Welcome back, Jose. Welcome back.
Well, well. This was incredibly boring. With one team deployed pretty much entirely to negate the other-guess which one I’m talking about-there were barely any exciting moments at all. And here was me hoping for a lovely 3-3 draw with three red cards for each side (preferably Cech, Ivanovic and Oscar for Chelsea, though I’d have settled for Hazard instead). Giroud’s misses aside, and one chance for Willian and a kind of difficult chance for Lampard, nothing happened (football-wise) in this game. Even the block on the line by Azpilicueta at the death seemed boring and lazy, the ball just gently spinning toward the goal and giving the defender all the time in the world to gently flick it away. If we were trying to take away from this game an idea of who is best placed to challenge Man City and (almost certainly not) Liverpool for the title, we’re going home empty handed.
What we can take from this game is that Jose’s back. And not the “Happy One” incarnation, that particular piece of bullshit belied anyway by the grumpy surly way Chelsea’s new old manager has been sitting on the touchline recently. No, the proper Jose, the one who sets his teams up to play paint-dryingly-dull, physical, ugly football, the one who tries to batter the other team down until they can force the ball into the net and hang on for the 1-0, the one who tells his players to get up in the opponent’s faces. By the way, that was something Ivanovic took literally late in the second half, a boot flying very near Ozil’s face and sparking a minor melee, the Serb’s little wink to captain Terry in the aftermath showing he knew exactly what he was doing.
There was no attempt to even pay lip-service to the idea of having possession-based, creative attacking football played at the Emirates. Arsenal tried, sure, and at the end of the second half even managed to play a little. Two chances for Giroud went begging, the first a badly sliced volley after a delightful Ramsey chip (the only thing the Welshman did in the match other than give the ball away), the second a good save from Cech after fine work by Kieran Gibbs. But Chelsea… oh no. Chelsea weren’t going for creativity, despite having a squad boasting Mata (who didn’t get off the bench), Schurrle, Hazard, Oscar, Willian, and Eto’o. They played pretty much exclusively on the counter-attack, with Willian and Lampard (who hit the bar) both having good chances in the first half from this approach, and many other (some other, let’s not exaggerate) chances to launch a counter-attack spurned. It wasn’t especially exciting, it’s fairly standard fare against Arsenal really, but what was good about it was that it represents Mourinho finally coming back into his comfort zone, and in doing so sticking two fingers up at everyone who thinks Chelsea should play some, well, entertaining football this season.
With three midfielders sitting in front of a big, strong, Ashley-Cole absent defence, two wide players working back hard and pretend centre-forward Torres dropping into the midfield when he could (or could be bothered), Arsenal just weren’t given space to attack. Arteta had lots of the ball and no passing options, Ozil barely touched the ball until the aforementioned spat with Ivanovic, Walcott had no space to use his pace… It’s not necessarily the best approach with the players Jose has, of course, and it nearly backfired, with referee Mike Dean missing a blatant penalty after a foul by Willian on Walcott and being very lenient with a couple of challenges by Mikel and Ramires that could have ended their games prematurely, but it is pretty much pure Jose, and after this dour 0-0 draw he finally looked like a Happy One once again.