Why oh why do I get this horrible sense of déjà vu? Arsenal red card followed by a Chelsea victory.
That is two defeats against this Chelsea team who have been miserable all season, that really rubs salt into the wound.
I felt we were too cagey when we started the game. I had been hoping we'd see a fired up Arsenal side, snapping into Chelsea and really putting pressure on the blues but we looked unsure of ourselves.
Perhaps we would have settled right down had Joel Campbell finished Theo Walcott's cut back from the left. It was a very similar chance to the one he put away so well against Sunderland in the FA Cup. That finish was cultured and assured, this time Campbell miskicked the ball into the grateful arms of Courtois.
In truth it was the story of our afternoon, we seem to have lost the ability to keep the ball. Too many passes are being misplaced just as we saw at Stoke and at Anfield. Our midfield is not functioning and we are finding it difficult to control games.
But the game changed on 17 minutes. Willian ran at our midfield, Flamini backed off him enough to allow the Brazilian to look up and slide a very good pass behind Mertesacker and into the path of Diego Costa who continuously looked to angle his runs towards the German.
No pressure on the Chelsea midfield along with a high line that includes Per Mertesacker is just asking for trouble. Trouble is exactly what we got when Mertesacker missed the ball with a challenge and the odious Costa dropped to the ground. The replay shows that very little or perhaps no contact was made by Mertesacker but it's very difficult to portion any blame to referee Mark Clattenburg as it looked like a clear foul in real time, at least from my eyes.
I was furious that Mertesacker was left isolated so high up the pitch. Chelsea play with one forward so why was Laurent Koscielny so far away from his partner when he knows he is not able to recover? If we are going to play Mertesacker in a high line you must protect him or you will be punished. That is not Mertesacker's fault, it is the fault of those around him. If Koscielny was concerned about Willian getting past Flamini then he should have just dropped off rather than pushing up the pitch. Costa has no chance in a foot race with him but Mertesacker has no chance with a foot race with Costa.
Koscielny has no Chelsea players to mark and can easily cover Per. Flamini also backs off when he should engage.
Koscielny is now behind both Mertesacker and Costa on the chase towards our goal
That said, why Mertesacker's glanced to the linesman in the middle of making a tackle is anyone's guess.
Like everybody else I was surprised to see Giroud leave the pitch. He had been declared fit enough to start and he is the one player who can relieve pressure by holding onto the ball and bringing others into the game. No matter how you look at it, it was a tough decision to make. Joel Campbell gives you hard work and creativity. Theo Walcott should be the ideal player to use on the break and you cannot really remove anyone else from the team.
Maybe we should have just slotted Flamini into centre back as he tends to split his time between centre back and central striker. I jest, sort of.
As soon as Gabriel came on for Giroud, Diego Costa met an Ivanovic cross from the right to steer past Cech. How typical and how annoying.
Flamini should have scored in first half stoppage time when he moved into his part time centre forward position after Aaron Ramsey chipped over a delightful pass but instead of going with his head, he attempted a kung fu kick that flew over the bar. I kept wondering what the outcome would have been like had it have been Giroud meeting the cross instead. *sigh*
Head it Flam!!
In the second half Arsenal huffed and puffed but could not penetrate the Chelsea defence nearly enough. With an extra man Chelsea were able to pass around us and that was incredibly frustrating.
Chelsea did their homework on our attacking play. Whenever we went wide they crowded the area in which we often cut the ball back to. So Campbell's early chance aside we got very little change from those attacks.
We looked a little better in the second half when Alexis came on, his ability to go past players gave us more unpredictability but he was far from his best which isn't really much of a surprise given his time out of the team.
There is clearly an issue with our game at the moment. We have done very well without key players to still be in the mix after Christmas but we are not playing our football. We were relying on Mesut Özil for our creativity for much of that period and you can see that he is now beginning to drop from the crazy heights of a few weeks ago.
Arsène always says that results are a consequence of good performances and I am certain that we need to get our game together if we are to remain in this title race. Our last really good team display in the Premier League came against Manchester City on 21st December 2015. That was more than a month ago. Arsene Wenger teams win by playing well, especially over a long period.
I can't help but feel that some tweaking is needed to our midfield area. We need to find some stability and control back. Once we do that, we can play ourselves into confidence further forward.
It's too early to run around shrieking but this is a massive blow, especially against that lot. Good grief. Did you see the clip doing the rounds of their fans?
How are we letting this club get one (two) over us?
But it's gone now, hopefully the FA cup game can be used for change to the league team. Starting with a debut for Elneny. Hopefully he will be ready to show us that he is ready for the first team. Also it will be important to get Alexis back sharp and influencing games positively.
Win our league games against Southampton (h), Bournemouth (a) and Leicester City (h) and this result will feel a little easier, not forgotten by a long shot but feel better.
This one hurts and we will need to get back to our October form if we are to continue in this title race.