Well that was fun wasn’t it? The monkey is well and truly off Arsene and Arsenal’s back. Seeing a bitter Mourinho is always fun. I think @Gunnerblog got it spot on when he said:
“There is only one thing funnier than hearing Mourinho cry about losing a big game — hearing him cry about losing a friendly. #afc #cfc”
Glass houses and all that. It’s a compliment if anything though as it seems as though Mourinho was surprised we didn’t expose ourselves and that they might have actually needed to play football to best us. What struck me about the whole thing was how much it actually meant to Jose. He’s been fairly nonplussed about his record this week increasing the media love in with him but watching him run for the ball with a full 15 minutes to go was a joyous thing.
The game was always going to be much bigger for us than Chelsea but it didn’t seem as though this thought was in either sides mind. We looked hungry and they looked increasingly anxious to make something happen. The reason it was always going to be bigger for us is that a loss for Chelsea didn’t matter largely because they’ve just won the league. For us it was a lose lose situation in that a loss would have meant irreparable psychological damage and a win would have meant “ah it’s only pre season, let’s see if they can do it when it counts”. I see it slightly differently in that we now know we have what it takes to beat this Chelsea team, to beat Mourinho and that in itself is a huge psychological boost. Yes there are tougher tests to come but this is the first barrier that had to be crossed, we’ve done it and we now have to build on it.
The game did have spells of tepidity and dullness but that was mainly due to a lack of sharpness on both accounts. Both sides kept on giving the ball away needlessly and Loic Remy was determined to break the offside record it seemed. The first half was an even affair and probably should have ended 1-1 with the Ox smashing home a quite stunning strike into the top corner followed by Ramires missing a glorious opportunity to head them level. What a strike that was from Ox though? A few close friends of mine feel as though it will be a big season for him and I agree. Fitness is the key here though. The second half was once again even but the chances began to come at both ends. Hazard missed a 1 v 1 through stumbling. Although I feel as though Cech being there scared the shit out of him (lolz). We also had a number of glorious opportunities 3 of which should have gone in. Giroud with an “anything on target is a goal” chance that he normally tucks away. Santi Cazorla missing the second in a 1 v 1 situation, a situation that should have wrapped it up. The last of them was when Cazorla put Gibbs through on goal only to be denied by a great save from Courtois. Largely the performance both going forward and defensively seemed good from us, and you have to remember we were without our player of the season in Alexis Sanchez as well. It bodes well for the up coming season and means that Le Boss will have a continued selection headache in a good way. I sure hope that selection headache and the options that we have can be relied upon all season long.
My favourite moment of the whole game was when the Coq was surrounded by 4 Chelsea players and in a position where he should have cleared the ball he succumbed to the pressure and conceded possession. Arteta came steaming in and won the ball back. He then helped to shift possession before I think Gibbs committed the ‘foul’ (Anthony Taylor had an absolute shocker!). This followed with a bit of a square up between Arteta and Falcao. Arteta didn’t shirk the battle and took the responsibility to not allow the Chelsea midfield to bully ours, it was a little reminder to both his team mates, the boss and the opposition that he’s still here. He almost played as though he had a point to prove because of all the summer speculation of a DM coming in, he may have felt the pressure a little. His response in the last 15 minutes or so he played, he showed that he may well in contention for the DM role. His legs certainly didn’t seem ‘gone’ so far as I saw. It got the fans going and the atmosphere really felt almost battle cry like off the back of the ruckus. The atmosphere in general was pretty phenomenal throughout, a little more tense than a friendly as we all knew it would be. Also a note as to how much of a difference a good keeper makes. Cech didn’t do anything spectacularly but what he did do was instil a calm to his back four. His distribution was also fantastic. A really solid performance from him.
In the post match interviews all the players said the right things as well as the manager and the focus for the season ahead really looks to be there. The only question remains is; will we add to our squad? Wenger was asked about Benzema and his response was pretty unequivocal in a negative way with regards to the move but what else could he say? His response will always be a ‘no’ until it’s done. It will never ever ever be a maybe with him. We all know that. The only time he’s been a little cloak and dagger with his wording was with Ozil’s signing but that was in the know that the deal was done.
The season is upon us and we really do look ready for the battle and up for the fight. One player away from the perfect squad. By September 1 we could really have the complete picture but until then, we have more than enough to start the season on the front foot.
Have a great season folks, I know I want to!
Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1