Monday, 31 October 2011

So, after winning a gunfight at the Bridge, where do we stand?

Chelsea 3 Arsenal 5
Words: 444. Estimated reading time: 1 minute 35 seconds.

What a crazy game. Between a big club and a small club the basketball-like ebb and flow would be surprising but between two of the traditional big four it was just madness. Ultimately very satisfying madness, but still madness.

Back in November 2004 when we beat Spurs 5-4, Jose Mourinho said - if memory serves me right - he didn't need to see the game to know the defending was dreadful. The result this Saturday was one goal different but you could draw pretty much the same conclusion.

But let's try and forget the 'all or nothing' approach each back line opted for and instead revel in winning one of the big away games of the season, something we've only done three times in the seven seasons since the Invincibles.

The tempo we played at, the effort put in and the attacking technique shown was top class - think of Ramsey's through ball to Gervinho for our opening goal, Song's instant turn and pass to set up Santos for his goal or the number of times Arteta nicked possession and moved the ball in the blink of an eye.

And of course there is RVP. At the start of the season I said we had been left Robin-reliant because of our transfer dealings and so it has proved. Thankfully, at present he is also delivering the kind of performances I was hoping for, ones that will be the difference between us winning and losing and that earn him player of the year plaudits.

He isn't the only player hitting top form, though. Gervinho's movement and pluck is making chances, Walcott made two of his finest ever crosses and scored a wonderful solo goal, Ramsey is keeping possession much more regularly and Koscielny has put in a string of solid performances.

Of course we mustn't get carried away. The defensive co-ordination was non-existent for much of the first half and we continue to look vulnerable.

But taking this game as part of a series that runs from Marseille away, through Stoke at home last weekend and Bolton in midweek, the team has shown all the attributes it needs to turn this season around - a conservative, mature 1-0 away win, deservedly overcoming a physical and well-organised team that is happy to take a point from Ashburton Grove, a comeback win and out-scoring the third-favourites for the title.

When I think back to how depressed I was before that set of games and how pessimistic I felt about the rest of our season, Wenger deserves credit for instilling belief into his players and making sure things should remain interesting for the next couple of months at least.

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