Whenever two of the so called Big Four teams clash in the Barclays Premier League, sparks fly, and the anticipation is so rampant it may even get a mention on SportsCenter.  This was no different, as home side Arsenal took on their London neighbors and title rivals Chelsea.  The Blues, winless in their last 5 Premier League matches, looked to get back on track against an Arsenal side that had looked flat against first place Manchester  United in their last competitive fixture.  With both teams looking to rebound and attempting to kick start their respective title campaigns, this match was always sure to please it's spectators.  
    The game started off expectedly cagey, with both teams not wanting to make a mistake, and instead focusing on keeping their opposition from meaningful attacks.  In the early stages Chelsea were happy to concede some territory to a posession oriented Arsenal playing on their home pitch.  There were a few long balls over the top early, with both teams being whistled for some offsides calls, but no real chances apart from a Van Persie miss on a full volley in the sixth minute.  It would have been quite a goal, and you can't really fault the striker, returning from injury, for failing to make contact.  The first real test came in the 22nd minute when a previouly silent Samir Nasri had Robin Van Persie tap a free kick so he could hit it first time from 30 yards out.  Cech however caught surprisingly easily for the pace of the shot, and the opportunity went into the book simply as a shot on target.  
    Both teams continued to get 11 men behind the ball everytime they lost it, defending mercilously in the middle stretch of the first half.  A potential turning point of the match however, came when Ashley Cole, Chelsea's star left back and former Gooner picked up a needless yellow card.  Theo Walcott baited the english left back in the corner of the field into lunging in, and the speedy Walcott brushed the ball passed him and took the contact, resulting in the former Arsenal star's booking.  The boo's rained down on Cole all game, but the only real burden he faced came from the referee's caution, as he now had to be careful against the lightning quick Walcott's pace on the Arsenal right hand side.  
    The status quo continued for a while, with Arsenal attempting to posess the ball and break down the makeshift Chelsea backline, with the Blues hoping to hit them on a counter with the powerful attacking quartet of Flourent Malouda, Soloman Kalou, Frank Lampard, and Didier Drogba, who had 13 goals in 13 games against Arsenal going into todays game.  Their efforts however were constantly extinguished by the underrated back four of Arsenal, with Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy shutting down the wings and Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny shutting down the center.  The game was crying out for a goal for the home side, to wake the mighty Blues up and draw them out of their shell, and just before the half, that is what the game got.  
    A brilliantly worked one-two pass between Alexander Song and 18 year old Jack Wilshere was the key to the lock of manager Carlo Ancelotti's defense, and the man from Cameroon slotted home a nice left footed drive to the side netting of the far post on 44 minutes to give the crowd something to cheer about.  No lead is safe against Chelsea however, and they almost answered back right before the half as they piled forward for a corner, but their efforts proved useless, and the half ended with manager Arsene Wenger's side up 1-0.  
    The second half was a neutrals dream, with attacking football being played, and the "toca toca" in full force as Arsenal's quick short passing stifled Chelsea's game.  One reason Chelsea seemingly fell apart in my opinion is the choice to substitute Jon Obi Mikel who for me had a solid first half, for the still unproven 20 million pound Brazilian Ramires.  When this change happened, Chelsea lost their anchor, and the man they use so often to help keep posession in front of the back four, and with this area weakened, Arsenal were able to exploit not one but two mistakes for goals.  The first goal came from a bit of fortune, but was what the Gooners deserved for their dominance on the day.  Michael Essien, facing his own goal instead of a Mikel coming forward to make a tackle, slid in from behind on Robin Van Persie, tapping the ball out and pushing it back into empty space in front of his own 18 yard box to start the play and Theo Walcott was first to pounce.  With Ashley Cole already looking to get forward, he was out of position and out of the play instantly as his man Walcott glided in uncontested for a 1v1 with the Chelsea keeper Petr Cech.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw his captain darting forward unmarked, and simply pushed the ball past an onrushing Cech for his captain, returning from injury, to tap home an easy goal.  This put the home side up 2-0 and meant that visiting Chelsea would have to attack all out to get back into the game.  
    This all out attack proved catastrophic, as players were again out of position as Walcott again got in behind the defense to put away Arsenal's 3rd of the night.  This time Flourent Malouda was guilty of being a bit lackadaisical.  Not expecting a challenge he was caught with the ball at his feet with only his center backs between him and the goal, and gave away posession to the last man John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic wanted to see running at them, Cesc Fabregas.  He ran straight at Terry and so did Walcott, creating a 2v1 that the Spaniard played perfectly.  As soon a Terry took a step forward to commit to Fabregas, he dinked the ball behind him for Walcott to run onto and slot home with a simple shot to the far post.  It was 3-1 and the home fans were getting a late Christmas present as Arsenal were cruising to victory in the 53rd minute.  The guilty Malouda was instantly subbed by his manager in the 56th minute possibly for his mistake, as he is an attacking player who was taken off despite his team needing 3 goals.  He was replaced by the 19 year old, and unproven albeit talented Gael Kakutta. 
    3-0 up at home, this game was done and the fans were elated.  That elation however was shortlived as the Blues pulled one back almost instantly.  In the 57th minute a brilliantly struck free kick from Didier Drogba found the head of Defender Branislav Ivanovic who flicked the ball into the net over keeper Lucasz Fabianski to give his team some hope of getting back in the game.  The hope however, was killed off slowly by the Gooners, who slowly choked the game to death as they kept posession and kept the Chelsea stars from having an impact on the game as they were unable to ever get the ball in meaningful areas.  The fans reacted to every pass during long stretches where Arsenal wouldn't even let their opposition get a touch, connecting 5, 10, even 15 passes together at a time.  
    In the late stages of the game, man of the match Theo Walcott (one goal one assist) was replaced by the more defensive Abu Diaby to help kill off the match.  He left to huge ovations, that were deserved as his pace and finishing are what really undid Chelsea today.  A few late chances came for Chelsea, but they were really only half chances at best.  Lampard put a shot or two wide, Kalou was called offsides to take a goal off the board for Chelsea, and Arsenal even had a few more counters to keep the visiting defense honest.  Arsene Wenger also had the added bonus of being able to rest some of his key players who were just back from the training room.  He was able to sub Cesc Fabregas (in the 87th for Tomas Rosicky) and Robin Van Persie (in the 76th for Maroune Chamakh).  The only other substitution in the match came when Carlo Ancelotti put on Jose Bosingwa the forgotten man at Chelsea FC for Paolo Ferreira hoping the former's attacking prowess could help unlock the Arsenal defense.  
    The game ended 3-1 to a shake of the head from Chelsea fans, and a sigh of relief from Arsenal fans who had heard long enough that their team couldn't win a "big game".  This game could put Chelsea out of the title race, with Manchester United now having a huge lead over their usual title competitors, with a game in hand, but I don't think that will be the case.  This Chelsea team will strengthen in the January transfer window, and when they are stronger and healthier, they will still have a say in who wins the title.  This Arsenal team will also hope to push on from this result, and climb the table to attempt to stop the Man U side from winning a back to back title, and hoping to gain Arsenal's first since
 


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