This was a helter-skelter occasion, a game of huge excitement with all caution thrown to the wind, and at its conclusion the professor had gazumped the apprentice. Yet the thrill this match provided was encouraged throughout by naive defending from both sides. On the day, the efficiency of Arsenal's forwards better masked their own team's defensive vulnerability. Chelsea missed their opportunities and paid the price.
It was the eagerness of both sides to play such high defensive lines that opened this contest up. Arsenal set that tone early on, with Per Mertesacker squeezing the play to keep Fernando Torres further away from goal and, in doing so, ensure the distances between the visitors' backline, midfield and frontline stayed relatively short. The upside of the tactic was that the visitors were never strung out and, when possession was regained, they were close to each other to support. The flip side, though, was the pockets of space left between defenders and the acres behind them that Chelsea's forwards sought to exploit.
A sharper home attack would have punished the Arsenal bravery. They ran invitingly and unopposed behind Arsenal's full-backs in the contest's opening minutes and might have established a healthy early lead. It was a dangerous tactic for Arsenal to adopt, given that top-quality players, given a fraction of a second, can time a pass to perfection and send team-mates bearing down on goal. Mertesacker might have preferred to have sat deeper among his back four. Yet he was spared at times here because Daniel Sturridge seemed uncertain of touch, Torres was passive and Juan Mata was unable to command the ball enough to dictate the proceedings.
But Chelsea too, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, played high and left space behind, which Theo Walcott, in particular, relished. The England winger ran merrily beyond Ashley Cole (see diagram), his accurate selection of pass a pleasing improvement. The opportunities passed up by Gervinho and Robin van Persie in the opening 15 minutes were an indication of how open Chelsea were, with Walcott outpacing Cole at will. When playing such a high line, there must always be pressure exerted on the player in possession who is seeking to thread the ball through. It said a lot for Aaron Ramsey's performance that, after the interval in particular, he was able to escape the attentions of Mikel John Obi when Arsène Wenger pushed the Welshman further forward to contribute telling passes.
With Alex Song holding, Ramsey was better able to express himself; his is an old head on young shoulders, twisting and turning, with his timing of the pass spot on. Given responsibility, and now injury-free, Ramsey could prove inspirational. Gervinho was bright and worked hard, offering Van Persie strong support on the inside of José Bosingwa. In the end, it was the efficiency of Arsenal's forwards, who took their chances better than their hosts, that claimed victory. The willingness to play high made this a refreshing occasion, one that I'd predicted might end in a 4-4 draw after that frantic opening five minutes. That, in the end, did not prove to be too far out.