Anyone wanting an eyewitness account should look elsewhere, I had to rely on the radio and Talkshite for commentary on this one. Sam Mattaface is ok but Collymore barking about his tweets and trying to justify his description of Tom Huddlestone as a ‘grafter’ was just aural pollution.
Problems with form and fitness meant Villas-Boas had decisions to make especially in midfield with the absence of Mousa Dembélé the biggest issue. Parker had to play given the missing Belgian and AVB held faith with big Tom. The selection of Lennon and Holtby above Sigurdsson, Dempsey and perhaps even Carroll was a surprise and maybe if asked to do it again AVB might pick differently given the complete absence of Holtby and Lennon’s names from the commentary.
For long periods the other players seemed only to be mentioned along with the words ‘caught in possession’ as we struggled to retain the ball pretty much from the off. The manager’s other big decision of the night was to start with Adebayor ahead of Defoe, a tactic more than justified by his spectacular, if out of the blue, equaliser. Chelsea’s goal was unsurprising in that it came direct from a corner, I’ve lost count now but I think it’s 6 goals conceded in our last 8 in similar fashion.
We were struggling on the pitch but off it the support sounded magnificent, audible all night long behind Stan’s and Sam’s dribblings.
Ramires gave Chelsea the lead again before half time and it sounded like we were being stretched to our limits just to retain a foothold in the game. Assou-Ekotto was getting a particular shoeing from the commentators as Chelsea, like Southampton before them targeted the space in front of him. Benny’s habit of stylish hoofing when under pressure wasn’t doing him any good, more telling though was the absence of a Modric, Moutinho (or Carroll?) type figure to help tippy tappy the ball out of the danger zone. A player of that type has to be a priority in the summer.
After half time it seemed a question of when rather than if Chelsea would extend their lead as we pushed ineffectively for an equaliser and they countered. Dempsey and Sigurdsson for the anonymous Holtby and Lennon improved the situation for us and it must’ve been gratifying for the players to see Hazard and Oscar withdrawn by Benitez. At Goodison, Carrow Road and against Stoke at White Hart Lane Gylfi was inches away from game changing late goals that had they gone in would have us laughing now. His curled effort into the corner here won’t have us guffawing all the way to the Moneybags League but it’s a big improvement on coming away from Stamford Bridge with nothing. At least it forces the Gooners to look for wins against Wigan and Newcastle, drawing one of them would have done otherwise.
I wince when I hear AVB talk about our determination and desire, it reminds me too much of Wenger’s empty talk about the spirit of his side, but the resilience this team has shown in coming back in so many games of late is very creditable. All of these qualities will be needed at Stoke on Sunday.
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