Arsenal’s latest defeat at the hands of a top four rival was greeted by Arsene Wenger in very much the same manner as the previous ones.
“Unlucky” was one adjective Wenger used, but was it really?
The first-half was embarrassingly one-sided and a more clinical Chelsea could’ve easily doubled the two-goal advantage they eventually held at the break.
Truthfully the first half had nothing to do with luck, and everything to do with the perpetual, underlying problems this Arsenal team has.
The ease at which Mata, Hazard and Oscar confounded the Arsenal back four was astonishing, while the failure of allegedly combative midfielders Coquelin and Diaby to protect the back four was even more so.
This left Arsenal’s back four exposed as exactly what they are: Bacary Sagna- out of form, Per Mertesacker- experienced but sluggish, Thomas Vermaelen- once imperious, now vulnerable and Kieran Gibbs- a good prospect, but still defensively naïve.
Elsewhere Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott’s relative anonymity in the first half showed how heavily this Arsenal team rely on them as creator and scorer respectively.
Olivier Giroud’s first half miss provided yet more evidence to suggest that his goalscoring exploits for Montpellier last season were the exception, not the rule to his career.
Even Santi Cazorla’s powers seemed limited in comparison to the majestic trio of Hazard, Mata and Oscar.
Wenger predictably pointed towards refereeing decisions in his explanations of the two goals Chelsea scored and although he may have a case, the two-nil deficit his team faced at half time flattered them.
Are Arsenal the unluckiest team ever?
Of course they are not. Like all teams they fall victim to poor refereeing decisions, but the first half on Sunday was not a freak occurrence. It is fast becoming the archetypal Arsenal performance against a top club in which they are outfought, overrun and increasingly nowadays, outplayed.
Wenger’s side just seem incapable of toughing it out which stems from their lack of a leader. When the going was tough in first half, the opportunity for an Arsenal player to rally his troops and halt Chelsea’s assault forward once again passed by.
Admittedly Arsenal’s second half display was palpably better with Wilshere and Walcott coming to the fore, yet Chelsea again should have scored more. A withering Fernando Torres was still enough to trouble an uncomfortable Mertesacker and Vermaelen. While Torres’ replacement Demba Ba somehow failed to convert after rounding the erratic Wojciech Szcesny. The Arsenal goalkeeper’s ill-conceived rush again demonstrated his tendency to mix excellent goalkeeping with rash decision-making.
It has almost become embedded in the culture of Arsenal to play well for periods of game only to describe an adverse result as “unjust.”
So the Gunners second half improvement was even less surprising than the score line. Arsenal always play well at some point when they lose.