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Mayhem and Vermaelen leave Arsenal in good shape
Mayhem and Vermaelen leave Arsenal in good shape
Wednesday, 2nd Nov 2011 20:56

We failed to secure qualification for the Champions League knock out stages last night but a clean sheet will have been some consolation for Arsene Wenger.

After trading knock out blows with Chelsea on Saturday and winning, we looked bereft of energy in the final third last night and the tame way in which the game petered out was not altogether unpredictable after a similar match in Marseille two weeks ago. Our defensive organisation was good though and Vermaelen's dominant style compensated for worrying defensive errors from Santos. The Brazilian is a liability in his own half and however good he is in attack, this will always cause us problems.

In Vermaelen's absence at Stamford bridge we were wide open at the back and two mistakes by Per Mertesacker gifted Chelsea a lead at half time despite Ramsey and Gervinho combining brilliantly to allow Robin van Persie to open the scoring. The Dutch striker is on fire but that move was an example of how well this team can move the ball in decisive areas and make the captain's job easy.

In the second period our defensive disarray was somehow matched by Chelsea and their shape went out of the window. Torres was abysmal in attack, looking more Franny Jeffers than Thierry Henry and we absolutely dominated in glorious fashion. Andre Santos got the first of the half after Song did well to engineer space in midfield and he stroked a perfectly weighted pass into the Brazilians path in the left channel. Santos, looking infinitely more comfortable in the opposition's half than his own, calmly stroked the ball past Cech at his near post.

We continued to press and Theo Walcott scored a breathtaking goal to give us the lead. He cut in from the right before stumbling and losing his footing in amongst a crowd of Chelsea players. As they hesitated, perhaps expecting the referee to give a free kick, his quick feet saw him burst past the lumbering defenders and fire a stunning drive past Cech, again at his near post. He sprinted to the Arsenal support to celebrate but even those in the ground thought that we had peaked too early.

Wenger will have been pleased to see how we took control of the game and limited Chelsea's opportunities as the half progressed but a poor pass from Andre Santos and the subsequent obstruction of him by the giant Lukaku gifted Mata the space to launch an unstoppable dipping strike into the far corner past Wojciech Szczesny. Suddenly the game was level and Chelsea looked more likely to score the winner despite our dominance of the half.

There was more to come from an electric Arsenal though and as John Terry turned, slipped and fell flat on his despicable face, there was only one man that Arsenal fans wanted to see sprint on to the ball. Van Persie duly stepped up, expertly rounding Cech and rolling the ball into the net. This time we only had five minutes to hang on but the nature of the game meant the points weren't secure. 

As Chelsea committed even more men forward we still had the energy to hit them on the counter attack and Arteta, after an assured performance, picked the right pass at the right time allowing Van Persie the space to slash home an incredible fifth goal to seal the points. It was the kind of emphatic win that we have been starved of in recent months and the perfect tonic after a testing start to the season.

Van Persie's exertions meant that he was rested for the Marseille game but in truth, given our lacklustre efforts in the final third, perhaps the manager should have rotated more players. Still, qualification is in our hands and with Thomas Vermaelen returning to first team action, this Arsenal team are definitely on the right track.


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