Chelsea 1 Arsenal 2: There's only ever been one team in London

Last updated : 21 February 2004 By Brian Dawes

Geremi gets the better of Lauren
Clichy came in for the newly injured Cole, Henry was back up front, Edu played alongside Pat, while Gilberto had recovered from his Irish battering to take up a place wide right. With an attacking line up in reserve, namely Ljungberg, complete with rib protectors, Kanu, Reyes, Stack and Cygan on the bench there could be no doubting that Arsene wanted to end Chelsea’s Championship ambitions with a win and reduce proceedings to a two horse race. Can you mention horse when referring to Manure?

What happened today? Well for a start the travelling Gooners were ripped off to the tune of £49.00a ticket. This was the totally outrageous sum of money that was required to buy a seat for today's game. And for that you get to sit in a letterbox stand that houses inadequate toilet facilities and gloriously unpainted breezeblocks. The views at the back of the visitors’ section are appalling and should be classified as a restricted view. So I didn’t go, I forwent the pleasure of personally hurling abuse at Jimmy-Floyd and the Mutant. Maybe the arch tosser Masterbates desperately needed the money, but quite obviously Oligarchs don’t.

On a cool, grey day Arsenal kicked off in their long-sleeved shirts and tried to string passes together in midfield. Pat, however, lost control to Geremi who went off down the left, he crossed for Mutu who’s flicked header reached Gudjohnsen at the far post, it went past Clichy as he slipped. Gudjohnsen planted it through Lehmann’s legs with a close angled shot. 1-0 to Chelsea with 27 seconds on the clock, we’ve certainly had better starts! Pat had looked very relaxed in the tunnel prior to kick off; maybe he was too relaxed.

Arsenal came back by playing football, a lot of the best stuff coming through Dennis who had a positive stormer today. Henry had a shot blocked followed immediately by a shot from Campbell that was saved low by Sullivan. We were edgy at the back early on and Chelsea’s best play came down their left with Geremi. Their midfield was, as ever, overcrowded down the middle. Arsenal played high up the pitch catching Mutu offside more than once. Jens carried on his war of words with the Mutant; it’s as if he needs to wind himself up to concentrate. There was a peach of a deep diagonal pass by Dennis, which Thierry hit on the volley past the far post; it might have been a classic if it was on target.

Vieira on halfway played one forward to Dennis and went on a run, Dennis held it up while Rob made a diagonal run that dragged a defender away and gave Pat the space to run into. A superb low pass from Dennis with the outside of his boot hit Pat on the run with the perfect pace for a shot. Pat took it well with his left and it was 1-1. An absolute dream of a pass, from one of the most creative players ever to don the red and white shirt.

Gudjohnsen had another heading opportunity at the far post, again over Gael’s head, but our young Frenchman was equal to the block. Bergkamp sustained a cut eye from an accidental elbow from Terry. Clichy went on a good run as Arsenal pressed and Edu had a shot deflected for a corner. Henry hit it deep, Sullivan got under it, and flapped at it hopelessly, this was a major cock-up. The ball landed in a posse of players, clipped off Gudjohnsen’s heel and fell to Edu. He picked his spot and slotted it home with glee and then ran off with huge grin whilst kissing the badge. 1-2 Arsenal, which is not a unique scoreline this season.

It was an open game and we seemed to be taking chances as our back four continued to play high up the pitch and irritating the Mutant by catching him offside. Good. Dennis showed some great footwork. Parker slammed into Vieira from behind which didn’t impress Pat; there was no card. Gilberto almost capitalised on a mistake by Terry. Pat absolutely flattened Parker to show him who he shouldn’t be messing with, no card. Jens punched away a free kick. Geremi got in behind Lauren but Sol cleared the cross. A brilliant diagonal ball from Lauren to Henry. Kolo cut off a Chelsea break. Great near post save by Jens as an angled cross took a deflection. Terry got clear as Arsenal appealed for offside, it wasn’t, but their centre back failed to get a real shot in, a good chance. Makelele hit one over and might have scared someone in the crowd, but I doubt it.

Chelsea possession grew as the half went on but Arsenal were defending well and allowing few chances. We now have a confident defence, which seemed almost to be practising for Europe. The Gunners defended as a team with Rob being as likely to head away a corner as anyone. Chelsea pressed but mainly against a brick wall and Arsenal are always a threat on the break. Dennis to Edu to Pires who should have shot but gave it to Henry whose first touch was poor. Thierry didn’t shine today, but like everyone else he shared the workload.

Henry - A quiet game by his standards
Gudjohnsen went down in the box as he threw himself to the floor whilst passing Kolo. Mike Riley awarded a significant yellow card, for an obvious dive that was well spotted. A Pires shot at the other end won a corner that he hit in sweetly, but despite the numbers flying in there was no contact. Chelsea pressed again and there was brave block by Silva that clearly hurt. Clichy lost possession but got back in time to help Sol see off Geremi. Half time and did I imagine that Chelski still have unsold executive boxes, or had all the punters disappeared to the bar?

The second half promised much but delivered little. Arsenal set out their stall to defend, and defend they did. It wasn’t pretty and it effected our forward game but three points aren’t always about classy football. The first half had been a clean game but the second became more and more niggly as Chelsea became frustrated with their failure to break us down. Mutu played wide right the second half, possibly because Parker had strayed away from this position before the break. Mutu broke through but Gael and Sol sorted it out. A Geremi cross saw a Makelele shot deflected for a corner.

