It was always going to be a feisty affair at the Emirates. The moment of silence before the match was about the most peaceful part of the match. From the first whistle, both teams were very physical. Such is always the case in this London derby, with so much on the line. Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger would need three points to keep any dream of catching Chelsea alive.
Chelsea started the game without a true striker, with Oscar seemingly taking up that role. In all honesty, the Brazilian was quite good, until he left the game at halftime. Oscar was on the receiving end of a sublime pass from Cesc Fabregas. He attempted to lift it above the charging Ospina, which he succeeded in, but not before he was absolutely clobbered by the Colombian goalkeeper. Oscar’s attempt would be headed wide, and the Brazilian was left on the ground having to see the trainer, later being transported to the hospital with a potential concussion.
The referee, Michael Oliver waved off penalty claims from Chelsea, and the play resulted in a corner kick. This was most definitely the wrong decision, from a referee who despite a few close calls, did a very good job at managing a very physical game at the Emirates. Oscar was clearly fouled, and as most of the commentators pointed out, had this not been a goalie who initiated the contact, or had the play been outside of the box, the foul would have been given. Therefore, Chelsea were without a doubt, denied a penalty.
Another close call from Oliver was when Fabregas was entering the left corner of the 18-yard box, and was impeded by Santi Cazorla. Fabregas went flying forward, and the referee punished the diving Spaniard with a yellow card, a penalty which the 27-year old accepted with almost too much grace, as later replays showed there was in fact contact from his Spanish countryman. Whether or not the call should have been a penalty remains ambiguous, but the fact of the matter is that there definitely shouldn’t have been a yellow card for diving, and Fabregas seemed all too happy to accept it.
Chelsea themselves had a penalty scare when a diving Gary Cahill blocked a Santi Cazorla shot with his hand. To me, this was closer than the pundits seemed to think, but it was adjudged to be unintentional, with his hand being in a natural position, causing a penalty to not be given. While the announcers seemed to be more than comfortable with this decision, I happen to believe Chelsea quite possibly got a way with this one, or at least it was definitely close. I wonder if Oliver’s decisions in the opposite 18 had anything to do with his call in Chelsea’s box.
The Blues started the second half with Didier Drogba up top in place of Oscar, but the Ivorian was unable to find a goal, despite definitely making an impact up top. Chelsea were able to see off late attacks by Arsenal, with Jose opting to bring on Zouma for Fabregas late in the game to sure up the result. Chelsea would take a point with them, knowing they travel to Leicester City on Wednesday, with a chance to move within three points of winning the title.
The Blues seem as though they can almost taste the title. Chelsea players were seen celebrating on the pitch in North London, just moments after the final whistle, led by their captain, John Terry. He later commented how big the result was at Arsenal, pointing to how close his side are to finishing the job. Jose Mourinho also gave somewhat of an entertaining post game press conference. When asked about Chelsea being called “boring” by Arsenal fans, the Portuguese tactician responded, “Boring? I think boring is 10 years without a title. That’s boring.”
To me, this game sums up Chelsea’s title run this season. What makes Chelsea so deadly is their unmatched ability to adapt to the game in which they are playing. Jose Mourinho knows how to get the proper result from each game. He went into Sunday with his eye on a shutout, and his men produced just that. Sure, they had a few chances to break the deadlock, but their goal was achieved in the fact that led by John Terry, Chelsea were impenetrable defensively. They set up their team, with the goal of absorbing pressure, and then looking to counter quickly once they win the ball back. They did it against QPR, Manchester United, and again in North London on Sunday.
This game is a testament to Jose Mourinho as a manger. The Portuguese international is quite possible the best “chef” in the game, knowing just what recipe to use for success. He adds ingredients and removes them as he sees fit, and in the long run, it will be his team that take the cake in May.
Contribution from Tyler Strauss