Arsene Wenger’s team are mentally frail, Diego Costa is a nightmare for the Gunners and other things we learned from Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1
By Editor Wayne Veysey
Arsenal cannot handle Costa
This must be the hothead striker’s favourite fixture in the calendar. Costa was the biggest influence back in September when Chelsea did a job on Arsenal and, once again, he was at the centre of the match’s key moments. The Spain international invited a challenge from last man Per Mertesacker after 17 minutes when he latched on to Willian’s precise pass and the cumbersome German duly obliged by hacking the forward’s ankle. Referee Mark Clattenburg didn’t hesitate as he gave Mertesacker his marching order and, minutes later, Costa stole in front of substitute Gabriel at the near post to volley in the game’s only goal. Job done. In a scrappy, disjointed match there’s few better players to have on your team than Costa.
Wenger must buy a new striker
With Danny Welbeck due to return soon, Arsene Wenger has claimed he does not need a new striker as there is none better available in the market. Arsenal fans could be forgiven for tearing their hair out at hearing such a well-worn phrase from their manager, for whom old habits die hard. It is stretching the bounds of credulity for Wenger to expect Welbeck to be a major attacking weapon in the title race after nine months out with a knee injury that has been more serious than the club have let on. Olivier Giroud has broad shoulders but he has carried the attack single-handedly for months, with Walcott doing little against Chelsea today to suggest he is a genuine spearhead alternative. Welbeck is a fine player but Arsenal’s need for more forward power is such that they should be eyeing up a proven scorer on loan for the rest of the campaign. Their title bid could depend upon it.
Arsenal are mentally weak
This result and performance raises further questions about the mental strength of Wenger’s side. In truth, they could have few complaints about Mertesacker’s dismissal. Rather than rage against refereeing decisions, the manager should consider why Arsenal were carved open so often by Chelsea in the opening 25 minutes when this match was won. The centre of his midfield were over-run by their counterparts and put too much pressure on a back line that could not cope. Have Arsenal got the mentality to win a title? Do they have the strength of minds to triumph in a 38-match marathon? Well, after this game it’s a fair question. Arsenal have won some big games this season – notably against both Manchester clubs at Emirates Stadium – but yet again they were found wanting against big rivals Chelsea.
Withdrawing Giroud backfired
There were looks of astonishment on the faces of supporters when Giroud was sacrificed minutes after the dismissal of Mertesacker. Arsenal’s 18-goal leading scorer and the one player who could hold the ball up while his team-mates got their breaths back against a side with a numerical advantage was withdrawn to make way for Gabriel. The obvious decision would have been to take off Joel Campbell and put Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott on the flanks. As Arsenal threw everything at Chelsea in the second half but could not find the goal they so desperately needed, the decision to take off Giroud appeared even more bizarre.
Hiddink has inspired a Chelsea revival
Even during their wretched run of results under Jose Mourinho, the sense was that Chelsea were simply doing a good job of hiding what a fine team they were. A change of manager has brought a predictable and swift turnaround in results, with the champions drawing four and winning three matches. All the characteristics of the Mourinho team that cakewalked to the title last season was evident at Emirates Stadium – the resilience, solidity, control and cutting edge. Guus Hiddink has inspired a Chelsea revival.