an Italian you'd rather win 1-0 or 4-3?"

Chelsea's manager paused before replying: "Good question.'' Then, after another pause, he added with a twinkle in his eyes: "Probably 1-0!"

However, Chelsea may not record too many 1-0 successes this season, given the increased creativity coursing through the ranks.

Di Matteo has made the three technicians -- Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar -- a fluid force behind Fernando Torres.

"They're intelligent players and we're trying to integrate them into our system,'' said Di Matteo. "They have to realise they have responsibilities. They have some freedom, but still we need to keep some kind of discipline when we're out of possession.

"I still think we have to improve a lot on that side. As exciting as it is to have them all on the pitch, when we lose the ball, we need to be able to defend as well."

Mata is enjoying the system. "I like to play with players like Oscar and Eden,'' said the Spaniard.

"They like to play the same way that I play. I like to play with the ball, try and assist, with passing, with movement, with freedom. It's what Eden, Oscar and me are doing at the moment.''


Mata looks refreshed by his "nice break, just resting in Spain, spending time with my friends and my family."

He created the first, swinging in a free-kick that was met by Torres, who proved too powerful for Laurent Koscielny.

Wenger's decision to start Koscielny ahead of Per Mertesacker had been made because he was worried the less mobile German might be caught out by quick movement behind him. Yet Koscielny was embarrassed by Torres' run.

Torres took the goal well. "For me, he's one of the best strikers,'' added Mata. "He's playing very well at the moment and I think he's going to be so important for us and he will score a lot of goals for us."

Di Matteo has instilled confidence in Torres, who delivered one of his best games for Chelsea. "I was always happy with him,'' said the Chelsea manager. "He's a good age and in good shape. His all-round contribution has always been great.

"He's a team player and it's great that he scored a fantastic goal and an important one. But he works so hard for the team and that's excellent."

Di Matteo's decision to include John Terry was vindicated, the controversial centre-half defending well, although he failed to stick tight enough to Gervinho when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross came in, thus giving the Ivorian space to equalise.

"All his career, he's shown that to play football is what matters to him,'' said Petr Cech of Terry.

"All the other things are unfortunate, but he's on the pitch, he's doing well, and that's why we need him."

Chelsea took the points when Mata swept in a free-kick that Koscielny diverted past Vito Mannone.

Arsenal had chances to draw level, Olivier Giroud wasting a great one, while Cech saved well from Lukas Podolski and Giroud.

"It hurts when you lose points at home against teams like that and you feel you haven't deserved to lose,'' said Mikel Arteta.

"It's frustrating, but I think it was our own fault because we didn't defend those set-pieces."

Abou Diaby limped off with a thigh strain, depriving Arsenal of some aerial presence. He will, apparently, be out for three weeks,

"His height is really important on those set-pieces, because we haven't got enough tall people in the squad at the moment,'' said Arteta.

There were some positives for Arsenal, notably another bright performance from right-back Carl Jenkinson.

"Carl has improved tremendously in the last few months,'' said Arteta, "but he needs to keep going and maintain the level, which is the most difficult thing when you get up to the top."

There were some grievances in the home camp about a perceived dive by David Luiz.

"The referees have to punish them,'' said Wenger. "They did it today, but it took some time for them to do it."

Arteta added: "They are going to try to win the game and they use anything they can to win it.

"I don't want to criticise anything like that. The referee is the one that has to deal with that and I think he did that.''


Di Matteo defended his player. "David Luiz went down, but he didn't appeal for anything,'' said the Italian.

"We would like to eradicate diving from the game. It's probably not easy, but if there's anything that can be done then we are for it. I am against diving, absolutely.''

As for Chelsea being top of the table, Di Matteo added: "Judge us when we're coming towards the halfway stage of the season. By then, you'll probably have a better idea about it.

"Manchester City as the champions and United who finished with the same amount of points are probably the favourites and then there's us, Arsenal... Spurs have a good squad as well behind them."

Di Matteo knows that opponents will raise their game against the European champions and Premier League leaders.

"When you're a winning team you're never loved,'' said Di Matteo. "Teams that win trophies have never been loved in the history of football. It's as easy as that.

"Barcelona is great, yeah but it's a unique model that nobody has been able to replicate so far." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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