Lampard remained an anonymous non-entity who made no impression on the game. Chelsea had us pegged back, and we were finding it hard to break out but our covering was in the main superb, it’s no accident that we have the best defence in the division. Mutu had a hack at Pires and picked up a yellow card, he’s a nasty little toad but I’ve seen far worse tackles, including quite a few in this match. Wiley wanted to keep control I suspect. Another foul by Parker on Vieira and Lampard had a crap shot. Lampard was then caught offside.

Clichy made a good headed clearance whilst up against Mutu. Silva conceded a free kick and from the ball in Gallas might have scored. Clichy broke down the left. Gudjohnsen went in with his studs and planted them in Gael’s ankle, a sure yellow card and so it was. Two yellows gets you a red so bye-bye Gudjohnsen. The TV pundits tried to claim this was an innocuous, even accidental trip. B*llocks I say – it was a deserved second yellow. It may well have spoilt the match for TV viewers, but not for this TV viewer.

Mutu dived for a free kick but Geremi could only hit into the wall. The game was ragged, maybe because Chelski’s ploy was to congest midfield. Gronkjaer replaced Parker. Thierry had a decent run but was stopped by Terry, who along with Geremi was probably their best player on the day. Arsenal then played keep ball against Chelski’s ten men. I suspect we would do this more often if it wasn’t for the fact that the opposition deem it a piss take and it invariably ends in a nasty foul.

Dennis to Henry back to Dennis, to Pat, to Lauren, to Silva, to Vieira, to Gael then Edu onto Rob, back to Edu, to Pat, to Dennis, then about six more passes before Kolo gave to Sol, on to Edu, back to Sol, to Kolo, to Ralph, to Pat, to Sol, to Gael, to Rob, to Edu, to Clichy, to Edu, to Kolo, to Pat, to Gael to Edu, to Pat, to Dennis, to Rob who was tackled but we won it straight back. In all I'm sure this sequence was well over forty passes and Jens didn't get a touch. I didn't tape the game, so the above list of passes probably isn't perfect but if anyone can supply the correct sequence I'd love to know for sure how many it actually was.

Anyway as I suggested earlier it ended soon after that with a mad tackle by Terry on Pat, which I think got him a card, it certainly should have done. The point was that our passing told them it was our match, our ball and our points. It was as if we were just doing enough without taking chances, we were ahead after all so why should we. Had Chelski gone gung ho we might have hit them on the break, but they never threw in the kitchen sink. The Bridge was quite a quiet place around three sides of the ground at this point.

JFH replaced Mutu and Cole replaced Geremi, who I thought had played well.

Edu celebrates in front of the travelling Gooners
Pires put in Gilberto for a shot. Sol hacked a cross clear, whilst trying to keep Gael in perfect position. Jens punched one clear. Gael was cool under pressure. Freddie replaced Dennis, I don’t think Dennis needed to come off but Freddie maybe needed a run out and possibly Arsene wanted to let Reyes know he’ll have to fight for a place in this team. Lampard showed he was still on the pitch, I had forgotten, when he went in with a hack on Edu long after the ball had gone, a deserved yellow card. From the free kick Henry hit a sweet ball to put Silva one-on-one with the Spurs reject, but Gilberto got tangled with the ball under his feet, I bet he puts them away in training every time.

We found the net but a free kick had already been given against Pat for holding, well before Freddie nodded home. Jens headed clear just outside his area. We were not in total control, Chelsea in their biggest League match for

49 long Championship free years were still trying. It’s just that they simply were not good enough. Rob went down in their box with contact, I didn’t think it was a penalty but loads have been given for far less. An iffy header back from Kolo didn’t please Jens with JFH in attendance so Jens took it out on JFH, winding him up by time wasting. The half had been bitty and got no smoother.

Henry nearly squeezed in Gilberto but we won the corner anyway. ‘2-1 to the referee’ could be heard from the sad Blue flagged losers. While the travelling Gooners were into ‘We love you Arsenal we do’. Henry chased around and arrived with a studs-showing tackle on Bridge that was stupid, he got a yellow card. A crap pass by Melchiot saw another Chelski attack hit the deck. Four minutes added time. Jens was required to catch a deep corner and took one well as Cole got into the box. Henry took the ball for a trot out of harms way, to the delight of all those fans down our left wing.

Final whistle and the Arsenal players showed they were all quite aware just how big this win was. Chelski, if not dead, have certainly had their Championship aspirations buried by the mighty Arsenal. A word for ‘Response team supervisor number 10’ who steered Pat away from the travelling Gooners after the match. What a sad **** you are!

The Mancs made the day even better by dropping two points at home to lowly Leeds. So Fergusmoan, it seems, would have been far better off playing mind games with his own team rather than his feeble attempt to wind up Arsenal. The travelling Gooners no doubt thought that their £49 outlay was a bargain and all in all this untidy match, but tremendous result, confirms what we all knew. Arsene is an absolute genius and the Championship is now ours to win or ours to lose. It’s a long way from being over, as we all know too well, but I think we may well be hearing a fat lady loosen her vocal chords at Highbury.

I’ll end with a request for suggestions to complete the following rhyming couplet – answers on a postcard…

From Stamford Bridge to the Khyber Pass

You can stick your blue flag

Up your …