x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Wenger style no match for substance

Arsene Wenger may boast that his Arsenal side play the most attractive football, but the modern game is not just about that as the 3-0 defeat to Chelsea proved.

Arsene Wenger may boast that his Arsenal side play the most attractive football in England, but the modern game is not just about pretty passing as Sunday's 3-0 defeat to Chelsea painfully proved. Physical presence is essential and Arsenal have been found wanting since the departures of players such as Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira. At the Emirates Stadium they had no match for the brute force of the league leaders.

Tomas Rosicky, part of the lightweight Arsenal midfield, admitted: "If Chelsea continue to play like that then it will be difficult for anyone to stop them." In trying to lift his side's flagging spirits, his manager had a different opinion. Wenger said: "They [Chelsea] lost many balls, where we couldn't take advantage and made many technical mistakes where we couldn't take advantage, and that has nothing to do with the physical impact of the game.

"At the moment they are in a very strong position [for the title], but they can drop points. The problem we have at the moment is that people will not believe in us, so we have to make sure that lack of belief does not diminish our belief." Wenger bemoaned an Andriy Arshavin strike ruled out for a high challenge by Eduardo on Petr Cech and the absence of Robin van Persie, out until April with an ankle ligament injury.

But while the Dutchman might have influenced the attack he would not have stopped Didier Drogba, scorer of a brace either side of Thomas Vermaelen's own goal, and Nicolas Anelka at the other end. Drogba has now scored 10 times in 11 games against Arsenal and, having now also beaten Liverpool and Manchester United, he said: "It's our strength to perform when it matters. Even against Manchester United, when the game was really difficult, we won. We know how to go through difficult periods when the game is hard."

The Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano believes he should be credited with the opening strike of Sunday's 2-0 win in the 212th Merseyside derby despite it going down as a Joseph Yobo own goal. The Argentina captain let fly from 30 yards and although his shot appeared to be heading just off target it took a wicked deflection off the Everton centre-back and went spinning past goalkeeper Tim Howard.

Mascherano is determined to claim the goal, which would be only his fourth career strike after hitting just one for Liverpool and two for Argentina. "I think it's my goal because I tried to score with the shot, it was a really important moment for me," he said. "This season some people have criticised my shooting but I am trying hard to improve it and I am happy." @Email:akhan@thenational.ae