Chelsea vs. Arsenal Review (FA Cup)
Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea
It was a packed stadium for the FA Cup final today, and fans of both teams were well represented and ready to cheer on a great game of football. Chelsea had done really well to get past league rivals Tottenham 4 - 2 in their semi-final. In the other semi-final, Arsenal had come back from one-nil down to beat Manchester City 2 - 1, although City had a goal wrongly disallowed because the cross preceding the goal was ruled to have gone out of play.
Over the past twenty head-to-heads between Arsenal and Chelsea - going back to April 2009, Chelsea had the edge with thirteen wins. Arsenal beat Chelsea only four times in that period, but it has been closer recently; two of the Gunners' wins were in the last five games, 2015 to date.
This season's aggregate also favoured Arsenal 4 - 3, but league champions Chelsea were the strong favourites going into this fixture, with Arsenal given little chance by the pundits. One of the best things you can do though for a good team with quality players, is to tell them they have no hope of succeeding.
Antonio Conte made three changes to the squad that started against Sunderland in the league on Sunday. John Terry was on the bench today, and Fabregas and Willian made way for Matic and Pedro. Arsenal were missing three center backs to suspension and injury, Koscielny, Mustafi and Gabriel, and David Ospina was selected ahead of first team goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Moses, Alonso, Kante, Matic, Pedro, Hazard, Costa
Subs: Begovic, Terry, Zouma, Ake, Fabregas, Willian, Batshuayi
Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Holding, Mertesacker, Monreal, Ramsey, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Welbeck, Sanchez
Subs: Cech, Coquelin, Elneny, Iwobi, Walcott, Perez, Giroud
A minute of silence was observed before kick-off, to remember the victims of the terrorist attack in Manchester earlier this week.
The Big Moments
Controversial Goal - Arsenal 1 - 0 Chelsea - Similar to the game against Sunderland six days before, Chelsea were a goal down minutes into the first half. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois came out early to claim a corner, and there seemed no danger as he rolled the ball out to Kante to start a counter-attack. Kante’s pass to Moses was hit short though, and intercepted by Aaron Ramsey. After some interplay with his teammates, the ball was lobbed into the Chelsea box, then headed out again by David Luiz. N’golo Kante attempted to clear, but Sanchez had charged him down and appeared to use his arms to fend the ball back in to Ramsey, who was in an offside position and apparently interfering with play. Chelsea’s defenders switched off slightly, expecting a handball or offside call, but none was given. Ramsey then stood off possession of the ball for Sanchez to race in and finish to Courtois’ right. Although the assistant did eventually call an offside, he was overridden by match referee Anthony Taylor. And so the goal stood, Arsenal up one nil in controversial circumstances. Considering City’s incorrectly disallowed goal in the semis, and this strange Arsenal goal versus Chelsea today, video referee support can’t come to England soon enough.
Big Chance - Arsenal 1 - 0 Chelsea - Chelsea were clearly rattled by the early goal and finding it difficult to cope with Arsenal’s pressure. They were caught on the counter in the twentieth minute; Welbeck ran decoy for Mesut Ozil, who took possession of a Sanchez though ball, unmarked and on the right side of the box. He appeared to have successfully chipped both Luiz and Courtois for a goal, before Gary Cahill somehow cleared off the line.
Goes Begging - Arsenal 1 - 0 Chelsea - A few minutes later Welbeck lost his marker on an Arsenal corner, nodding the in-swinger down for Aaron Ramsey at the far post. Ramsey could only knock the ball into the side netting, Chelsea narrowly escaping yet again.
Back And Forth - Arsenal 1 - 0 Chelsea - Chelsea seemed to have recovered their composure by minute twenty-seven, Matic intercepting and handing off to Cahill, who passed on to Pedro. The Spanish international did well to find Costa with a long ball over the top. Costa was well covered by Holding, but still managed to jostle into position for a left-footed half volley. Ospina intervened though, the shot rebounding off his face for a Chelsea corner. Arsenal regained possession off the corner and streamed forward again on the counter. Welbeck played a neat one-two with Bellerin to get past Moses, before Courtois got down at the near post to save. The ball spilled over the keeper, and would have gone in except for Cahill, who again slid in for his second goal-line clearance of the first half.
Half Time - Arsenal 1 - 0 Chelsea - By this time you’d be forgiven for wondering if the Chelsea players celebrated a little bit too much after winning the league. Moses, Alonso, Luiz, Matic and Kante were playing a level below what you’d expect in a cup final. And although there had been moments of pressure from Chelsea, Arsenal had defended well, including a last minute Mertesacker tackle to prevent a Costa shot. Chelsea were lucky not to go in at half time three or four goals down.
Kante Pile-Driver - Arsenal 1 - 0 Chelsea - Three minutes after the break, Diego Costa set Kante up for a shot right outside the D. Kante’s piledriver was deflected by an Arsenal player, but still well saved by Ospina to keep Arsenal ahead.
Ospina Save - Arsenal 1 - 0 Chelsea - Kante picked Sanchez’s pocket in the centre circle, before Costa and Pedro moved the ball wide to Moses on the break. Moses' shot had the power taken out of it by a slight Arsenal deflection, and was knocked out again by Ospina.
Another Arsenal Counter - Arsenal 1 - 0 Chelsea - Arsenal had been living, and living well off "parking the bus”, defending deep and countering at pace all match. It was a good tactical choice from their manager, because it protected Per Mertesacker from being caught out by Chelsea’s pace, and played to Arsenal’s strengths - speed and great passing play. Welbeck was freed down the left wing by an excellent through ball from Ramsey. He made a low cross in for Sanchez, but it was just behind him. Bellerin ran on to the ball though, and made a really good shot across the keeper for the far corner, but Courtois somehow made another great save to deny him.
