Calmer and Stronger Gunners (Bar Set-Pieces)

Theo Walcott

Chelsea succumbed in  the latest  London derby showdown in Emirates Stadium on Monday night (12/27). The score was 3-1, victory for the good Gunners courtesy of Song, Cesc, and Walcott goals. The Blues hit Fabianski’s net only once, not through Drogba, Lampard, or Malouda, but thanks to the sturdy Ivanovic.

Arsenal had been bullied by the big clubs this season (some may say, in the last two years). Losing to the other title contenders—except Manchester City—is not a good precedent for a champion candidate. The lack of concentration as well as weak morale and muscle seem to be a serious problem in big games.

That night was different, though, as the boys looked to have matured. They played calmly and efficiently, just like a man. The first goal was typical Arsenal: unpredictable moves in a sporadic attacking play. A throng of players in red-and-white overloaded Terry’s area when Song  was running in at the end of the first half. The defensive midfielder lost himself, springing up in the opponent’s box and rolled the ball past Petr Cech with a well-placed left-foot shot. Beautiful.

The second and the third goals were not really strange either. In the 51st minute, Walcott blazed off on the right flank to provide for Cesc’s goal before scoring one himself with a clinical finish 2 minutes later.

But then they still had 30 minutes to go. It was when we could see a glimpse of Arsenal we had used to see: weak in set-piece. Koscielny gave in to Ivanovic too easily. The big Russian jumped way higher than his marker and powered a header that left Fabianski dumbfounded.

Ivan too strong for Kos

Drogba’s free kick was timely, of note. Arsenal players, however, did not look ready for such a threat.

After all, I must admit that I was and still am amazed by Arsene’s tactics. Fielding Walcott and Van Persie instead of the standard pairs Arshavin and Chamakh proved genius. Theo’s potential danger on the right wing forced Ashley Cole to stay back most of the time, only to be unhelpful for Drogba and Malouda. Jeez, he wasn’t good at the back either as Theo outpaced him over and over.

Arsene also knew that Carlo Ancelotti likes to play deep backline. Crosses would not work against Chelsea since they had towering defenders. The game would not be good for Chamakh, but the space left in front of the center backs could suit a player who has better vision in attacking play, more precise pass, and superior control of the ball—yes, I’m talking about the Arsenal no. 10, Van Persie.

Arsene’s strategy was great. Arsenal’s passing machine worked just wonderful. But I’ve seen those in times as many as them allowing a cheap goal like Ivanovic’s. The difference was their improved mental and physical strengths.  It is something I’m still getting familiar and sure, if you ask, I’m really happy with. Credits to players like Djorou, Wilshere, and Song for being so composed and brawny throughout the game.

Those aspects aside, and given the fact that they did play beautifully and yet conceded a tacky goal, there is one thing Arsenal need to seriously work on: set-pieces.

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