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Wenger Lost Tactical Battle With Hiddink, Plus More Post-Match Thoughts [Ratings]

Guus Hiddink celebrates Chelsea's advancement to the finals of the FA Cup while Arsene Wenger looks on in despair

Guus Hiddink celebrates Chelsea's advancement to the finals of the FA Cup while Arsene Wenger looks on in despair

Hi everyone. I intend for this to be a calmer blog than my last but I’ve had two nights’ sleep since the Semi Final and I’m still very upset at the events so I can’t promise anything. I didn’t really feel like blogging today but the blog’s not gonna write itself so here I go.

I was very confident we had all resources at our disposal to beat Chelsea but the moment I saw the squad Wenger picked as his starting line up I became very skeptical about a win for The Arsenal. No Song, no Nasri, no Arshavin in the line up. It just didn’t make any sense to me considering we could rotate on Tuesday against Liverpool in the Premiership and even if we lost we’d still be comfortably in 4th.

Wenger went with a 4 5 1 formation which saw Fabregas and Denilson playing in defensive midfield with Abou Diaby in attacking midfield, Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie on the right and left wings respectively and Emmanuel Adebayor as the lone striker up front.

The Arsenal defence was under immediate threat as in the third minute Lukasz Fabianski came out for a high ball but misjudged it and Didier Drogba flicked it goalward and would’ve found himself on the scoresheet if not for the heroics of Kieran Gibbs, who scrambled back speedily to clear the ball off the line.

It was Arsenal who took the first lead of the game though. In the 17th minute Emmanuel Adebayor played in Kieran Gibbs who found himself at the byline and he played the ball across the area from the left. The ball found Theo Walcott who volleyed from about 8 yards out and the ball took a touch off the hand of Ashley Cole before eluding Petr Cech and going into the back of the net.

In the 32nd minute Chelsea found their equaliser. A long ball over the top found Malouda and he beat Eboue with ease and fired at the near post to beat Fabianski and put the game at 1 a piece. Many fault Fabianski for not guarding his near post well enough but while this is true, more blame should be placed on Eboue for letting Malouda beat him so easily.

Just 4 minutes later Denilson went down by the corner flag to try to clear a ball but was under too much pressure from the Chelsea attack decided to pass off to Diaby who was in the box. Diaby should’ve made the quickest clearance he could in that instance but instead he chose to stop on the ball and try to pick out a pass. He was easily dispossessed by Anelka, who then took a shot and watched it come back off the bottom of the post.

At that moment I couldn’t wait for halftime. I was hoping to see Wenger make a substitution and change things round a bit but he did none of that at the interval.

The second half got going and it really was much of the same as we saw in the first half. In the 83rd minute Chelsea got their match winner from the likeliest of candidates, Didier Drogba. Frank Lampard played a long ball down the middle which Drogba chased. Drogba was challenged by Silvestre but Silvestre gave up on the chase when he realised he wasn’t going to be successful. Lukasz Fabianski came out of his goal to try to block Drogba from shooting but the Ivorean skipped past him without any trouble and tapped the ball into the empty net.

There are many things which bothered me about this game. As many have said, Andrey Arshavin and Alex Song should have been the first two names put on the team sheet. Song’s performances in the last two months have been very impressive and considering the fact that Chelsea play a 4 5 1 formation and would look to overcrowd the midfield, we needed Song’s physicality and ball winning attributes, he didn’t play at all.

I don’t see the purpose of resting Arshavin as he hasn’t played a single European game this year due to being cup tied in the Champions League. I can’t see how Wenger could make a case for him being too tired to play. Even so we could’ve rested him in the Liverpool match on Tuesday. Also, why was he only played for 15 minutes of the match? Why didn’t we bring him on at halftime for Diaby, who had a terrible game.

After the game Arshavin had this to say:

I think two very strong teams played at Wembley today. I think in the beginning we had some territorial advantage, dictated the game and managed to score the goal. The game got more even following that. Soon it was Chelsea who had the advantage, which lead to their goal. Summing up the performance in the first half, I think the result was fair. In the second half, Chelsea had more of the posession, more of the game was taking place in our half, although we tried to organise quick counter-attacks. Unfortunately, we conceded and had little time to really put pressure on Cech’s goal. Our opponents did not give us opportunities to create something. We are disappointed that our fans left the stadium deflated. That’s football, you lose sometimes. I guess you can’t win everything. Now we have to concentrate our efforts on the Champions’ League and the Premiership.

