Branislav Ivanovic can't stop Cesc Fabregas from notching Arsenal's second goal of the game.
Well, it's hard to say that Chelsea deserved better. Some awful defending gifted Arsenal three goals and the fightback just wasn't good enough to cause the home side any real problems. Arsenal were clearly better in the first half, and although Chelsea dominated the second they also managed to concede two goals inside the first five minutes, giving the Gunners very little incentive to actually go and do anything (to their credit, they attacked anyway). Chelsea can take very little from the game - their best players were a combination of rusty, ill, and criminally negligent and only to good work of John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, and Petr Cech stopped it from being even more of a rout. If the pressure wasn't on before, it really is now. 3-1 isn't a poor score at the Emirates, but the lackadaisical play in such an important game is massively, massively disappointing.
The game started in typical fashion, with Arsenal dominating possession and Chelsea looking to hit their hosts on the break. Frank Lampard, making his first start since August, was excellent in the first quarter of the match and set up a wonderful chance for Didier Drogba in the opening minutes. The Ivorian beat Lukasz Fabianski but dragged his shot just wide of the far post. Bad breaks and unlucky bounces contrived to break up the majority of Chelsea's attacks, but there was a clear lack of width down both wings as Arsene Wenger cleverly neutralised contributions of both Ashley Cole and Paulo Ferreira by deploying Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri to keep them shackled.
Nasri looked particularly dangerous and he came extremely close to breaking the deadlock, being denied by Cech's fingertips as he scooped a delicious chip towards the top corner after receiving the ball at the top of the area. However, the reprieve was temporary - chaos in the Chelsea box saw Alex Song wade through a sea of bodies to pick up a lose ball and fire it into the back of the net on almost the very stroke of halftime. It was a calamity for Chelsea, who looked as though they were happily weathering the Arsenal storm. Going 1-0 down meant changes were coming.
The change in question was Ramires for John Obi Mikel, which was rather curious as Mikel was providing a certain amount of security as a defensive shield even though his passing game had been poor. Michael Essien dropped into the holding role as Ramires pushed up alongside Lampard in midfield. However, no amount of tactical changes would have changed the carnage that was to follow - first a tackle by Essien in the middle of the field pushed the b all back towards Chelsea's goal, leaving Theo Walcott to run straight onto the ball (Ashley Cole was left half-asleep in his wake). The young winger, confronted with the formidable figure of Petr Cech, wisely squared the ball to Cesc Fabregas to slot home.
Worse was to come. Florent Malouda was the recipient of an admittedly poor pass by John Terry, but he inexplicably let it escape and fall into the path of Walcott, who again found himself with a free run on Cech. He finished it himself this time, and in the span of less than five minutes the deficit Chelsea were facing had tripled.
This seemed to galvanise the team - or perhaps Arsenal eased up a little bit, knowing the game was probably secure. Ivanovic almost immediately reduced the deficit with a glacing header from a sweetly-struck Drogba free kick, Gael Kakuta showed some remarkable skill on the ball, and the fullbacks both finally managed to get free to attack. Chelsea were thundering forward, leaving Arsenal to counter with lightning raids down the middle of the pitch for a back-and-forth, massively exciting match of football. Despite several good chances for both teams, the ball failed to find the back of the net again (although a Fabianski own goal was ruled out for offside very late), and the game, having been played a blistering pace for most of the second half, ended 3-1 after four minutes of stoppage time.
There were a couple of bright sparks - Lampard played 90 minutes, Ivanovic was brilliant, and Cech had a good game, but it's just two difficult to look at the silver lining here. Losing this game is a massive blow to Chelsea's title hopes, and now the Blues are staring at a mountain of Himalayan proportions while Arsenal have reignited their challenge. Fair play to the Gunners, though; they deserved the win, and the fact that we helped them by shooting ourselves in the foot doesn't take away from their incisive, skillful play. As for us? We can cite unluckiness all we like and that's pretty reasonable, but that's still just an excuse. My patience is running pretty thin with all of this.
Chelsea's man of the match?
Petr Cech (21 votes)
Branislav Ivanovic (13 votes)
John Terry (3 votes)
Frank Lampard (3 votes)
Didier Drogba (3 votes)
Other (1 vote)
Nobody (14 votes)
58 total votes