I am of an even disposition. By that, I mean that I have a chips on each shoulder. But these are not your ordinary £5.00-a-bag Chelsea Village chips, oh no. These are magic chips. They can both talk you see. One is sitting here saying: “Tell it like it was Dave,” while the other one is asking me to “flower it up a little”. Well, on this occasion I think that magic chip one (his name is Tommy Chip, by the way) is going to win hands down. For try as I might, how anyone could flower this game up is beyond me.
An Arsenal team without the likes of Henry, Bergkamp, Ljungberg and Pires should have been there for the taking. And when Arsenal’s twelfth man, Andy D’Urso, decided to send off Patrick Vieira for a second yellow card, that should have been game set and match. The simple fact, however, is that it was Arsenal who responded more positively to the sending off and they, despite being as poor as us, looked the more likely to win it. That they did not speaks volumes for D’Urso — who just refused to let the game go on at all — and our back pairing of Desailly and in particular Gallas, who had an outstanding game.
Other than the toaster in D’Urso’s pocket flicking up yellow cards every time an Arsenal player got tackled — which was not that often — there was hardly anything of note to talk of for the first thirty minutes. We did not have a shot on target and, as far as I can remember, neither did they. Then just after the half hour Vieira caught Zola. Vieira got a yellow for the tackle, which in my opinion looked more than a bit harsh, but then it was in keeping with the refereeing up until that point. Zola took the kick from just over forty yards out — a ball with both pace and curl that Gudjohnsen jumped for but could not reach before it continued on its merry path past the once more hapless Seaman to put us one up. We did not deserve it, but who cares. In situations like this you take whatever you are given.
Arsenal looked quite shaky after the goal, and had we pushed on a second might well have finished it. We did not though, and half time soon followed, which gave them a chance to have a shout at Seaman and to throw lots of cups at him, which doubtless he dropped.
Then just four minutes into the second half, Vieira clattered the Gronk and D’Urso had no option other than to send him off. Cue Wenger exploding with rage, and I dare say a million words being prepared for the press conference after the game. The trouble with Wenger, like Ferguson, is that he has no credibility because he can see no wrong in anything that his players do. I happen to think that Vieira’s first yellow was a bit harsh, but there can be no arguing with the second — although I doubt whether the whinger will see it that way.
So there we are, a goal up, and now only playing against ten men. Surely we could not mess this one up? Yeah, right. The sending off lit Arsenal’s fuse and for the next fifteen minutes there was only one team in it. You could have been excused for believing that it was us who had gone down to ten men, the way they started to knock the ball about. It was only a matter of time of course, and it came just short of the hour mark. A cross from Cole evaded Soxy, only for Carlo to get a hand to Wiltord’s header. Sadly for us, Toure got to the ball ahead of a defender and headed in from almost on the line. Damn.
Our only other effort on target after that was a weak header from Stanic, and save for the last few minutes where we did actually start to put them under a little pressure, Arsenal comfortably came away with a point more than they probably expected.
Before commenting on Claudio’s strange tactics, there are just another couple of comments about D’Urso. Campbell belted Zola in the face, yet never even got spoken to. Then Wiltord was shown only a yellow for flattening the Gronk and escaped yet again when he steamed in with yet another late tackle. Not that playing against eight or nine men would have made a Blues’ win any more likely, but you cannot manage to get your head around some of the incredible inconsistencies shown by match officials of late.
And then there was Claudio. The team selection was as good as it could be with the present injuries, but some of the changes made me puzzled. He took off Zola and Zenden, who were our only two creative players, and put on Jimmy Floyd (fair enough, I guess), and Mario bloody Stanic. He had also replaced Soxy with Melchiot. We then were faced with Chappie at left back — whose left foot is as good as Soxy’s right — and Stanic — for whom neither foot is a good one — on the left wing. Still, I am sure that Ranieri must know what he is doing.
Not many performances to write home about. Gallas was head and shoulders the best player on the pitch today. How he is not in the French side is a real puzzle. Desailly continued his excellent start to the season, while Lumpy tried his best but just could not get into the game as he has done in our first three matches. Eidur in his first full game tried his best, but too often we resorted to hitting the long ball, which against donkeys like Campbell and the Monkey is a complete waste of time. Neither of them is that clever on the ground and had we had a run at them a couple of times then who knows what might have happened?
Mr Positive Chip (Robbie) would say that we did not lose and that this point puts us two points up on where we were last term. Tommy Chip, however, would say that we have seen in previous seasons what lots of draws can do for any chance of a top-three finish. Let’s just hope that our form of the first one and a half games returns in time for our visit to Ewood Park, which (Flo’s great game apart) has not been a happy hunting ground for us for some time. In fact, prior to that 4-3 win, our Premiership results there were 0-2, 0-2, 1-2, 0-3, 1-1 and 0-1. Just watch this space.
Chelsea line-up: Cudicini — Le Saux (Melchiot), Desailly, Gallas, Ferrer — Zenden (Stanic), de Lucas, Lampard, Gronkjaer — Gudjohnsen, Zola (Hasselbaink)
Subs not used: de Goey, Morris (now with no hair)