I have to say I’m surprised he didn’t show any disappointment in his comments about the lack of playing time he received. Credit to him for that.

Diaby is another player I want to talk about. He added nothing positive to our performance on Saturday. He was played in the advanced role in midfield on Saturday, just behind Adebayor, and this is why Adebayor didn’t really have an impact on the game. Diaby was expected to be the one to link the midfield to attack and he was expected to be threading passes through to Adebayor but his passes were mostly lateral or backwards to Fabregas. He cluttered the midfield and caused Chelsea to attack us down the center, which is how we conceded the 2nd goal and also how we lost to them at Stamford Bridge last season when he kept drifting in from the left wing to center midfield.

I don’t approve of Arsene Wenger’s comments on the pitch:

“I believe for Chelsea it was tough as well. It is not a pitch you should have in a stadium that cost this amount of money. It is laughable. The quality of the pitch is a disaster.”

Yes, the pitch was bad. He’s right, but the pitch is hardly the reason we lost on Saturday and this is something Wenger does after every crucial loss that I don’t approve of. He always finds something a bit irrelevant to blame instead of himself.

Kolo Toure reckons the team will bounce back:

“This can be just the start for this team, because there are some really good players coming through. The season started really badly, but we have come back very well. We hope to keep going now and improve the way we are playing.

“You can only learn from these types of games, because they are so intense. When you make some mistakes, they can cost you, which is what happened against Chelsea.

“We will just have to try not to do that again.”

He’s absolutely right and the squad have to show the mental toughness and strong character spoken about on countless occasions by Arsene Wenger tomorrow against Liverpool. I wonder though what’s going through the players minds at this time. Players in particular who’ve voiced concerns over not winning trophies. I wonder what happens this summer, especially if we don’t win the Champions League (knock on wood). Will they stop seeing Arsene Wenger as an ambitious manager and want to leave?

Anyway unto the player ratings:

Fabianski5 Was brave but didn’t have the best of performances. Was blamed for the goals, especially the second. I think he did the right thing on the second goal but executed it very poorly. Harsh to have such a bad birthday experience.

Eboue5 Flopped around and got embarrassed by Malouda.

Toure6 Made some good headed clearances but with tweedledum and tweedledee to his left and right, it was hard for him to have a great performance.

Silvestre4 Absolutely horrible all game. Should have protected Fabianski a bit more as he’s supposed to be the most experienced of our defenders. Was lazy in marking Drogba on the second goal too.

Gibbs8 (MOM) Sterling performance from him. Saved us from a worse score early on, won his tackles well and went forward well. Provided a great assist for Walcott. One to watch for the future.

Denilson5 Was invisible for most of the game, except for that moment when he should’ve been sent off for his shove on the referee.

Fabregas6 Didn’t really get going. Not good enough on the day.

Diaby3 Worst player on the park on the day. Did absolutely nothing you’d expect of an attacking midfielder. Cluttered the midfield and made rubbish passes all day. How he stayed on the pitch for 90 minutes is beyond me.

Walcott8 Was too much for Ashley Cole to handle. Made the most of the situation everytime he received the ball and had a good goal too.

Adebayor6 Apart from a few flicks on here and there he was ineffective. Not his fault though, as Diaby provided no support for him. Shouldn’t have been subbed.

Arshavin6 Didn’t make much of an impact as he was working with an ineffective midfield formation. He should have started or at least played more minutes in a 4-4-2 formation.

Bendtner6 Seven minutes was not enough for him to even attempt to have some effect on the outcome of the game.

Nasri6 Didn’t get enough playing time either.

Wenger1 He gets 1 just for showing up. Got the tactics, formation and starting 11 completely wrong. Not pleased that he chose to blame the condition of the pitch for the loss.

And there you have it. Hope it wasn’t too long a read. I’ll be back tomorrow with a preview ahead of the match against Cesspool. Until then!

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