Monday night's game was extremely important for both teams. Neither of them were in good form.  Arsenal were without a win in three games, they have dropped off the top of the Premier League. Chelsea's away form of late was worrying.
 They have lost against Newcastle, Basel, Stoke City and Sunderland. Chelsea couldn't afford more slips as a loss would have left them in fifth place.
 On the other hand, they could have gone level on points with Liverpool in case of a win.
 Arsenal could have gone clear on top of the table with a win, but loosing to Chelsea would have sent them to fourth place.

The formations

football formations
 Arsenal started in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Jack Wilshere was suspended. Arséne Wenger decided to go with Ramsey and Arteta as the holding pair, with Rosický as the left attacking midfielder. Mathieu Flamini started on the bench. Laurent Koscielny was injured, Thomas Vermaelen started as the centre-back pair of Per Mertesacker.

 José Mourinho sent his Chelsea team out in a 4-3-3 formation, with Willian and Hazard playing on the wings. Fernando Torres started as the striker, while Mikel was the deep-lying playmaker behind Lampard and Ramires.

Chelsea's gameplan

 José Mourinho gets accused of avoiding defeat rather than going for the win in games against the top clubs. This match reinforced those who think so. Chelsea's strategy was to soak up the pressure, and score on the break.
 Even though this game might not have been as good a spectacle as a nine goal thriller, but Mourino went with the right strategy. 

 Arsenal have struggled against teams that congest the space in the middle. Just think of the game against Manchester United, or Southampton to a lesser extent. At the same time Arteta and Ramsey are not quick or disciplined enough to provide adequate protection against quick breaks, as we have seen in the home game against Borussia Dortmund and away to Crystal Palace.  

 Arsenal had 57% of possession. However, most of their possession was in front of the Chelsea midfield.  It is telling that Arsenal's first shot on target was in the 85th minute.

 Chelsea closed down the wing play of Arsenal. Hazard defended against Sagna on the right. He marked him only until the full-back surpassed the midfield, in which case the Chelsea defenders shifted to the right, allowing Terry and Azpilicueta to play two against two with Walcott and Sagna.  Walcott often drifted into central areas in the hole between the defence and the midfield. The Chelsea defence didn't need to adjust their positioning in such cases. The midfield trio of Chelsea didn't allow Arsenal to play vertical passes between the lines from central midfield.

 Willian played on the left wing. He was man-marking Gibbs in the Chelsea half. It would not have been possible for Cahill to pick up Gibbs. The defence would have been too stretched horizontally. Willian's man-marking was crucial.

 This explains why he started in such an important game. Oscar might not have been disciplined enough to track and defend for ninety minutes. This was visible in the attack that led to Giroud's chance in the 85th minute. Oscar followed the run of Rosický, but forgot to check back and close down Gibbs. Gibbs had the time and space to play a penetrative pass that indirectly led to Giroud's shot.
 Mourinho criticised Mata at the beginning of the season, as he considered the Spaniard to be slow in transition. Mata might not have fit the gameplan on the night, as Chelsea's attacks were almost exclusively counter-attacks.

 Chelsea's counters

 Chelsea have intercepted most of Arsenal's vertical passes thanks to their midfield trio. Lampard, Ramires and Mikel controlled the middle of the pitch allowing Chelsea to launch counter-attacks from central midfield. 

 As good as Lampard was defensively, he was not the best player in attack. His transitions were slow, especially if we compare it to Hazard's transitions.

 Chelsea lacked width in their counter-attacks. Willian and Hazard started off the attacks dribbling inwards. This was understandable, as Willian followed Gibbs around, so he had to get away from him first, while it is natural for Hazard to come inside.

 The lack of width was down to two key components. Torres didn't work the Arsenal defence horizontally. The defenders were not forced to pay attention to his runs, and the dribbler at the same time. Channels were not opened for the central runners. 

Fernando Torres' heat map.
(Image taken from Squawka.com)

 On the other hand the full-backs didn't join the attacks on a regular basis. Chelsea always had four players to protect them against Arsenal's reverse attacks. Either one full-back and a holding midfielder, or both full-backs, or two central midfielders stayed back with the centre-backs. You could see Azpilicueta and Lampard join the attacks, or Ivanović and Ramires make forward runs, but never the two centre-backs at the same time. 

 Lampard hit the post in the first half. This chance was created by forcing Arteta to track his diagonal run in the box, while paying attention to Hazard with the ball. Arteta made a mess of it, by watching Hazard, and not Lampard. The defending player should pay more attention to the attacker in the passer's range if the passer can see him.  
 Chelsea could have done with more diagonal movement. 

Giroud isolated

 Chelsea's midfield trio denied Arsenal from playing freely between the lines. Giroud was isolated. His headers were collected by the Chelsea midfielders, while he had no space to drop into.

Giroud's passes.
(Image taken from Squawka.com)
 Lampard, Ramires and Hazard dropped immediately when the ball was played behind them. Even if Giroud could receive the ball, he was closed down by not only a defender but at least one midfielder as well.  He didn't have time to turn, and pass the ball forward, neither did he have time to hold the ball while the likes of Özil, Walcott and Rosický made a run behind Chelsea. The Arsenal attackers ended up playing the ball back into midfield, or passing it sideways. 

 Terry and Cahill were moving very well together. They closed down space in the middle if Arsenal attempted a one-two, winning back the ball. Arsenal could not pass the ball into the Chelsea box from central areas. 

 Arsenal could have tried to play diagonals from midfield to the wing, but Ivanović and Azpilicueta are relatively bulky full-backs. They would have certainly dominated Walcott and Rosický in the air. To be fair, Arteta and Ramsey tried a few of these, but none of them were successful. 


 Arsenal played this game in their usual style. Chelsea's strategy was to contain Arsenal. They Arsenal the home team the chance to keep the ball in the hole between the defence and the midfield. Chelsea's attacking play consisted of counter-attacks. Lampard was slow in transition, while Torres didn't move horizontally. There were no open channels in Arsenal's defence for Hazard, Willian, Lampard and Ramires to exploit. 
  Even though Mourinho made two attacking changes by bringing in Schürrle and Oscar, he decided to bring on David Luiz when the two previous subs proved to be less suited for defending than Willian and Hazard.

 Arsenal didn't make the changes required to put more pressure on Chelsea. A switch of formation or taking more risks in the same system could have worked. 
 Arséne Wenger was not too disappointed to draw the game in the end, so it is no surprise that he didn't take more risks. As he said post-match ,,We knew we had not to lose that game if we could not win it. It is a consequence of [the games against] Everton and Man City.''


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