Sunday, 29 November 2009

Out-powered. Out-classed. For Arsenal, the war is over

SO that's it for another season, Gooners. The Premier League trophy will have to wait for yet another year. After Arsenal 0, Chelsea 3 today, the Blues are 11 points clear of their north London rivals. And that gap is not going to narrow on the evidence of yesterday's showdown.
As Jamie Redknapp said: "Out-powered, out-classed. Chelsea were on another level to Arsenal."
He's right of course. I saw Nigel Winterburn yesterday trying to think of Arsenal players who would get in the Chelsea team. Eduardo and Andrei Arshavin wouldn't have a hope against Didier Drogba, who scored two yesterday, and former Gunner Nicolas Anelka, who simply cut his old side apart. The injured Robin van Persie is hardly in that class either.
Winterburn suggested Thomas Vermaelen, who contributed an own goal yesterday, but given the dominance of John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, I can't see a place for the Verminator either.
And in the middle of the park, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Co are hardly going to be threatened by lightweights like Alex Song, taken off at half-time, and Denilson. Men against boys.
Typically, Arsenal played their pretty football. But despite the imploring Emirates crowd, the shots never came. In front of goal, the loss of Emmanuel Adebayor remains glaring. Wenger's moth-filled wallet should have creaked open for a new striker when the Togo international went to Manchester City, but it never happened.
And the one real chance, where Arshavin scored at 2-0 down in the second half, was righly ruled out for Eduardo's high foot, which took the ball out of Petr Cech's hands.
Drogba, who now boasts ten goals in nine games against Arsenal, said: "I like to play against them. They used to be the team everyone in France supported. I really like a win like this. I was pointing at my right boot as I came off to show the red laces, my part in the campaign against AIDS.
"Last season we showed we could be champions but we lost a lot of points at home. This season, we don't give the opposition any chances. We have more confidence, it's easier."
John Terry said: "Once again, we soaked it up. Going forward, we were exceptional. Our midfielders were going through the middle of them. We have to stay together now. You can see people throwing their bodies in front of balls. Fighting for eachother."
Carlo Ancelotti certainly seems to have his team playing for eachother, a trick Jose Mourinho managed but Avram Grant, Phil Scolari and Guus Hiddink couldn't quite match.
Ancelotti, five points clear at the top, said: "Today in defence we were fantastic. Offensively we could do better, sometimes we lost the ball. We have to stay at the training ground."
Sure, Manchester United shrugged off Portsmouth yesterday with a Wayne Rooney hat-trick - and didn't Ryan Giggs do well - but Chelsea are different gravy.
Of more imporance in north London? Fourth place. Spurs are third at the moment at look like they might stay there after their 1-1 draw against Aston Villa. Fifth-placed Liverpool saw off Everton 2-0 to win the Merseyside derby and start putting pressure on Arsenal.
And Wenger has to accept, as the seats at the Emirates emptied long before the finish, Arsenal fans fear years of under-investment could finally see the Gunners slip out of the top four.
Wenger, whose pledge to end the five-year trophy drought is looking a little hollow, said: "The first part of the game was all us. Their first shot of the game went in. We find ourselves 2-0 down at half-time and it's difficult. We were very unfortunate to be like that a half-time.
"I watched the decision on the goal we scored five times, I still don't understand it. It was their player who had a foot up (as he said that, the television replay showed Eduardo kicking the ball out of Petr Cech's hands before Arshavin's fine finish). We had plenty opportunites where, with a better first touch and more belief, we could score.
"We have nothing to be ashamed of. It all went Chelsea's way today. I was not specially impressed with what happened on the pitch but they took their chances well. We're not in the title race right now but it's up to us to come back into it."
And Arsenal fans everywhere held their head in their hands.

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