Stories and pictures of the beautiful game.
Chelsea FC vs. Arsenal FC 2:1 (2:0)
January 20, 2013 | attendance 41,784 |pictures
In case you haven’t noticed: I complain a lot about the sterile atmosphere in most English stadiums. I promise I won’t do that for today’s match, Chelsea vs. Arsenal, despite the fact that those two teams both seem to have the prototype of what some of you call “plastic fans”. However, I won’t let those preconceptions cloud my judgment. After all we’re talking about a derby today, and it’s not just any of the many London derbies, it is the “Battle for the pride of London”. Surely that would get people excited?
There is also a promising sports aspect to it: over the last couple of months, both teams celebrated a lot of goal fests, resulting from a brilliant attack and a slacking defense. Chelsea defeated Aston Villa 8:0, Arsenal gave Newcastle a 7:3 bashing. Blues and Gunners also did spice up the cup with Arsenal coming back from a 0:4, winning at Reading 7:5 after extra time, and with Chelsea defeating Manchester United 5:4 after extra time. While Chelsea are third in the league behind the Manchester teams, the Gunners (sixth) have reason to worry about qualifying for an international tournament.
Heavy snow fall in London
While walking towards Stamford Bridge with snowflakes flying all over the place, I wonder about the pitch’s condition but Chelsea tweets my mind at ease: “It may be snowing but the pitch is still looking good at the Bridge today…” The under-soil heating seems to work well as the pitch is pretty green. The other parts of the stadium also look quite nice: other than your standard 50-60k arenas, Stamford Bridge’s stands that are shaped differently in terms of height and depth, actually have some character. Its official capacity is at 42,522, today’s match is a sellout at 41,784.
As the teams enter the pitch, the announcer loudly says something about Chelsea being the first London team to win the Champions League, and the fans immediately pick up the theme for their songs in order to politely point out to the away fans that they were visiting the “Champions of Europe”. They also have a little chant for Arsène Wenger, though I warn you it is not high-brow: “With a packet of sweets and a cheeky smile, Wenger is a fuckin’ pedophile.”
The people in the Shed End (Lower) behind the goal seem to be quite keen on singing. And on standing. Ignoring the bold print on their tickets that says: “Persistent standing is not allowed!” A steward desperately tries to enforce the ban but fails miserably (to my delight). There are some fans who block the view for people in the VIP area behind a thick glass wall – those fans eventually have to sit down (not without a curse or two, though). Those rebels who refuse to sit down do have a positive impact on the atmosphere, though. My neighbor agrees: “This is the loudest part in the stadium, I think everybody should be allowed to stand!” It also becomes obvious how impractical it is to ban standing. The fans who don’t dare to stand up because they are still within the stewards’ reach can’t really see anything. There is a bit of a domino effect when, under the sound of clapping plastic seats, they do get up as soon as something interesting is happening on the pitch. And today that is quite often the case.
Fans get cocky as Chelsea takes the lead
Both teams start the match with a lot of energy, but the tides soon turn against Arsenal who get run down on the wings over and over again. The Blues convert their chances and are up by two after just 16 minutes; the goals were scored by Mata and Frank Lampard (via penalty). This has a predictable effect on the atmosphere: fans celebrate their players (“Super, super Frank!”) but mostly send jibes towards the Arsenal fans (“Shall we win a cup for you?”).
They seem to forget that pride cometh before the fall (despite recently experiencing how it is like to lose a 2:0 lead), so they get a little taste of it in the second half: Arsenal now plays as dominant as Chelsea did in the first half, and fires 10 shots on goal. This also has a predictable effect on the atmosphere: fans now curse out their own team more often, especially when Theo Walcott puts one behind Petr Čech after 58 minutes. The “Champions of Europe” are now in a particularly foul mood and take it out on Fernando Torres, especially when he stumbles upon the ball (“He’s just too much fuckin’ money for what he is!”). The striker never really seemed like he felt at home at Stamford Bridge after his €58.5m transfer from Liverpool; his scoring record for Chelsea is the worst in his career (26 goals in 102 games for the Blues).
A Bundesliga alumni get-together
Fans cheer enthusiastically whenever he hands over the ball to another player for throw-ins, and they repeatedly ask for Demba Ba. The ex Hoffenheim, ex West Ham, ex Newcastle player is the Blues’ latest winter acquisition and (unlike Torres) immediately started scoring (three goals in four games). He gets to play for the last 10 minutes today and even has a big chance, but as his shot is blocked a split second before crossing the goal line, you can hear fans shout: “You’re worse than Torres!” – it’s a fast moving business…
Speaking of ex Hoffenheim: Ba is not the only Bundesliga alumnus on the pitch today: Chelsea’s Marko Marin (ex Werder Bremen, Borussia Mönchengladbach) gets on in minute 88 for a few last moments, Per Mertesacker (ex Werder Bremen, Hannover 96) plays for the entire match in the Gunner’s defense. The only one missing the reunion is Arsenal striker Lukas Podolski (ex 1. FC Köln, FC Bayern) who is out sick.
Despite Arsenal’s improvement in the second half, they don’t manage to score another goal. A very attractive game ends: both teams played attacking football at high speed, showed a few nice tricks, and still put up a good fight. The atmosphere was intense as you would expect it to be at a derby of that scale: the Shed End was not the only part of the stadium that joined in loud and spontaneous, but rather short-lived chants (as is typical for England). However, most of that happened while Chelsea played well, and most of that had a bit of an arrogant smack. This formula is based on very high if not unrealistic expectations, and it will only work well when your team is winning. It was noticeable today how fast those tides can turn in the stands.
Check out my facebook page for the full gallery: