FA Cup woes as the pitch and player inconsistency undo Wenger's plans...

This will not be match report that makes easy reading. The plain fact of the matter is that we were yet undone by the injury curse At the Emirates. I do believe that compared to our rivals, our injury list is somewhat higher. Whether the facts bear me out will be down to research, but I don’t recall hearing of Liverpool being without Gerrard and Alonso for 12 games, or Vijdic for ten games equally that stalwart of the Chelsea defence Lampard, when was the last time you heard that he was injured? So it was upon that background that I feel Arsenal fans will have to be understanding of Arsene Wenger’s dilemma.
The centre back pairing saw an ageing Silvestre play the role of Senderos of last season. He is experienced, but of the also players, he gave away the ball too easily and in dangerous areas of the field. This put way too much pressure on the young Fabianski, who was unfortunate enough to have himself a bad day at the office. One could argue that the winning goal was a goal keeping error, but if Silvestre had actually cleared the high long ball, we would have being extra time and the influence of introducing Arshavin would have borne fruit.
If one considers the options facing Arsene Wenger, then Song was never going to play as defensive midfielder, despite the barnstorming last two performances. He should have been played as Centre Back so as to be able to utilise his other defensive and midfield assets, but in terms of height, that would have left us more exposed. Arsene Wenger’s choice of Silvestre back fired. It meant that Song had to be held in reserve in case of Silvestre breaking down. The midfield selection then meant that Denilson had to return alongside Fabregas, and for what ever reason, Denilson can’t seem to give of his best in a big game, or alongside Fabregas. That leaves the flanks of midfield, and with Diaby such an attacking central player, the formation seemed very unbalanced.
Diaby is a gifted player, but he always seems to hold onto the ball to long and either lose it or give it away, but he was the logical choice in the extraordinary absence of Nasri or Arshavin. Yet I cannot recall a single attempt on goal from Diaby. We had Walcott’s searing pace down the right, but in front of the very brave Keiran Gibbs, effectively nothing. A fact that Chelsea exploited to their benefit as Ivanovitch was able to play higher up the field. Robins van Persie played deep and also centrally thus losing width for the Arsenal attacks, but playing in the “hole” behind Adebayor meant that Adebayor would have to do more work in order for Arsenal to create chances. Unfortunately Adebayor’s effort was a disgrace. Did he actually break sweat? He played in such a complacent way, He didn’t seem interested, and contributed absolutely nothing to the game in my opinion.
Now all of this criticism of a player that Insiders know I have never supported 100% is harsh coming on the day after the exit from the one trophy competition that we had a realistic chance of winning. I can see Everton beating Man United today and getting through to the final. Easy pickings for Chelsea then? Eduardo would have played his heart out, Bendtner would have worked his socks off, even Carlos Vela would have tried to attack the opposing back four, but all we got from Adebayor was “I am waiting for it to be served to me on a plate!” attitude which made me so angry. So it was that Wenger put his faith yet again in his most prized assets. To be honest we had more than enough in midfield. Large periods of the game were as I expected. Chelsea were content to concede possession and defend the last third tenaciously, assuming that Alex would be able to conquer any aerial threat posed by Adebayor.
Chelsea decided to use the threat of Drogba as counter. In the first half we were by far the superior team and pressed the ball well. I had praised Keiran Gibbs highly in my last blog, and I will unashamedly give my man of the match from the Arsenal perspective to this young player, who despite carrying an injury, kept Anelka in quiet for the majority of the game. He very rarely put a foot wrong and yet again was there to clear the ball from going into the net after another defensive mistake. Fabregas also gave away the ball or conceded possession uncharacteristically, but was this the quality of the pitch that I had also criticised heavily before the game? After 18 minutes the goal by Theo Walcott was much deserved and that should have guaranteed us the match. Adebayor laid the ball off to Gibbs, who ran the left channel and crossed to the far post side of the 18 yard box. Theo managed to get enough on his shot on target to profit from what seemed a slight deflection from a Chelsea defender. Cech was beaten.
Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0 Walcott (18’)
Arsenal’s Kolo Toure tried to mobilise his troops to ensure that we did not concede immediately. His brave efforts had almost paid off. However one always felt that Eboue would be undone for pace. It wasn’t long before Malouda put Chelsea level as Chelsea exploited our left sided imbalance. Lampard foraged forward and with the defence caught rather square with his cross field high ball, Malouda was able to find space behind Eboue and fire the ball in past Fabianski’s near post. Chelsea’s decision to use the aerial route seemed logical given the state of the pitch. Arsenal’s attempt to use the same tactic was largely unrewarded by the lack of effort from Adebayor.
Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1 Malouda (33’)
Half time came and with it the end of a half where we rode our luck with the ball striking the base of the post and Chelsea looked a team that we could beat if our strikers could up their game.
Half time Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
The second half saw Arsenal try to apply more pressure. Denilson seemed more focused and managed to support Fabregas more. Diaby was well, Diaby and despite a few tackles, he was content to try and carry the ball long enough to keep the passing moves going. Chelsea’s Essien and Ballack appeared to be able to con the ref at will, and we conceded many unfair free kicks for just trying to win the ball. This gamesmanship by Chelsea disturbed our rhythm, whether this was a deliberate tactic by Hiddick, I cannot say, but it had the effect of breaking our fluid attacking efforts, which remained few and far between. The game was crying out for a match winner, and Arshavin was introduced far too late in my opinion. Arsene Wenger’s substitutions this season have been much below his normal standards. I think that this is mainly because he is too preoccupied with future games.
We could and should have won this game, but it was not meant to be as Drogba did his usual falling over at every challenge and receiving a free kick thus creating uncertainty for the defenders who would risk conceding a free kick in the final minutes. It was this consideration I believe that paralysed Silvestre as Lampard launched yet another aerial bomb down the middle on 85 minutes. Drogba twisted and I believe held onto Silvestre which allowed the ball to beat him. Silvestre had no pace and his legs had gone. Would a fit Song have caught him? We will never know. Fabianski tried to come out to try and help, but he didn’t move quickly enough, and having come too far, it was a relatively simple task for Drogba to run out to the wide left channel and slot the ball into our empty net.
Arsenal 1 Chelsea 2 Drogba (84’)
Thus ended our journey in the FA Cup. My intense disappointment was countered by the fact that we can beat Chelsea at the Emirates on this performance with a half depleted side. We can also beat Man United in the Champions League if Nasri is allowed to play. We missed his silky skills, and I do believe that Arsene Wenger made an error in not selecting him. I had singled him out in my poorly spelt pre match review yesterday. I have now fixed my spell checker, but the absence of my predicted match winner Samir Nasri just adds to the pain of today. Arsene Wenger is clearly focused and believes that we can get third place in the premier league, and this will be a good achievement. To overhaul Chelsea is now the target, and there will never be a better six pointer on May 10th providing we can pick ourselves up and beat Middlesboro, Pompey and get a draw with Liverpool.
Aston Villa’s draw with West Ham means that only Everton remain a threat to our Champions League status, and I cannot see them catching us. The Champions League is now the only hope of a trophy, and I bet all of you disappointed Gooners out there will not worry about yesterday’s match or any of this season’s problems if we win that prize. I believe that we can, against all odds if we get past Man United. A big If. Let us continue to support our team. Arsenal will march onto to victory at some stage in a major competition so lets be patient. We lost yesterday, so deal with it, and move on! Lets get third place in the League and get to the Champions League final. Once there, I can tell you, even Adebayor will up his game!
Arsenal til I die!
Fabregas the King.

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