..as half time approached, the turning point arrived in the game. Diego Costa who was finding life difficult against both Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel lashed out at the Frenchman, grabbing his face and then swinging his arms to catch him square in the face. Clearly out of control Costa then aggressively thrusted his body into Koscielny before taking a swipe at Gabriel, who came in to aid his defensive partner. Mike Dean blew his whistle and marched over to the scene. Dean in that familiar pose of his reached for his top pocket and sent off Costa. Mourinho furious on the sidelines was waving his arms, shouting at the referee for doing his job correctly. He can have little complaint really. It was actually nice to see a big decision in a big game at a critical moment go in our favour so credit to Dean and his officials for doing their jobs.
Mourinho had lost his focal point of his attack for three games and that will hurt them, he had pushed Eden Hazard into the centre forward role and forced the home side who really needed a win on the back foot. Arsène Wenger's men who had contained Chelsea well in the first half went into the second half with real purpose and the first chance of the half fell to...
That is what I should have been writing, that is what I would have been writing had the laws of the game been applied correctly. If Arsenal would have gone into half time 11vs11, that would have still left a sour taste in the mouth but for Arsenal to go into the half a man down is astonishing. Gabriel played some part in the dismissal, it wouldn't be right to ignore that. Had he kept his cool as Koscielny had then we would not have had a player sent off, even if the flick of the foot was far less aggressive than Costa's left and right combination minutes earlier. But I agree that we need to remain in control, especially when big calls like this go against us so frequently. On that subject, I have read a lot of confused opinions. Some of the same folk are saying that we need a player like Costa, someone who will throw his weight around and get stuck in. It was like the calls for a beast of a DM to protect the likes of Wilshere but at the same time many of the same people are lambasting Gabriel for reacting instead of staying calm. If we don't react then we're not 'ard enough and if we do then we are stupid for getting sucked in. What is it to be?
Before the red card I thought the game was nicely poised, it was a typical cagey big game with few big chances. Monreal, Coquelin, Gabriel and Koscielny were our best players during that spell. Theo had made some good runs but couldn't quite time them well enough. I was telling myself that it was only a matter of time, well that was before Dean took centre stage. We passed the ball around their pressure really well at times but our play in the final third was not quite good enough. Alexis kept cutting inside and running into Chelsea players rather than passing early. Ramsey had a half chance on the right in which he decided to come back inside rather than shoot which is somewhat unlike him.
Chelsea looked to overload Bellerin down our right and then switch the ball quickly inside to an onrushing player. It looked like a deliberate game plan from them. How the rest of the game would have panned out is anyone's guess. Not only did we have the red card to deal with in the second half but Francis Coquelin who had a superb first half hurt his knee and was replaced for Calum Chambers for the second half.
The defending on the first goal was poor and we allowed Kurt Zouma to head in from close range past Cech. Cesc's delivery for the goal and his cheating were his only contributions throughout the 90 minutes.
10 men was bad enough but Santi Cazorla picked up 2 bookings which saw him dismissed and we went down to 9. I have no issue with those cards but I do have an issue with the number of fouls by Chelsea that went without a card. It was much the same in this fixture last season. Chelsea were able to rotationally foul us without any interference. Hazard scored a deflected goal in stoppage time to rub nasty blue salt into our wounds.
Reports suggest that Coquelin's injury is not as bad as we feared so that is the only bit of good news I can muster today. Ahh the other bit of good news is that at least Manchester City haven't pulled further away from us thanks to the giant killing West Ham.
When you agree wholeheartedly with Garth Crooks then you know it's been a strange weekend.