The first week of the Premier League produced unconvincing starts for two of the strongest teams of this season – Chelsea and Arsenal.
Chelsea – being the defending champions – were this close to losing their home game at Stamford Bridge to Swansea City. They managed to salvage a 2-2 draw and that was perhaps the only saving grace. According to the stats, no side has enjoyed more than Swansea’s 10 shots on target at Chelsea since 2003.
A major chunk of Chelsea’s win last season could be attributed to their solid defence line-up. The same line-up looked vulnerable as Swansea strikers enjoyed a lot more chances than they should have.
There were a lot of differences of opinion surrounding Thibaut Courtois’ red card and the decision to not give a penalty for a possible trip on Diego Costa in the first half. Cesc Fabregas put up a really poor show, but there was no proper alternative on the bench. Ramires is an active and suitable box-to-box central midfielder, but he can’t compare to Fabregas as far as passing range is concerned.
Although Kurt Zouma replaced Fabregas at one point, Zouma’s role is plainly a more defensive one and the Frenchman is as far from a like-for-like substitute as it gets. It’s highly unlikely for Fabregas to continue performing poorly, but in case he does, or he sustains an injury, there is nobody of a similar type to replace him.
Chelsea’s defence were brilliant in the second half of last season but it looked like an entirely different team against Swansea. Partly, that could be blamed on individual errors, such as Willian accidentally playing Bafetimbi Gomis onside in the build-up to the game-changing penalty, but those are anomalies that can be rectified.
Arsenal, on the other hand, were expected to start on a high after the third-place finish last season. They lost miserably to West Ham United 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal fans were already dreaming about winning the title due to their strong pre-season. However, all those hopes were dashed by West Ham United and at their home ground.
Petr Cech seemed to struggle with understanding the defence, as West Ham scored their first goal. Cech is a class act and an excellent signing, but it was evident that he needs to spend their training sessions working with and understanding the defence at Arsenal.
The situation was very bleak which lead to Alexis Sanchez coming on, who was clearly not ready for the game after a late Copa America return. Although he was unable to make an impact this time, looking tired and uninterested, this result did throw light on how reliant Arsenal are on him.
Arsene Wenger also shifted Santi Cazorla wide on the left to make room for Aaron Ramsey but taking Cazorla out of his favoured position backfired majorly. Cazorla actually returned good stats from the game, playing 76 passes at 93.4 per cent accuracy, but if they’re not in the right area, this impact is negated. Eventually, Wenger took the hint and restored Cazorla to a more central station and Arsenal improved.
Olivier Giroud struggled alone up front but just wasn’t getting the support, being forced to drop back time after time to try and win the ball. The failure to score suggests Wenger will enter the transfer market for a new forward, potentially Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema. The good news is, plenty of time remains in the transfer window to strengthen the attack.