"Chelsea don’t like playing against us."
The first 45 minutes couldn't have been much more one-sided. Chelsea were in control from the opening whistle to half time, leading 2-0 at the break on the back of goals from Juan Mata and Frank Lampard. A two goal deficit may have been a bit flattering to Arsenal as well, as they didn't look anything like a Champions League side for the vast majority of the opening frame.
The second half was a bit more evenly contested, as Arsenal made some adjustments that allowed them to get back into the game. Theo Walcott got in behind the Chelsea defense relatively early in the second half, and cut the deficit to 2-1. Unlike the Southampton game though, Chelsea would defend well and hold on for the three points.
Chelsea are now comfortably clear of Arsenal in the table, although the Gunners do have a game in hand due to their Boxing Day game being postponed. Here are some thoughts I had while this one was unfolding:
- Rafa Benitez had his tactics paired perfectly with this lineup to start the game. This was exactly the sort of high pressure system that Andre Villas-Boas was attempting to install last season with little success, but the combination of his starting eleven and his opponent seemed to be a perfect situation in which to play that system today.
- As much as Benitez has been nailing his tactics to start the game recently, he continued his trend of recent failures to proactively make adjustments that should be relatively obvious. The Ryan Bertrand for Oscar move was exactly what Chelsea needed when they backed off the pressure, but that would have made much more sense about 20 minutes earlier when we started sitting deeper.
- I like the fact that Fernando Torres ditched the locks and got out the clippers. While it obviously won't impact his performance at all, he just looks a bit more "serious" now, and less like the player we all remember from Liverpool. Now how about passing the manager a razor?
- The first half was exactly how I'd like to see Eden Hazard playing going forward. He's so good with the ball at his feet that he just needs to drive at his opponent to cause the defense loads of problems.
- Juan Mata looked exhausted in the second half of this one. I'm sure Rafa Benitez will start him against Swansea anyway, but i'd much prefer to see him started on the bench for Swansea and Brentford and rested for our Premier League fixtures.