Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Arsenal FC

Set Pieces Complete Di Matteo's Winning Picture

12:28 PMAleks Vee

Fernando Torres celebrates his goal. Source: ferrnandotorres
An exciting London derby was underway today as current Premier League leaders Chelsea put Wenger's side to the test at Emirates Stadium. With a match on home turf and a 61:44 record of wins against the Blues, Arsenal looked to be the favorites. Of course, the persisting question going in to this season continues to sound like a broken record - can Arsenal manage without Robin van Persie? Perhaps one player doesn't make the team, but today the Gunners looked like they could use a goal-scoring forward. A crowd of over 60,000 watched as the chances began to sway in Arsenal's favor, cut short by the inevitable set piece goal from Fernando Torres. Perhaps it was Diaby's early substitution that rocked the boat, or the fact that Wenger didn't include Mertesacker in today's lineup. Either way, poor marking by the defense, especially Koscielny, gave Chelsea the lead. Juan Mata's great delivery allowed Torres to volley the ball in with his right foot, his 5th goal in 10 appearances for Chelsea this year. It's safe to say that Torres is having a much more productive season, not only in scoring goals, but in setting up dangerous counters. He's the kind of player the Gunners are currently lacking. Referee Martin Atkinson denied Torres a penalty after his one-on-one counter ended with his going down in the box. Replays showed that there was indeed no connection with Koscielny; the Spaniard was already going down. Chelsea have never lost their 15 Premier League games refereed by Atkinson; his presence must have been a lucky charm. Torres scored an offside goal after a pass from Mata and continued to be active throughout the half. Chelsea were significantly ahead in possession, though Arsenal were getting most of the chances. Cazorla, Gervinho, and, at times, Podolski set up a series of potentially great attacks. None of them posed too much of a threat for Petr Cech. The Gunners were finally able to equalize a few minutes before halftime after a cross by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from the right flank gave Gervinho his 4th goal of the season. Despite Arsenal pushing the game more in the last ten minutes, Oscar had a nice potential attempt for Chelsea, and Torres shot the ball into the side netting in a last-minute effort.  

Arsenal came back strong at the start of the second half, with Podolski setting up a nice attack in the box. Cazorla missed the near post, though he was only a few meters away from the net. Chelsea exploited their counters, and for good reason. Vermaelen brought down Torres, earning Di Matteo's side yet another free kick and another goal. Juan Mata's delivery went straight into the net, though it seemed questionable whether Koscielny's leg touched the ball before it went in. Podolski finally tested Petr Cech with a close-range header, but the keeper came through for the guests. As the game evened out again, Arsenal's attacks came in waves. Olivier Giroud, who came in for Podolski, tested the keeper and got a corner for the home team after his shot ricocheted off a defender and forced Cech to reach for the ball. A late attempt by Wenger's side was saved by the inside of the crossbar, though Gervinho was offside. Victor Moses found space but shot the ball over the bar. Arsenal's last hurrah soon followed. Cazorla's shot teased the upper left corner, while Giroud wasted his moment, dribbling away, shooting too late, and not following the ball's motion. Chelsea walked away with 16 points, and rightfully so. As ESPN commentators Ian Darke and Steve McManaman suggested, Di Matteo's side simply have more players to mix and match. John Terry played a great defensive game, especially late in the second half. Transfers like Hazard and Oscar are shaping the midfield, while Moses proved his abilities in the wing.

Arsenal came off of a 6-1 win over Coventry in the Capital One Cup to a loss that could have been prevented. While Di Matteo can certainly be credited for his tactics this season, the Blues were already pretty consistent before he came in. During Arsenal's 7 years without a trophy, Chelsea have won 8 trophys, including 4 FA Cups, 2 Premier League titles, and the coveted status of Champions of Europe. 

If there was any irony to be found, it came from both sides. It was the first time this season that Chelsea scored from set pieces. Arsenal played a more organized game than the guests and even created more set pieces, but there's too big a gap in productivity between players like Cazorla and RVP. Whether or not that explains the 7-point gap between Arsenal and the Premier League leaders or Arsenal's first loss of the season is debatable. So far, it looks like Lukas Podolski and Gervinho will have to step up their game to help Wenger's side compete with the front-runners. They've certainly got the potential, but can the duo help their team win their first trophy in 7 years? We've got the rest of the season to find out. 

Barclays Premier League - 6th Matchweek
Saturday, September 29, 7:45AM EST

Arsenal vs. Chelsea - 1:2 (1:1)
Arena: Emirates Stadium/Ashburton Grove (London)
Referee: Martin Atkinson (Leeds)
0:1 Fernando Torres (Asst. Juan Mata) (20')
1:1 Gervinho (Asst. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain) (43')
1:2 Juan Mata (53')

Published on Get Real Premier.

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