When Arsenal collapse in comical style, such as from 4-0 up to draw 4-4 with Newcastle last season, or conceding a goal seconds after equalising in the 3-2 defeat to Swansea, it feels fashionable to say “only Arsenal could have lost a game like that”.
And there’s something to it, to be fair, our defence has generally been the worst in the top four over the years, and we have a poor record in points lost from winning positions. This is a reputation we have earned over quite a long period of time now, but looking across to Stamford Bridge this season, we are no longer alone.
Chelsea have the worst home defence outside the bottom five. In three home games against ‘big sides’ this season, they have just one point, which came in yesterday’s 3-3 draw with Manchester United; they were in front twice against Arsenal at the Bridge and managed a late equaliser, but still lost 5-3; they lost late on to Liverpool, gifting the visitors their first goal in a calamitous fashion that day.
And yesterday, after scoring two quickfire goals to give them a 3-0 lead at arguably the best time – immediately after the restart, rendering Fergie’s half-time team talk useless – Chelsea absolutely collapsed. They could not cope with being 3 up, and started giving the ball away needlessly. Credit to them for looking for a 4th to really kill the game off, but they went about it in a much too hurried way, allowing United to get the ball back too quickly. With the state of Chelsea’s defence this season, giving United so much of the ball was a big mistake.
And what about Arsenal’s other trademark? Over-playing, over-thinking and screwing up the easy chances? Look no further than Fernando Torres, a £50million striker who doesn’t score goals. At 3-2, he worked his way into the area superbly, after cleverly nodding the ball past a United defender, giving him a clear shot at goal to kill the game, but he hesitated and wanted another touch, which resulted in him losing the ball.
This is something that would never have happened under Mourinho, despite many of the same players remaining at Chelsea, illustrating once again that the importance of having the right manager cannot be underplayed. Villas-Boas is certainly a talented manager for his age, but he took the wrong job at the wrong time. Everything will be carefully scrutinised under the controlling eye of Roman Abrhamovic at Chelsea, which is quite a culture shock in the unforgiving world of the Premier League, after just one full season with Porto.
The good news for us is, they are certainly within reach. Despite all our own problems, we are only three points behind the Blues, who currently occupy the much-coveted 4th spot. I guess from now until the end of the season it’s a matter of who screws up the least.