16 Conclusions From Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0

Robin van Persie was awful against Chelsea as both teams served up the footballing equivalent of eating a bowl of boiled cabbage. Arsenal should finish third, though...

Last Updated: 22/04/12 at 12:55 Post Comment

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* What a dull game. It was the football equivalent of eating a bowl of boiled cabbage. Considering the amount at stake for both sides it was expected that they would provide an entertaining spectacle, but instead the match plodded along rather aimlessly. The first half was especially poor with possession ceded frequently and far too easily. Neither Chelsea nor Arsenal managed to find their groove and even a final ten-minute period of end-to-end action didn't look like bringing a goal. It was ponderous, cautious and often clueless.

* Robin van Persie was awful. Of course, the striker has been superb this season, but on Saturday he was guilty of missing several excellent chances and delaying Arsenal's momentum in attack. Van Persie instinctively knows how to get into goalscoring positions, but there were several occasions when he should have punished Chelsea. The best opportunity came from a beautifully-weighted free-kick from Theo Walcott but the forward somehow guided the ball wide from only two yards out. The penalty against Wolves is now the Dutchman's only goal in his last seven appearances as he seems to be running out of steam for the Gunners' final push.

* In Big Weekend, I wrote that Aaron Ramsey needed to repay Arsene Wenger's faith in him after replacing the injured Mikel Arteta in Arsenal's midfield. There is something clearly amiss with the Welshman, though, and he was more responsible than anyone for the disjointed nature of the first half, getting caught in possession on several occasions and failing to provide the rhythm that Arteta usually dictates. It hasn't been an easy season for Ramsey - or last two years, in fact - but the 21-year-old needs to improve quickly. The captain of his country for a year now, he is still playing like a naive youngster when he appears in the Gunners' first team. The final three games of the season could play a significant role in his future.

* In stark contrast to Ramsey's performance, Tomas Rosicky was the one player on the pitch who had a bright opening period. Indeed, there was a murmur of optimism around the Emirates every time the Czech received the ball. Rosicky has been one of the key positives in Arsenal's revival and his buccaneering displays are becoming the norm. He left barely a blade of grass untouched across the middle in his attempts to inject life and purpose into the Gunners' play and it wasn't a surprise that fatigue eventually got the better of him in the second half.

* It seemed as though fatigue got the better of everyone. Even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked exhausted as the season ambles towards its conclusion. The young winger has made a huge impression this campaign with several exciting performances, but struggled against a packed Chelsea midfield. Playing on the left, the 18-year-old found himself outmuscled and suffocated for space between Jose Bosingwa and Michael Essien. There were one or two nice touches, but it wasn't the sort of game in which Oxlade-Chamberlain could make an impact.

* Although Chelsea also looked leggy, they really shouldn't have done after Roberto Di Matteo made eight changes to the team that faced Barcelona on Wednesday. Perhaps the unfamiliarity of the starting line-up contributed to the lack of vigour. Oriol Romeu played for the first time since the Blues' 3-3 draw with Manchester United on February 5, while Ryan Bertrand made only his third Premier League appearance of the season. It looked like a hotchpotch team and for large parts of the match it played like one.

* Roberto Di Matteo's tactics seemed to mirror the approach against Barcelona in the Champions League. For long spells the Blues soaked up the Arsenal pressure before attempting to break quickly, often down the flanks through Daniel Sturridge and Fernando Torres. Arsenal have one of the quickest defences in the league, though, and while Chelsea did manage to get round the back on a couple of occasions, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna recovered well.

* Koscielny is bloody brilliant. The defender is arguably the most-improved player in the Premier League this season and has seemingly shaken of the moments of uncertainty that previously hampered his game. His balance is excellent, as well as his reading of dangerous situations, and there are few centre-backs who track attacking runs as effectively.

* As impressive as Koscielny played, he must have been relieved not to have been facing Didier Drogba. In current form, Drogba would likely have continued his reign of devastation over the Gunners. The striker has scored 13 goals in 12 starts against Arsenal and was sorely missed in this fixture, both for Chelsea and the neutral.

* Drogba's stand-in, Fernando Torres, had yet another poor game as he drifted in and out of the match with little to no effect. After playing just six minutes of the FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham and missing all of the Champions League semi-final with Barcelona on Wednesday, this was the perfect opportunity for the Spaniard to show what he can do. However, as has repeatedly been the case in Torres' Chelsea career, a brief peak has been followed by another deep trough.

After a lifeless opening period, the striker drifted out wide in the second half to try and find more joy but, despite deft control to beat Gibbs on two occasions, he failed to create any chances of note. The technique has always remained, but Torres isn't making the right runs or getting into the best positions to score. He looked frustrated at the Emirates and it was frustrating to watch him.

* Daniel Sturridge is another player who through his skill often looks like he's doing more than he actually is. After Roberto Di Matteo switched to 4-4-2 after the break, Sturridge was moved into his favoured position on the right-wing, but lacked any conviction in his attacking runs. The forward thinks he's better than his performances suggest. He's not.

* Arsenal haven't won a Premier League match without Mikel Arteta this season, losing four and drawing two (after Saturday) in the six matches the Spaniard has been absent. He was sorely missed against Chelsea and will continue to be a loss in the Gunners' final three fixtures.

* However, Arsenal rightly remain favourites to finish third. A tricky trip to Stoke is followed by games against Norwich and West Brom, with Newcastle facing a much tougher run-in and Spurs in dreadful form. It would take a huge slip up for Arsenal to relinquish their position at this stage.

* Theo Walcott's hamstring injury has ruled him out for the rest of the season. It was a bizarre decision not to replace the England international immediately after he felt a twinge, with the injury was then exacerbated by the sudden sprint that forced a substitution. Arsenal really don't help themselves sometimes, do they?

* What now for Chelsea? The Blues remain in sixth, but are four points behind fourth-placed Newcastle after the Magpies beat Stoke. Winning the Champions League may be the best chance they have of playing in the competition next season.

Roberto Di Matteo will hold out hope in Tottenham's slump continuing (he knows Harry Redknapp is rooting for him) and Newcastle coming undone in their difficult last three matches. The Blues have a lot of work to do themselves, though. They require four wins out of four to gain the best possible chance of snatching fourth, with the home clash against Newcastle the pivotal fixture. Chelsea have won only four of their last 13 Premier League matches - it won't be easy.

* Ryan Bertrand was Man of the Match, which says it all.

Matt Stanger - now available on Twitter.

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