Apr 21, 2012, 10:06 AM EDT
Man of the Match: Of the strong performances along Arsenal’s back line, Thomas Vermaelen put in the best shift, though he did need some help from partner Laurent Koscielny near the end to clean up a weak attempted clearance. Vermaelen pestered Fernando Torres throughout the day, proving particularly bothersome in the first half as he disrupted Torres’s attempts to hold up play coming out of his team’s end.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Most fans were left disappointed by this one. Neither team ever looked like they’d be disappointed with a draw.
- Arsenal’s substitutions unfortunately speak to this. Arsene Wenger’s first sub was forced, Gervinho coming on for the injured Theo Walcott. The second sub was a letdown, bringing in Abou Diaby for Tomas Rosicky – a defensive move. Similarly, the third sub seemed to reinforce the nil-nil, with Andre Santos brought on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
- Walcott tweaked his left hamstring in the 56th minute, slipping on the turf. With only three matches remaining, he may be done for the season, and with Stuart Pearce in attendance, you couldn’t help but wonder if this may affect Walcott’s chances of being at Euro 2012.
- Mikel Arteta was sorely missed. While Alex Song did his job to pick up the slack (serving as Arsenal’s only reliable supply line to Robin van Persie), Aaron Ramsey was poor, and neither of the deeper midfielders were able to bring Rosicky into the game. The times Arsenal were presented with opportunities to counter, they sputtered, lacking somebody to get them quickly into transition. The only time they looked set to catch Chelsea was when Rosicky, coming back from deep, played the first ball forward to van Persie.
- Although Arsenal was content with one point, van Persie should have taken this game. On Arsenal’s best chance of the match (44′), he blasted his shot from six yards out into Petr Cech (rather than trying a more intricate finish). Thirty minutes earlier, a nice restart from Walcott gave van Persie a good chance at Cech’s left post, but the Arsenal striker played it into touch with the wrong foot.
- Cech had another very good day. Just as he did against Barcelona, he kept a clean sheet without any highlight reel stops, though his positioning was superb. However, if you’re Roberto di Matteo, you have to wonder if you’re relying on Cech a little too much. Between van Persie’s chances and a Laurent Koscielny header that went off the crossbar in the first half, Chelsea could again be seen as lucky to keep a clean sheet.
- The bright spots of the match were two impressive young English left backs. Kieran Gibbs and Ryan Bertrand each gave the impression they’re ready for more regular play.
- Partially thanks to Bertrand, Chelsea were very left-side heavy. Almost all their attacks came down that flank, a lean influenced by left-looking Florent Malouda playing centrally. As a result, Daniel Sturridge was a bit player on the right, and when he did get the ball he made poor decisions, pressing. Unfortunately, they were able to do little to break down Bacary Sagna or Koscielny, either of whom could have gotten Man of the Match.
- Because Arsenal didn’t pose a threat in midfield, di Matteo was able to move Michael Essien forward at halftime, playing more of a 4-3-3 than the 4-2-3-1 we saw in the first. Unfortunately, aside from a nearly fruitful through ball in the 53rd minute, the move had little influence on the match.
- Throughout the match commentators occasionally referred to this as Chelsea’s second team, which is probably true. They made eight changes from Wednesday against Barcelona, but the XI they put out were still very strong.
- Chelsea went 67 minutes before putting their first shot on goal, and although the stats say Fernando Torres had two shots (neither on goal), I can’t remember them. A lot of hustle with little influence from the Spaniard. The Blues better hope Didier Drogba’s ready for Tuesday.
- With the draw, Arsenal is temporarily six points up on Tottenham and Newcastle for third, though they have played two more matches than each club. Chelsea is one point back of the Spurs-Toon, fourth-fifth group.
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