Wenger's troops fail test in harsh Chelsea lesson
An occasion settled by Arsenal's lame-duck inability to deal with set-pieces. Chelsea were worthy winners as they punctuated their Premier League title credentials by showing that, post-Didier Drogba, they can triumph at Arsenal.
Inevitably, the television cameras tracked the slow walk of Laurent Koscielny, who had the kind of torrid afternoon that will haunt him. At fault for both Chelsea's goals, the defender failed utterly to vindicate Arsene Wenger's decision to include him ahead of Per Mertesacker.
Wenger was a picture of frustration at the end. Having faced Manchester City last week, gaining a fine draw, and Chelsea this week, he knew his players had failed the two-match "test" he had set them.
"Completely, yes," Wenger acknowledged. "I feel we played against a good team but we gave the game away. They had three shots on target and scored two goals from set-pieces. Defensively we were not at the level we needed to be.
"When you play at home you do not expect to concede from two set-pieces. It puts us on the back foot. It's impossible because you then have to take all the risks against good players who can hit you on the counter-attack."
Wenger went on to accuse his team of lacking "personality" while, to cap it all, he revealed that Abou Diaby, who pulled up injured in the first half, would be out for "at least three weeks" with a thigh injury.
So the sound around the Emirates yesterday was the slow hiss of growing expectation being punctured. For all of Arsenal's early season promise they defended wretchedly, they lack bite in midfield and a cutting edge in attack. Olivier Giroud is looking an awkward £12m liability right now.
As resolute as Chelsea were, as much control they clearly exerted, as magnificently creative as that tiny triumvirate of Eden Hazard, Oscar and, in particular, Juan Mata were, as brilliant as Ramires was, Arsenal still manufactured and wasted clear opportunities to claim a draw that they did not deserve.
For Fernando Torres this was, quite possibly, his best performance in a Chelsea shirt. He scored a superb goal, almost added a second and led the line cleverly, linking play and showing aggression.
He now has three Premier League goals -- and it took him until March to achieve that mark last season. "I'm enjoying it more this season," Torres later said. "The kind of players I have behind me are giving me more support... we have shown with this different style of football that we can dream of having a great season again."
This evolving Chelsea -- new, young, hungry, counter-attacking, tricky -- is succeeding without Frank Lampard. Once more the 33-year-old midfielder was relegated to the bench and cannot, any more, regard himself as first-choice in what is surely his last season with the club. John Terry was here and Ashley Cole also and neither were faultless.
Chelsea are changing; the old guard is, bit by bit, being ushered out.
Chelsea's first goal was a collective disaster for Arsenal with Thomas Vermaelen punished for a rash challenge. Mata took the free-kick, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dozed, as he often does defensively, to allow David Luiz to break away and, in the confusion, Torres was simply too strong for Koscielny, hooking in a volley at the far post. Soon after Koscielny slipped, Torres ran free, delayed, took an air shot -- claiming he was fouled by the back-tracking defender -- but rightly no penalty was given.
It was a let-off for Arsenal who suddenly, unexpectedly, drew level when Oxlade-Chamberlain scampered down the right and looked up to pick out Gervinho. This time Terry erred, allowing the striker space and Gervinho swivelled sharply to fire his shot into the roof of the net. It was not exactly deserved and, on the stroke of half-time, Oscar drove wide before Torres slammed an effort into the side-netting.
And soon after Arsenal's Santi Cazorla sliced a shot, Chelsea restored their lead.
Torres was fouled by Vermaelen and Mata curled in one of those dangerous cross-cum-shot free-kicks. Koscielny tried to intervene and succeeded instead of distracting goalkeeper Vito Mannone with the ball skimming off the defender's knee and into net. Utterly hapless.
Arsenal tried to claw their way back but were open to Chelsea's counter-attacks. Still, Petr Cech did superbly to push away Lukas Podolski's header and, then, did even better to adjust and palm out a Giroud shot that spun up off Luiz's heels towards goal. Cazorla side-footed over before, at the death, Oxlade-Chamberlain teed up Giroud who shot into the side-netting.
At the end, Chelsea milked the moment with, dare it be said, the swagger of a team that knows it is going places.
Sunday Indo Sport