Chelsea 0 – 0 Arsenal
It’s a sign of how well we played yesterday that there’s a tinge of disappointment hanging in the air from a very good point at Stamford Bridge yesterday. There is no perspective from which you can view the game and not reach the conclusion that Arsenal came away with the minimum their performance deserved.
And in the big games, away from the Emirates, that has been a long time coming.
When Aaron Ramsey’s stumbling weave through the Chelsea penalty area ended with a toe-poke rebounded against the post, presenting Alexandre Lacazette with the chance he will score 9 times out of 10. This was the one and the ball ballooned over the bar. The gods loved us but not that much.
Given the poverty of our performance at Anfield, this is a massive step up. Organised; disciplined; consistent throughout the team. Everything we needed, the performance delivered, leaving only the frustrating question of why it took so long to come.
But it did arrive, which is much appreciated. Particularly the disciplined performance from the midfield, after a nervy opening fifteen minutes. Welbeck and Iwobi provided the necessary support to Xhaka and Ramsey in the centre and once everyone settled, went toe-to-toe with Chelsea, their supposed superiors.
While Arsène gets the brickbats, he deserves the plaudits for the performance. He’s set the bar for these fixtures in future which makes uncomfortable reading for Anfield and Stoke.
The watershed moment, in terms of belief, came when Bellerin delivered an inviting cross into the centre. Alas for Welbeck, the header drifted wide and high. It jolted Chelsea and their left side became vulnerable to the Spaniard’s pace, imbuing a sense of belief in the Arsenal attack.
They Shall Not Pass
While Laurent Koscielny is garnering most praise, Shkodran Mustafi’s turned in the more eye-catching performance and not just for the (correctly) disallowed goal. I’d go so far as to say that it was kind of performance for which he was signed. Committed, aggressive and most importantly, studied.
With Monreal and Koscielny, the German kept the home side’s attack at bay for as much as we could hope for. Cech pulled off a good block when Pedro baffled the defence but overall, a lot of hard work kept the former Chelsea custodian’s contribution to routine saves. Or at least, saves he made look routine.
Post-match, Arsène pointed to the cup final as the warning that this performance was coming,
“People forget that two months ago we beat Chelsea in the cup final and they don’t give you the cup, you know, so overall I believe we have shown [battling qualities] many times.”
Not this season, I’d add. Maybe that’s changing but it’s going to be more than one match to bring people onside for the rest of the season.
“It was a question today what will happen, at least with the attitude, the response, the determination. It was vital for us even above the result to come out with a solid performance on that front.”
The point gives a hint that we could challenge for the top four. However, there’s a big ‘if’ in the that sentence. Consistency is the key to moving on from a rough start to the season. We’ve struggled on that front already. Half a performance against Köln and yesterday is a start with Doncaster and West Brom the chance to build.
The latter game is the trickier of the two; it’s the sort of fixture we slip up in. Fortunately, we’re more accomplished at playing online pokies NZ.
Solid As A Rock
The denouement saw another Chelsea player sent off. If there was inevitability about Elneny’s booking for an inocuous challenge on Hazard, Luiz’s red card was to be expected. We met fire with fire and Chelsea were frustrated.
Luiz lost control of the ball, and went over the top in trying to win it back. Quite what Antonio Conte needed explaining is beyond me as is the pained look on Alvaro Morata’s face when he was pulled up for not realising shoulder charges were outlawed a long time ago. English football’s reputation for physicality is lost in translation.
Post-match, Aaron Ramsey spoke of “solidarity” in the performance but the best outcome is the belief the XI must take from winning without Özil and Sanchez. OK, the latter made a cameo appearance but the groundwork was already laid.
The reality is that they no longer need to rely on the pair. It gives a sense of greater responsibility on the field where instead of looking to others bail them out when times require, they take on the job themselves. It’s an important step in the team’s growth; whether they take that step is another matter.
For the moment, I’m going to continue to enjoy the performance and more like this is the only request. It’s not asking too much, is it?