Also back were Nasri, Sagna and Adebayor, what with our continued injury list the rest of the team pretty well picked itself, although some would have wanted Ramsey in for Denilson or Song. Cesc looked anxious to get on and call heads as he waited in the tunnel but whatever he called he obviously lost the toss because the Chavs chose ends. In a game of Nike versus Adidas gloves it was clear that neither side were exactly at their peak today and although not quite a game of two halves it came close.
Abramovich is clearly broke because today the Chavs charged not one but two young kids to be mascots for the day, although quite how that will pay for Drogba's replacement I don't quite know. Arsenal's mascot is of course always chosen by ballot from the Junior Gunners, Chelsea treat it as an exercise in money making. Which says it all you need to know about a Club with neither class nor history.
Following an edgy start by Arsenal who looked a little lost in the opening ten minutes we worked our way back into the match in fits and starts. Although Chelsea's possession was of better quality their shooting was piss poor from both set plays and worked moves. While their ability to be caught offside was predictable with both Kalou and Anelka in their line up. Confidence is everything in big games, Chelsea had it and we didn't but that didn't mean we were not working towards it. Our line up had Denilson wide right with Song played the holding role for most of the match and did it pretty well. Cesc played deeper than you'd want him to for most of the match but felt the need to work everywhere, his example being followed by others.
Almunia had a couple of weakish punches, one of which he might have held. Gallas was up front on one occasion and took the ball off Van Persie's head with Robin better placed to head home, it fell to Cesc whose shot was saved but the ball then flashed past Bill before he could get a foot on it. A run and shot by Cesc had reasonable power but the save was not too difficult for Cech.
Adebayor up front did trojan work considering this was his first game back while Robin also did his bit. In the first half, and in fact throughout the game Cashley's every touch was roundly booed by the travelling Gooners who kept up a fine barrage of noise throughout. This wasn't the ring-ding up and at'em derby of the Vieira era and so no one got sent off today, although Terry might have been. Today this was two teams playing below their potential and far from their best with Lampard having his shots blocked rather than getting a lucky ricochet. A good move involving Robin and Ade set up Denilson for a shot over and that was about as close as we got in the first half hour.'Shit club no history' came through loud and clear as did 'rent boy' and a whole load of others from the Gooners.
Nasri was not getting back with Boswinga and we were made to pay on 30 minutes when a low cross came in that Djourou covered but unfortunately defelcted past Almunia into his own net. Just prior to this Almunia had caught the ball from a corner and tried to set up Nasri for a fast break. But a poorly thrown ball caused the damage that looked like it could decide the game. Chelsea had edged it up till then but didn't look like they could hit a cow's arse with a banjo, nor could they so we rather generously scored for them. 1-0 Chelsea.
A good save from Robin by Cech was our best effort of the half and with the Chavs not having conceded in any home Premiership matches during the second half all season things were not looking good. Arsenal needed something special or a slice of luck if they were not to be 13 points behind the Chavs at the final whistle.
No changes for either side at half time but some better play from Arsenal after the break. But we still needed some good covering from Clichy and Djourou to prevent the Chavs going further ahead. Chelsea were still looking confident when Lampard hit one past the post. But on 59 minutes the game changed. A move on the lefts side was worked to Denilson who fed the ball through to Robin who, despite it being set for his wrong foot, just hammered it with his right boot past Cech. It was somewhat against the run of play but also fortuitous in that Robin was clearly a yard offside. Mike Dean took his assistants word for it however and allowed the goal to stand. Probably, other than Rooney's misses against us, our first slice of real luck all season.
The frustrated Terry was then booked for a two-footed tackle on Sagna. Had Bacary not skilfully avoided getting his leg broken this could easily have been a red card. An indication of the Chavs mental fragility perhaps? Robin then has a shot blocked and the tide was possibly turning. Well yes, in fact it turned, because just three minutes after our opener we won a free kick on the left which Cesc fired across to Ade. He headed down and Robin spun on the ball to ping another goal past Cech despite his getting a glove on it. Amazingly we were 1-2 ahead at the Bridge with twenty-eight minutes to play.
Clearly then we still had plenty of time to throw away our lead. 'By far the greatest team the world has ever seen etc ' rang out against the background sound of a large blue silence. Robin was on song again while the Chav's clearly were not. The long and the short of it was that our side continued to attack, continued to live dangerously and we the fans continued to see football, that if not quite end to end, was at least far too open for the appreciators of the McLintock or Adams eras. Just how long has it been since we've seen a winning margin confidently closed out? Mikel was replaced by Maloude to no avail. Although the Chavs had chances Arsenal now looked the more likely to score again with the best chance falling to Denilson from a ball by Nik, who was on for Ade.
Chelsea had just the one shot on target all game and we scored their goal for them. Gallas and Djourou were great at the back and our full backs were superb. I was getting annoyed with Nasri's defending but he too made a crucial block. Denilson could have made it 1-3, but that would have pushed our luck just a tad too far. 1-2 was still a great result for Arsenal.
Fair play to Cesc he was positive before the match and maybe our season has just done an about face partially because of that. What's best - a great captain or a lucky captain?
It has to be said that the only clear winners throughout the game were the Arsenal fans who were loud and proud, even when we fell behind. Our fans at the Bridge were brilliant today and so they deserved the shirts thrown to them by Bill, Robin and Cesc. And I'm sure they'd join with me in a big two fingers to all those who've been stomping up and down with 'The End is Nigh for Arsenal' placards - I hope they know where they can stick them ;0)