Let me be the first to admit that Punditry is such a hard job when we all get it wrong; we are supposed to be experts and quite a number of people depend on our expert analysis to determine their mood going into a big game and in some circumstances place a stake on the game with the hope of making a quick buck or two.
Credit to Arsenal, Arsene Wenger and the fans who believed in their team before and during the match; not you, you know yourselves. Forget about the controversy of the first goal; it was a supremely fantastic Arsenal performance, the Gunners could have been up by four goals at halftime with their exhilarating play of pace, quick movement and possession. Here are my thoughts from a great Arsenal FA Cup victory:
Chelsea seemed Hung-Over
Antonio Conte would take the blame for this lethargic Chelsea performance; it obviously looked like they had over celebrated their league win just seven days earlier. This takes me back to 1994 and 1999; when Manchester United were chasing a double and a Treble; I remember the words of Sir Alex; to the team and the Fans on the final day of the season; calming down the celebrations, ensuring it didn’t go over board as the team still had bigger fish to fry in the coming days. This Chelsea team didn’t look that; the whole John Terry send forth and general atmosphere at Stamford Bridge on final day; they had a party and seemed to celebrate all week; probably waving off the threat Arsenal were capable of been. The only other time Chelsea were probably this poor was on their trip to Old Trafford; they had no answer for Arsenal’s running on and off the ball, it was an electric performance from the Gunners.
Chelsea Midfield off the pace
I kept asking myself were is all this space coming from; it was like a huge gaping hole after an earthquake. Chelsea’s midfield was completely off the pace; that all that running, movement, quickness of the pacing, use of space; just gave N’golo Kante and Nemanja Matic just too much to keep up with. I felt Conte could have responded with a change earlier than he did; especially as Pedro and Hazard were having an off day.
Arsenal got behind the Chelsea in the wide areas, using the pace of Bellerin and Chamberlain in transitioning from defense to attack like a hot knife through butter. The Introduction of Fabregas for Matic; could have brought some much needed calm in the midfield with the Blues seizing possession and some energy and industry could have helped with the introduction of Willian for Pedro; both substitutions could have been done at Half time as Arsenal were having a field day controlling the midfield in the first half, but stepped off the gas in the second half for a counter attacking approach; it would have been a great reaction to the onslaught at the time.
Sanchez’s Goal shouldn’t have stood
I am not a referee; but i have watched the game long enough to know when a player is interfering with play; i am not even mentioning the hand ball leading to goal. Now, lets consider this; ball gets flicked into the box; Aaron Ramsey is in an offside position; doesn’t realize it; makes a move for the ball, turns to get the ball to take a shot a Courtois; but gets either a shout from Sanchez; who made a run from outside the box or just immediately realizes he was in an offside position earlier and shouldn’t touch or make a move for the ball; we have to realize that at this time Courtois is coming to terms with facing an Aaron Ramsey strike on goal only to see him move over for Sanchez to take a swipe at the ball. For me, Ramsey was offside every day of the week including Sundays and public holidays; goal shouldn’t have stood.
Mertesacker Holding Defense; No Problem.
Imagine the hysteria during the week; when it was apparent Arsenal would have to call on their semi retired club Captain to fill the defensive hole left open by injuries to Gabriel, Mustafi and Koscielny’s suspension. It gave Arsenal absolutely no chance against a rampaging Chelsea forward line full of running and enthusiasm; little did we know that as the saying goes ”there’s no substitute for experience”.
What a performance by Per Mertesacker; a gem of a composed defensive performance; commanding, resolute and quite encouraging. Young Rob Holding would have learnt a ton from partnering with the veteran last night; the German showed all forms of leadership, exhibiting control, didn’t misplace a pass; calm in possession and in his tackling. Permit me to say this; we have had the Gerrard Final; this was the Mertesacker Final (I understand Martin Keown said the same thing too).
Eden Hazard: Not quite there yet
There’s been a lot of debate on how good Eden Hazard is and how he ranks or compares with the likes of Messi, Cristano, Neymar and Saurez. I have maintained that he still has a bit to go to be mentioned in the same category as the aforementioned individuals. For one his numbers have to take a huge nudge up; especially considering the amount of influence he has in the Chelsea team.
Lets make a quick comparison and look at the numbers; this season Hazard has scored 16 goals and 5 assists, probably his best goals return for Chelsea; if you take a look across the pond to the four guys I mentioned:
Lionel Messi – 37 goals; 9 assists
Luis Saurez – 29 goals; 13 assists
Cristano Ronaldo – 25 goals; 6 assists
Neymar Jnr – 13 goals; 11 assists
For a player that has that much influence and is integral to Chelsea’s play and success; he needs to up the ante; been involved in a total of 21 goals all season is probably not good enough in been ranked among the best in the world.
Also; if i were to take into consideration the effect two of these players had in their team’s cup final triumph as against Hazard’s performance in Chelsea’s disappointing Cup demise; it reflects on my entire analysis of how much Hazard can be mentioned in the conversation of best players in the world.
Eden Hazard was one of Chelsea’s poor performers in last night’s FA Cup final; he couldn’t galvanize the team and was largely anonymous; he needs to turn up in games of this nature in a more consistent manner to finally warrant or merit been considered one of the world’s elite players.
**Pictures courtesy SIPA/REX Shutterstock; Associated Press