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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Community Shield curtain-raiser

What started as a level playing game turned into a battle of upmanship as Didier Drogba spilled first blood within 10 mins. A clear ball from Asier Del Horno seemed telegraphed and therefore expected to be dealt with comfortably by either Kolo Toure or Phillippe Senderos. Usually the Swiss defender shows strength and tact when dealing with the ball or being on the ball. This time Drogba was too strong and too quick in getting in front of Senderos and then knocking the ball forward to hit a shot past Jens Lehmann. Prior to this Arsenal started the better, but players on both sides showed no panic or eagerness to hit the other hard from the kick-off. I sensed it would take a mistake for someone to score, so tight was the play but here Drogba was too much for Senderos. The Ivory Coast forward was a threat almost every time when the ball was near him.

Again in the second half there was little between the two sides. But then Drogba took practically the same amount of time to strike as he did in the first half, for on 52mins Eidur Gudjohnsen sent a ball over the Arsenal defence for Drogba to run on to. Senderos tracked him but couldn't muscle him off his path, which left Drogba with a one-on-one with Lehmann. As Drogba turned away from Lehmann to the left, Toure and Lauren came back to defend, Lauren's attempt to tackle seemed weak as Drogba held onto the ball and curled a shot past Toure on the line. Clearly the striker is staking a big claim for a first team spot come next Sunday.

Arsenal almost immediately hit back. Gilberto Silva made a good impression coming on for Flamini in the middle and his ball to the advancing Ljungberg on the right found the Swede crossing low, the ball coming off a Chelsea defender into the path of Francesc Fabregas, who side-footed in. It was what Arsenal needed before Drogba struck his second.

With six subs allowed from either side, Arsenal used all of theirs with Mathieu Flamini, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg, Senderos and Lauren coming off for Silva, Robin van Persie, Alexander Hleb, Antonio Reyes, Pascal Cygan and Justin Hoyte respectively. Chelsea made four with Drogba, Gudjohnsen, Arjen Robben and Damien Duff off for Hernan Crespo, Tiago, Shaun-Wright Phillips and Joe Cole.

Most will say today was not an expectation of what will come in the campaign, but neither side wanted to lose to the other and here Chelsea have current bragging rights. I felt Arsenal were not strong enough overall, their running was as expected but Vieira's presence in the middle with command and vision, awareness and superiority was missing. Too often the midfield was open for Chelsea to steadily pass around and Arsenal became all the better when Silva was introduced. While Arsenal are reported to be unsettled with Sol Campbell, they are not releasing him and his strength and speed at the back will be welcomed. Senderos had some difficulty with Drogba but in fairness he held the defence well overall.

Thierry Henry wasn't the usual rampant self where he'd come deep to pick up and practically out-sprint all towards goal. The kind of ball he would gobble up from Bergkamp or Vieira or even Silva hardly came but he made several link-ups with Hleb and Fabregas, more than he did in the first half. Hleb made a number of good passes that reached their targets instead of giving away possession.

Chelsea played very well to hold out Arsenal and hardly made silly mistakes, which will please Jose Mourinho as much as the win itself. Petr Cech had a relatively active game, while the same could almost be said for Lehmann. Other than Drogba's goals, Chelsea hadn't really troubled the German and then Chelsea did look to threaten, the linesman's flag stopped them. Claude Makelele seems an average player on appearance but he manages to hold onto the ball and diverts it away from danger with accuracy under pressure almost every time.

John Terry had a good game, coming to meet several high balls to clear, William Gallas had a good game too, attacking as a sweeper behind Paulo Ferreira particularly with Pires and Ashley Cole. I found it odd to play Gudjohnsen in a midfield role, whereas I feel he is even more effective up with Drogba but he put in the same solid effort today as he always does.

It was a good game, slightly slow to begin with but picked up after the first goal.



Blogger SKG said...

Saw today's match and wasn't surprised that Chelsea just edged it. This might be how the title race is won too with Chelsea just edging out the Gunners. I saw enough to suggest that Arsenal have the talent in midfield to replace Viera. I was always thanking my lucky stars that Chelsea didn't manage to add Gerrard to their squad because if they had, this season would have been a walk in the park for them.

8/07/2005 7:33 pm

Blogger T said...

Spot-on analysis Redsman.

8/07/2005 8:32 pm

Blogger Abdul said...

Yes it was a tight match Redsman, with very little between the two teams. I dont think the match will have any bearing on the new season though.

8/08/2005 9:58 am


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