Chelsea and Arsenal suffer from ‘FIFA Virus’

By Daily Sports on October 17, 2017

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In Spanish club football, there is what is known as the ‘FIFA Virus’. It is the period when top clubs suffer shock results against less-fancied opponents immediately after the FIFA International break. The cause of these shock results could range from fatigued top players of the big sides who would have been involved in a couple of international games for their countries just a few days before the resumption of league football.

With just a few days to prepare their teams against dogged opponents, managers of big clubs face a tactical dilemma in many cases in deciding who to rest and who to start in games and what sort of tactical approach is needed in relation to the available players.

Last Saturday, Chelsea and Arsenal, two big sides of English Premier League, suffered from the FIFA Virus as they got stunned 2-1, by Chrystal Palace and Watford respectively.

Chelsea faithful settled into their game with winless Palace with a high feeling of confidence that the fixture was the right platform on which to bounce back from the bitter disappointment of losing 0 -1 at home to high-flying table toppers Manchester City a fortnight ago.

Chrystal Palace on their part, hadn’t scored a single goal since the league commenced some two months ago and hosting the defending champions from Stanford Bridge, any outcome was to be taken to be a bonus.

But the Roy Hodgson tutored lads were brave, coming out of the blocks with the kind of determination that belied their bottom placement in the league table.

Their first goal of the season was a fortuitous own goal conceded by Chelsea.

The Blues equalised through a good Ibrahim Bakayoko header, but Palace was soon in front again through returning Wilfred Zaha who had been struggling with injury.

Chelsea looked uncharacteristically flat, failing to string simple passes together with any real consistency during the match.

For a player bought with heavy money, midfielder Bakayoko was very disappointing in midfield for Chelsea who were without midfield lynchpin N’golo Kante, who had picked up an injury during the international break.

The hassling and overall mobility of Kante was missing and Chelsea failed to win tackles and intercept passes quick enough to launch relentless pressure of their own.

At the end of the match, the only real surprise was that Palace won by just a single goal margin. The hosts had several very clear cut chances to record a more impressive win, but somehow kept missing and leaving themselves vulnerable to a sucker punch equaliser from the defending champions. But Chelsea appeared uncharacteristically lethargic and showed no real urgency to draw level.

But Antonio Conte’s Chelsea lost out in the end, and have now lost three games this season. With Champions League commitments and now trailing league leaders City with 9 points, defending the title they won in great style last season is now looking increasingly unlikely.

Chelsea's performance against Palace was the poorest they have offered since Conte came on board as manager of The Blues.

Arsenal continued their inconsistent form this season, losing their away match in four games on the road.

With 5th placed Chelsea surprisingly losing to Chrystal Palace earlier on Saturday, Arsenal were presented a big chance of moving into 4th place with an away win against Watford.

It all seemed to be going to plans for The Gunners when captain Per Metersaker nodded in a corner late in the first half to give Arsenal the lead.

But Watford were never going to just lay down and die. They emerged in the second half a more energised team and had Arsenal behind the ropes for much of the second period. The introduction of Troy Deeney added to the wing wizardry of Richarlison and Arsenal found themselves in the backfoot.

Mohammed Elneny, deputizing for Aaron Ramsey in the Arsenal midfield found it hard to cope when Watford swarmed around the Gunners midfield. Ramsey, on such days, would usually take risks and make counter attacking runs behind enemy defenses and forcing them back. But not Elneny. The Egyptian has not really convinced at Arsenal, looks too static and seems to lack the creative spark that a fit Jack Wilshere could offer.

But Elneny was not the only culprit in the Gunners loss on Saturday. Contract rebel Mesut Ozil should have rapped the game up for Arsenal with scores still at 1- 0 in favour of the visitors. But, presented with a goalden opportunity with only the Watford ’keeper to beat after coming as a second half substitute, Ozil shot tamely and from the counter Watford got a cheap penalty, when Richarlison had been deemed to have been fouled by Hector Belerin, from which Deeney scored.

For a player demanding a much improved deal drom Arsenal, (he already is in the top cadre of salary earners amongst peers), he simply should be scoring from such easy chances.

In extra time Tom Cleverly made it 2 -1 when he shot right in front of a despairing Arsenal defence to give the home side a memorable win.

Source Daily Sports

Posted October 17, 2017

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