Sep 29, 2012, 11:29 AM EDT
Chelsea stayed on top of the Premier League with their 2-1 win at Arsenal on Saturday, but with the season still in its infancy, the lessons we draw from early-season games may be more informative than the actual results. With that in mind, let’s take inventory of what we learned from the early match at the Emirates:
What we learned about … Chelsea:
1. They’re more than Eden Hazard - Through the first weeks of the season, many were bending over backwards to try and quantify how many goals the 21-year-old Belgian phenom had contributed, leading to a mysterious phase where some outlets were awarding him assists for penalty kicks created. The efforts came from a good place, trying to find some way to describe the huge impact Hazard was having on Chelsea’s results, but today at the Emirates, Hazard was barely noticeable. He had some nice runs with the ball and put in a first half cross that would have blown out both of Arjen Robben’s hamstrings, but none of it had a major impact. Chelsea was able to win a huge game without a huge day from their best player.
2. It’s never going to be pretty - The pragmatism that drove Chelsea to last year’s Champions League has become endemic to their play. Today they didn’t generate a ton of chances (you could argue they only really created one), but they didn’t need to. For all the money this club’s spent on attackers, their success is predicated on their ability to get ahead and hold on. The approach may not be as dominant as it was during the José Mourinho era, but it may yet prove as effective, even if Roman Abramovich would ideally want something a little more attractive.
3. Chelsea are title contenders - Some will say they’ve been contenders all along, but from a team that finished sixth last season, we needed this result to see Chelsea as more than knockout tournament specialists. Given Arsenal were coming off a well-earned point at Manchester City, today’s was a telling result. Although Chelsea may not be favorites to win the Premier League, but they can’t be far off.
What we learned about … Arsenal:
1. They’re close, just not there yet - It’s hard to be too down on Arsenal given they’re just played two title contenders to a 3-2 aggregate over the last 180 minutes. This team lost last year’s two best players (Robin van Persie, Alex Song). To be at this level so early in the season should be seen as an accomplishment.
2. Dominating the ball is overrated - Their problems in attack are the same as ever. The type of players that make Arsenal so good in the middle third hold them back as they approach goal. While that wasn’t a huge problem on Saturday, having a better penalty area presence certainly would have helped. Continuing to use Gervinho through the middle, it’s unclear Arséne Wenger is willing to do what it takes to fine tune this attack.
3. Set piece defending needs to get better - All three goals allowed over Arsenal’s last two games came off set pieces. Even if that’s an aberration, Wenger has to treat it as a cause for concern. The message to his team needs to emphasize set piece defending is costing Arsenal their place among the league’s best.
May 19, 2013, 5:50 PM EDT
With his eye on the imminent vacancy at Real Madrid left by Jose Mourinho’s almost certain departure, Paris Saint-Germain’s mastermind Carlo Ancelotti may now have a large hurdle to get past if he is to land his ideal job in Spain’s capital.
May 19, 2013, 5:34 PM EDT
Fernando Torres broke his Premier League scoring drought by banging home the game-winner to secure Chelsea a third place finish.
May 19, 2013, 5:22 PM EDT
Heartbreak in Serie A this year belongs to Fiorentina. Mario Balotelli converted a penalty in the 84th minute to draw level and two minutes later Philippe Mexes slotted home a cross to secure Europe’s top competition for AC Milan.
May 19, 2013, 5:01 PM EDT
Rare as they are, we’ve seen more than our share of “Olimpico” goals in MLS over the last pair of seasons, including one last night:
May 19, 2013, 4:47 PM EDT
With Arsenal and Tottenham the only teams battling for any meaningful positioning in the Premier League table, the final day still had implications for many teams in the form of placement prize money.
May 19, 2013, 4:28 PM EDT
Sir Alex Ferguson managed the final match of his career away from Old Trafford, and it looked set to complete on a high note, until the opposition had other ideas late.
May 19, 2013, 4:25 PM EDT
Another game-winning strike from Gareth Bale wasn’t enough to save Tottenham from more Champions League heartache.
May 19, 2013, 3:50 PM EDT
New York took all the points from the L.A. Galaxy on Tim Cahill’s late goal. So let’s talk about that goal.
May 19, 2013, 3:17 PM EDT
This Landon Donovan debate regarding his place on the national team is not going anywhere. So, did Sunday’s performance move the needle either way?
May 19, 2013, 2:42 PM EDT
Arsenal secured its 16th consecutive spot on the Champions League with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Newcastle at St. James’ Park on Sunday.
May 19, 2013, 1:43 PM EDT
Sensational news for fans around BMO Field:
May 19, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT
With David Beckham-esque tears streaming down my cheeks, we’re finally here: The final day of the 2012-13 Barclay’s Premier League.
May 19, 2013, 10:19 AM EDT
Newcastle have nothing to play for and have been a disaster at home of late, losing their last two matches at St. James’ Park by a combined 9-0.
May 19, 2013, 10:13 AM EDT
The timing on this thing in two words: pretty bad:
May 19, 2013, 9:32 AM EDT
Not to get too far ahead of ourselves on the 20-year-old goal-scoring sensation … :
May 19, 2013, 12:48 AM EDT
The Sounders exploit Dallas’ young back line in a meeting of two Western Conference teams in top form. Final score: 4-2 for the Sounders:
May 18, 2013, 11:41 PM EDT
Juan Agudelo makes his New England debut as Jay Heaps posts one of the best wins of his young coaching career:
May 18, 2013, 10:33 PM EDT
Highlights and context as “Jack Mac” scores his league-leading 8th goal:
May 18, 2013, 9:50 PM EDT
Cascadia Cup matches are always interesting, and Saturday’s 2-2 draw at BC Place was full of talking points:
May 18, 2013, 8:24 PM EDT
it was a big crowd pleaser on two fronts when the Whitecaps’ forward stroked an unstoppable free kick against Portland:
- Where Landon Donovan’s afternoon takes us in the ongoing U.S. national team debate 1
- Philadelphia’s Jack McInerney would be league’s youngest Golden Boot winner 0
- Talking points on Portland’s 2-2 draw with Vancouver 0
- PSG president confirms Saturday was likely David Beckham’s farewell match 3
- As Alex Ferguson says goodbye, Manchester United’s cupboard remains stocked 1
- Play Video: Highlights: Union outlast Fire
- Play Video: Sir Alex says goodbye
- Play Video: Morgan committed to growth of new women's league
- Play Video: Boy with cancer, 8, scores against major league soccer team
- Play Video: Red Bulls pull off win on the road
- Play Video: Highlights: Montreal extinguish Chicago