TEAM STYLESArsenal played a 4-3-3 system. The Arsenal full-backs were allowed to move forward. The deeper midfielders for Arsenal, Song and Wilshere also made a number of forward run while Fabregas dropped deeper to allow himself more space. All the Arsenal forwards roamed from their position though their positions were still clearly obvious. Arsenal wingers especially Walcott tracked back well all through the game.
Chelsea also played their version of 4-3-3. Kalou played more as an orthodox winger while Essien looked to move into the right channel whenever he could. Malouda roamed from his position very often. Lampard was the most advanced of the Chelsea players and looked to link up with the forward line if possible. Mikel played as a pure anchorman thereby allowing Ashley Cole to move up the pitch and fill Malouda’s empty flank while Ferreira was more conservative considering Kalou occupied the right flank.
AS IT PLAYED OUT
Arsenal played a short passing game as expected while Chelsea were more direct looking to utilize the strength of Drogba and the pace of their forwards attempting long balls over the Arsenal defence. The goalkeeping distribution of Cech showed a strong belief in Drogba’s supposed aerial dominance over the Arsenal defence. Arsenal defended by pressing from the front so the Chelsea back-line players were more inclined towards lumping the ball up-field or playing the ball into the left channel towards Ashley Cole but were generally unsuccessful. Both Arsenal centre backs were relatively successful against Drogba and the Chelsea forwards mistimed their runs so were often caught offside.
Arsenal began a period domination and Chelsea were satisfied with this situation as they defended deep in their half and kept their shape. Arsenal players made more forward runs and this was key in scoring the first goal. Song made one of those forward runs and though Chelsea lines were quite close, Arsenal players were still able to create a box inside the Chelsea box and Song was able to hit the ball into the net under little pressure from opposition defenders. It was a situation of area/zone overload in favour of Arsenal inside the Chelsea box.
2ND HALF EARLY RUSH
At the start of the 2nd half in response to the Arsenal goal, Ancelotti removed Mikel for Ramires and shifted Essien into the Mikel role. Ancelotti was probably looking for more drive from that position but the decision appeared to be disastrous. A total loss of on-ball composure and lack of concentration led to two goals at the start of the 2nd half for Arsenal.
Some good centre forward play from Van Persie proved too much for the Chelsea centre back pairing and Essien stepped in but Essien mistakenly hit a delightful ball for Walcott to run onto. An unpicked Fabregas run allowed Walcott to release Fabregas to tap in to the empty net. The 1st 2 Arsenal goals were as a result of unpicked forward runs.
After this goal, Chelsea decided to become more mobile and the Wingers (Kalou and Maluda) roamed more though Kalou was clearly no more an orthodox winger from the start of the 2nd half. Malouda moved into the centre to receive the ball and a momentary loss of concentration saw Fabregas nick the ball off him and slide it through to Walcott who ran onto the ball to finish past Petr Cech.
Ancelotti then removed Malouda who had had a decent game until his error resulted in an Arsenal goal for Kakuta who basically played the same role. Bosingwa also came in for Ferreira to take more advantage of Kalou’s inside movement. Song also reverted to the role of a pure anchor man whose role was simply to break play. Chelsea dominated the game more and Arsenal sat back more and made more challenges in their half. A foul lead to a Chelsea free kick which was converted by Ivanovic. Basically, Chelsea played the same way as in the 1st half with more forward runs from Essien trying to replicate Song’s style in the first half but Arsenal were more determined to break up Chelsea play than Chelsea were in the first half so Chelsea rarely built play into dangerous regions. The game was also more open with refeeree Mark Clattenburg allowing challenges go unpunished. This decision probably favoured Arsenal. The game played out in this way with both sides generally accepting the result. Essien finally settled into an anchorman role and the decision to remove Mikel looked more foolish at this point.
– Ancelotti had spoken about Chelsea being overly reliant on Drogba’s physical strengths but due to the success of this tactic in recent clashes between these two sides, it was not a bad tactic but it failed on the night.
– Though Chelsea packed their lines, their decision to be easy going in the challenge in the middle (Essien was invisible) proved costly. Chelsea rarely looked to go dirty on Arsenal and Song’s forward run into such a high region after good build-up play proved to much for the Chelsea’s zonal marking, shape retention system to deal with.
– Walcott’s pace proved key on the night but had Chelsea decided to leave Mikel on the field, would such lack of composure have occurred in the region where the errors were made?
– Overall a poor performance from Chelsea and an impressive performance from the likes of Song (who played two roles superbly on the night), Fabregas and Walcott.