The result was never in doubt. The minute Gabriel decided to continue to engage Diego Costa right after he was yellow carded following the Spaniard’s altercation with Laurent Koscielny in the Arsenal box late in the first half, it always looked like Chelsea was going to win their first home league match of the season. I say altercation, it was more like scratching the whole of Koscielny’s face twice in the same phase of play, either one of those was worthy of a sending off for Costa.
Television replays have yet not provided a good angle to see exactly what Gabriel did to Costa’s leg when he backed into him but Costa was very quick to bring the attention of the match officials to it, like a cry baby. Still was stupid of Gabriel, perhaps he is not yet accustomed to English referees penchant to punish the aggressee and not the aggressor in situations like this.
If anything, Arsenal’s honesty got the better of them throughout the match; there were several points during the match where Arsenal players had the opportunity to make the most of challenges and jostles, particularly from Diego Costa, who was deployed in his familiar role of windup merchant rather than centre forward by his manager but they decided against it.
In the end, it was the cards that it. And if Gabriel’s sending off was stupid, Cazorla receiving a second yellow card for only his second foul of the game was particularly mystifying. Meanwhile, Branislav Ivanovic had spent the whole of the first half raking his studs down Alexis Sanchez’s ankles but he was not to receive a yellow card until the second half.
With Arsenal down to nine men, it was only a matter of whether Chelsea were willing to double the lead given to them when Kurt Zouma ghosted in at the back and took advantage of some sloppy Arsenal defending at a set piece. (Surprise, surprise). The Frenchman’s downward header was too good for Petr Cech who could only get a feeble hand to it at the near post before it sneaked it.
The second goal was a bit more fortuitous. Eden Hazard’s shot, which looked to be going wide of the far post, deflected off Calum Chambers’ arm. The substitute had come in for Francis Coquelin at the start of the second half to replace the sent off Gabriel in his centre back position and had a pretty impressive game, although he collected a yellow card for possibly his only foul of the game.
Overall it was a strange game; nothing like Chelsea-Arsenal matches of the past. It wasn’t like Chelsea played Arsenal off their pitch like the 6-0 of two seasons ago. Or was it anything like 2-0 of last season where Arsenal did all the playing and Chelsea did all the scoring. Rather it started out as a cagey affair, with the home team perhaps wary of the defensive frailties they have shown this season and the away side still carrying the scars of previous chastening experiences at the Bridge.
In the end it was two teams struggling with form and confidence with the result decided by Mike Dean’s cards. It would have been interesting to see how the match would have transpired if both teams had a full complement of players for the full 90 minutes.
So where does this result leave this Arsenal team? One is not sure exactly. It wasn’t exactly a terrible performance bar the sending offs just as it wasn’t the most vintage of Arsenal showings. The most enjoyable part of the second half was when the Arsenal away support started chanting “NINE MEN, WE”VE ONLY GOT NINE MEN!!!”, perhaps an ironic recognition of how hamstrung the team was on the day.
Perhaps we can all take a cue from that and not relent in supporting this team, no matter how many times they break our heart. After all that is what being a fan of this club, much more than others, entails.