It wasn’t a good day at the office for either Santi Cazorla or Oscar as Chelsea snatched all three points at the Emirates.
The result sees Arsenal lie in 7th place with 9 points, 7 off of their opponents on the day, Chelsea, who remain top of the league. It was Arsenal’s first loss of the season and their first at home in 6 games dating back to last season when Wigan shocked them by winning 2-1 there on April 16.
It’s also the third league game running in which Arsenal have failed to keep a clean sheet. This on the back of keeping a clean sheet in their opening 3 league fixtures.
As for Chelsea, in addition to remaining top of the league on 16 points, they remain unbeaten, winning 5 of their 6 games to date, including 2 away victories out of 3. Chelsea have also conceded the lowest amount of goals thus far (3). Roberto Di Matteo couldn’t have wished for a better start to his first season as permanent manager of Chelsea.
Looking at individual performances, Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla and Chelsea’s Oscar had contrasting roles to play despite both of them featuring just behind the lone striker of their respective clubs. Both left the game with a measure of frustration, however. Let’s look at their situations.
Santi Cazorla has brought a fair bit of creativity to this Arsenal side. Playing in the hole, his clever passing has proven very effective so far. In this game, however, Cazorla found it difficult to be the powerful influence he has been in previous fixtures.
John Mikel Obi and Ramires were largely responsible for that. Both put in a disciplined display in front of Chelsea’s defence, acting as a shield.
Cazorla still managed to create 4 goal-scoring opportunities on this day — 3 from open play. However, 2 of those 3 opportunities set up players for long range shots, providing further evidence of just how difficult it was for him to penetrate Chelsea with his passing.
The first opportunity Cazorla created from open play was for Abou Diaby in the 12th minute. Diaby’s long range effort was on target, but it was a routine save for Petr Cech. The second opportunity from open play went to Olivier Giroud in the 73rd minute. The out-of-form striker’s effort from inside the penalty area was nearly deflected in, but Cech saved well. The final opportunity went to Kieran Gibbs of all people, but his long range effort went high and wide in the 78th minute.
Cazorla also had efforts of his own. He attempted 4 shots on this day; but none were on target. In fact, other than having 1 blocked effort from the right side of the box in the 40th minute after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain laid the ball off, Cazorla’s efforts were abysmal to say the least.
He simply didn’t have his shooting boots on for this game. The shake of the head from the Spaniard as he fired a first-time shot well over and wide after collecting a Gervinho pass at the edge of the box said it all and it highlights the one aspect of his game that has always required improvement — his goal-scoring.
It was a generally frustrating game for Cazorla, but no doubt he’ll have better days. He certainly has the quality and the personality to pick himself up in time for Arsenal’s next game, for which he’ll be desperate to redeem himself.
Oscar saw his place in Chelsea’s first team cemented after grabbing an impressive brace on his Champions League debut versus Juventus at Stamford Bridge. That game proved that he had an eye for goal, while his exploits for Internacional and the Brazil national team show just how creative a player he is. During this game, however, both attributes were hardly on display.
The young Brazilian has seen his role change a bit under Di Matteo. In big games, he isn’t given the freedom he grew accustomed to having at Internacional and when playing for Brazil. Instead, fans are seeing a different side of their club’s £25 million signing in those games — his defensive side.
Oscar was charged with the responsibility of curtailing the influence of the majestic Andrea Pirlo for the game versus Juventus. Versus Arsenal on this day, he was asked to put Mikel Arteta off his game. In fairness, he stood up to the task quite well on both occasions. The problem is that such defensive responsibility restricts his influence on proceedings in an attacking sense, where he is most effective.
He may have scored twice versus Juventus, but that was because he got forward a bit more given Chelsea were in control, having 54% possession in that game. But even in that fixture, Oscar didn’t create a single goal-scoring opportunity.
At the Emirates, Arsenal had more of the ball (51%). This made a difference.
During this game, Oscar made 2 tackles, 1 interception, 2 clearances, and committed 3 fouls, showing just how much defensive work he put in. Going forward, he created just the 1 goal-scoring opportunity — a pass to Fernando Torres whose shot found the side netting in the dying embers of the first half.
Oscar also had 2 efforts of his own. He fizzed one wide from outside the box just before half time and had the other blocked in the 65th minute. There were just a couple of occasions where his good link-up play was on show around the box, but this wasn’t seen as often as it could — or should — have been.
This proved crucial considering the fact that Eden Hazard and Juan Mata (who impressed), despite drifting centrally to try and influence the game, couldn’t find that telling final ball. Mata’s only clear-cut created chance came from a set-piece he took — the one from which Fernando Torres scored. Hazard, meanwhile, didn’t create a single goal-scoring chance, which is a first for him this season.
Oscar is used to being the go-to guy going forward in big games, but he wasn’t that guy in this game and hasn’t been thus far at Chelsea. His frustration (or grouchiness) told here when he fouled Kieran Gibbs after losing possession, collecting a yellow card for his troubles.
He was subbed on 73 minutes to be replaced by Victor Moses. In the end, he had done what he was asked to do, but not what he wanted to do.
Quite simply, it wasn’t Santi Cazorla’s day. Arsene Wenger needs other players to step up whenever this happens. As for Cazorla himself, it’s an added incentive to finally improve a crucial aspect of his game.
Oscar’s situation is more of an issue, but for the player himself. He is the type of player who needs to be freed of defensive responsibility so he can do the type of damage in the attacking third that he is capable of doing, especially in the big games when just one moment of such brilliance can prove decisive.
Instead, Di Matteo sees those big games as an opportunity to saddle Oscar with defensive duties and is being encouraged to continue seeing that the youngster is equal to the task. Thus far, however, it has come at a cost, with his creative influence in those fixtures being negatively affected.
But Oscar is giving of himself for the sake of the team and that surely matters much. Long-term, though, hopefully this doesn’t prove problematic.
**Stats courtesy of Whoscored
**Heat Maps courtesy of ESPN FC