Man Down - Arsenal 1 - 0 Chelsea - Right in the middle of the second half, Victor Moses received a second yellow card for a dive in Arsenal’s box. He had gone down expecting a challenge from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the Arsenal winger was smart enough not to commit. Moses had already been booked for stopping Danny Welbeck on a previous Arsenal counter, and really should have been more careful under the circumstances.
Equalizer - Arsenal 1 - 1 Chelsea - Even with ten men, Chelsea poured forward seeking an equalizer. Fabregas passed to Costa on the edge of the box, who pinged it back out to Willian on the right. Willian lifted the ball into the area with a perfect lob to Costa’s chest, who knocked it down, and hooked a finish into the net. The ball took a slight deflection off the tip of Mertesacker’s boot and Ospina did get a hand to it, but this time it wasn’t enough.
Lost Concentration - Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea - Within a minute of the kick off Chelsea were trailing again, their defenders mentally not even in the same venue as the opposition. An early through ball from the left wing found Olivier Giroud’s run, Chelsea’s right back position leaking even worse with Moses off the pitch. Giroud let it run to the byline, before hooking it back over Cahill’s despairing tackle for Aaron Ramsey to head it in - for the winner this time.
Courtois - 7 - Courtois made save after save today, cutting the ball out on crosses, doing his best to make his wonky back five look like paid professionals. Seriously it could have been 5 - 1 to the Arsenal. For me, he was tied with Costa for Chelsea’s best player this game. And that's always a bad sign, your goalkeeper ending the match as your best player.
Azpilicueta - 5 - Looked OK at times, but was let down by the players around him. Remonstrated with Luiz for going to sleep on defence, but frankly it didn’t work. I was disappointed with the fact that even with Moses off and Azpilicueta covering, Arsenal were still running riot on (their) left wing.
David Luiz - 5 - Chelsea’s defence lost shape repeatedly today. Arsenal played well to put them under pressure, but this looked more like Chelsea on vacation than Wenger’s side becoming a world-class team. I felt that Luiz or maybe Cahill could have done more to organize the players around them, get their heads in the game.
Cahill - 7 - Made two goal-line clearances to keep the score respectable. Blocked another Sanchez shot, taken just four or five yards from goal. Almost got to Giroud’s cross to prevent the winner. As an individual player, I found it hard to fault Gary tonight. Sadly, it's a team game, you cannot do it all on your own.
Moses - 4 - No other way to say this. Moses wasn’t there today, mentally. He made some good attacking runs, might have even scored but for a last-minute tackle. Otherwise he didn't show as much desire and energy as usual, and defensively was pretty poor. Most of this season even when he’s not shown his best attacking play, Moses for me has been defensively excellent. Not tonightthough, Danny Welbeck ran him ragged. And although the red card wasn’t truly the reason they lost the match, it contributed.
Kante - 4 - Like Moses, Kante tonight was not the player he’s been most of this season. Yes he's the Premier League player of the season, but if you didn’t know it beforehand, it would have been difficult to tell from this game. Gave the ball away on the edge of his area for Arsenal’s first, was left behind by Aaron Ramsey for their second.
Matic - 5 (Fabregas - 5) - Matic seemed to lack desire or concentration early on, but he did grow into the game as it progressed. Fabregas was subbed in to turn things around, he tried but wasn’t able to do enough in limited time, with a man down and the defence a bit chaotic.
Alonso - 5 - Like a lot of other players today, Alonso looked a bit tired, off the pace. Chelsea depend heavily on their full-backs both in attack and defence; Alonso did try, but didn’t seem to make it back fast enough on many of Arsenal’s counters. In attack, he couldn’t do enough to help the team make the breakthroughs they needed.
Pedro - 6 (Willian - 6) - One of the few players who didn’t drop a level today, Pedro got into good areas but could not make the right finish. If the manager works with Pedro on his composure and finishing, he might be even more valuable to Chelsea next season. He gets into good positions almost every game he plays, but sometimes his finishing lets him down. Willian made the perfect cross for Costa’s equalizer. On his recent form, I feel like if he somehow started or had more playing time, he could have made more goals or even scored today.
Hazard - 6 - Eden worked hard for the team, but seemed to overplay it sometimes. I find that difficult to understand, because alongside Fabregas, Hazard generally shows the highest football IQ on the team. His decision-making is frequently world class, and his execution doesn’t often let him down. After Costa, he probably had the most opportunities for a good shot on goal, but mostly decided to pass the ball to someone else. Please take responsibility man - you are that good that you can, and should do it regularly.
Diego Costa - 7 (Batshuayi - 5) - Either Diego doesn’t party as hard as he’s reputed to do, or he recovers pretty quickly. In spite of a man of the match performance from Mertesacker, Costa scored a great goal, and might have had three. Chelsea losing and ten vs eleven, he could have easily given up, yet he made another late one-on-one shot for himself that Ospina somehow kept out of the net. I feel like the manager did not make the best choice taking him off for Batshuayi. At that point they probably needed both strikers on and honestly, Costa was Chelsea's best attacking player today.
Ospina - 8
Bellerin - 7
Holding - 6
Mertesacker - 8
Monreal - 6
Ramsey - 7
Xhaka - 6
Oxlade-Chamberlain - 6 (Coquelin - 5)
Ozil - 7
Welbeck - 8 (Giroud - 6)
Sanchez - 7 (Elneny - 5)
Thumbnail Image Source: Sky Sports