Chelsea (2) 3 Arsenal (2) 2
Saturday, 18th August 2018
(4-2-3-1) Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal; Guendouzi, Xhaka; Iwobi, Ozil, Mkhitaryan; Aubemeyang.
Substitutes: Elneny, Lacazette, Torreira, Ramsey, Lichtsteiner, Welbeck, Leno.
Scorers: Mkhitaryan, Iwobi
Referee: Martin Atkinson
When the fixture lists were released a little while ago, this match (hard on the heels of Manchester City) really left me cold. As we know, the boys have only been victorious in two Premier League visits to Walham Green since 2008, and meeting Kensington Spartak this early in the season doesn’t exactly fill my heart with joy, especially as we are now deep into a period of transition. Nowadays, an N5/SW6 match is more than just a derby, more than just bragging rights, it’s a true power struggle between the two leviathans of football in the capital; between us we have won everything worth winning in the professional game – nobody else in London’s fair city comes even close. No pressure then, chaps.
As far as we were concerned, the first half hour was complete and utter chaos. Time and time again the defence was found wanting with our opponents capitalising on the lack of positional sense and mobility from the centre backs, which found us 0-2 in deficit after just twenty-one minutes on the clock. Woe. Amazingly, somehow we saw a light at the end of the Spartak tunnel – it was actually on and through their channels and on to their flanks, as time and time again we encountered a weakness which the boys were able to act upon. Although our forwards squandered three clear goalscoring chances, it became evident that our time would come, and sure enough it did, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi redressing the balance within three minutes of each other just before half-time, which couldn’t come soon enough for Spartak, as our star was firmly on the ascendancy now.
Returning to the field of battle after the break, our chaps started to play with renewed confidence, much to the chagrin of the Spartak coach, who could be seen agitated and nonplussed at the spirit and skill of the Islington men. Defensive errors were abound on both sides, and after a crucial substitution from the home side, our boys started to flag a little; it was during a period of fatigue that a lapse of concentration occurred in the defence, and Spartak administered the fatal coup de grace with just nine minutes left of the match which meant that our brave chaps left Walham Green empty-handed.
All in all it was a truly thrilling match, and one that we certainly deserved something from. We can now see that there are major issues with the defence, which is slow, indecisive and cumbersome with no apparent communication skills between the players, which left our goalkeeper exposed on several occasions through the match. Mr. Emery needs to address this situation very quickly indeed as a matter of priority; after all, as a club, we have always prided ourselves on a rock solid back line and to see the defence as it is at the moment fills us all with dread. There are still issues with the middle of the park, which needs to be tinkered with, as a fluent midfield will always lead to a confident strike force. The lads generally played with fire in their bellies and an indominitable spirit at Stamford Bridge Grounds today, and had they played another side other than the professional and ruthless Spartak, we undoubtedly would have chalked up our first victory of the campaign. Early days, long way to go, although signs of success can be seen already; from tiny acorns mightly oaks do indeed grow, so remember everyone, get behind the team and the manager, as this is crucial for our future success. Stick with the winners. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.