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By Fab4.

Writing about an Arsenal defeat to a title rival has become a predictable story. Dominate possession, create very few clear cut chances, no cutting-edge, concede at set-piece, cut open on the counter-attack, slack defending, world-class striker makes the difference. That’s all you need to know about an Arsenal performance against Chelsea or Manchester United.

The top two know exactly how to play against us. Arsene  Wenger can talk about how we dominated the game with 70% possession all he likes. Does he really think the game would have been like that if Chelsea weren’t 2-0 up after 20 minutes? Carlo Ancelotti’s men knew exactly what they were doing. Defending in numbers with the full-backs tucking in giving us very little room to play our intricate one-two’s around the box and hit us on the counter-attack.

The Italian tactician basically told us his strategy in his pre-match press conference. He highlighted the fact that Arsenal were vulnerable to counter-attacks. Yet we still make the mistake of leaving ourselves open.

But it’s one thing to give a team opportunities, it’s another thing to take advantage of them. The way Drogba powered his way through our back-line was devastating. Again Clichy was all over the place, Vermaelen was forced to cover the Frenchmen taking himself out of position, and Drogba was allowed to cut inside on his weaker left foot and smash it straight through Almunia. It was a rocket of a shot, but i feel Manu could have done better. A world-class keeper gets a hand on that, but there lies the problem…Almunia isn’t world-class.

It was the opening goal that really highlights our poor defensive play though. Leaving Didier Drogba free at the far post was criminal. How can we defend like that and expect to beat a team like Chelsea? A lot of people are hammering Clichy for leaving his post. But watch the replays again. Fabregas and Clichy both noticed that Carvalho was unmarked on the edge of the box. Arshavin was standing on the edge of the area doing very little and should have dropped back to mark him. Fabregas had to leave his position in front of Almunia to cover Carvalho and instructs Clichy to come off his post and replace him. Song loses Drogba and it’s 1-0.

A very messy goal to concede when you look at it properly. We were punished for poor marking and bad decision making, but it wasn’t just Clichy at fault.

All Arsenal fans should be proud of the way the team fought to get back in the game after two early blows. We were excellent in the second half but the lack of a cutting edge up front has once again cost us. If Cesc had buried that free-kick i would have fancied us to snatch an equalizer. But Cech showed why it’s so important to have a world-class goalkeeper. His save from Arshavin when it was 1-0 also changed the game. If we got back to 1-1 it’s game-on.

Positives to take:

Diaby – The return of Diaby will make a real difference to the team. Not only due to his much-needed height and power, but because it means Denilson will be on the bench.

Bendtner – Although Niklas Bendtner isn’t the world-class striker we all crave, but he does give us something different up top so his return to fitness is a boost.

Increasing worries:

Clichy – Clichy’s poor form is a real worry. He not only looks rusty but lacks confidence. Needs to man-up and start producing the performances we all know he’s capable of. I think he will, short term problem.

Almunia – He has never been a top-drawer keeper but was reliable. Now he’s become a liability. Looks short of confidence and the defense know it. Not good enough, replacement in the summer please Arsene.

Nasri – I am a big Nasri fan but his inability to pull the trigger is p*ssing me off! Why on earth did he not shoot yesterday? It’s not the first time he has elected to pass when in a decent goal scoring position either. Technically sound but needs to do more in terms of goals and assists. Again injuries have interrupted him, he’ll be fine but don’t become another Hleb!

Walcott – I really like Theo and think he will come good, but he is just not performing. Rarely getting in the game and when he does often making poor decisions. I will give him the benefit of the doubt for now as he has been plagued by several injuries but time is running out, he needs to find his feet soon. If he does, his pace can be a real weapon. I back him to make an impact in the run-in.

So it looks like we’re out of the title race. But maybe that’s where we’re at our best, being the under dogs. We responded well the last time we were written off following the 3-0 home humiliation to Chelsea and quietly went about our business eventually reaching the summit. Maybe we can do it again.

It has been well documented that after the Liverpool game we have the best run-in by a mile. It is not inconceivable that we go on a 12 game unbeaten run, where that leaves us at the end of the season is anybody’s guess. But as i said in a previous article, you never know what can happen in the highly unpredictable Premier League. Chelsea and United will drop points, whether it will be enough to get Arsenal back in the title race is another question.

Arsene Wenger has little time to lift the players. We now have a truly ‘must-win’ game on Wednesday against Liverpool. Another defeat and our fragile young squad could collapse entirely. Lets get back to winning ways, by beating the scouse. Then if we can take care of the so-called ‘lesser’ teams like we did in the first half of the season we might still have a chance. Don’t forget United won the league last year by only winning 1 game against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. There may still be hope for us yet!

Is that it…are our title dreams gone for another year? Please leave your thoughts below….


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