Chelsea 3 – 2 Arsenal
It’s match we’ll look back as at least one point which got away. Having pegged Chelsea back to 2 – 2 at the interval, we lost the impetus which built in the second half of the opening 45 minutes. In the end, we got nothing from a game in which we were the architects of our own downfall.
The errors which led to all three Chelsea goals were basic. Irrespective of whether you are learning a new system or methods, on three occasions we switched off individually and collectively. The players are all experienced enough to know the cost of doing so.
Emery threw a massive curveball with Xhaka retaining his place in the side and Iwobi slotting in on the left. The first I knew the Nigerian was on the pitch came as Hoddle talked about ‘doubling up’ just a clearance struck Iwobi in the family jewels. Turns out Glenda was talking about defending, not taking two for the team.
The opening thirty minutes were just awful. Chelsea were better drilled than us. It was never more evident than on 15 minutes, Kepa received the ball. Four defenders dropped back, but only two Arsenal players pressed. When the situation occurred for Cech, Chelsea flooded the Arsenal defence stopping us from playing out at the back.
Our dismal defending didn’t improve as the match unfolded. The opening goal summed up our afternoon. A minute after Özil missed from a tight angle, Mkhitaryan left Alonso along. His cross found Pedro – unmarked – to slot home.
It was a catalogue of errors but at the heart is a high line which flounders with a central defensive pairing whose lack of pace and naivety leaves us exposed. We can’t do anything about Sokratis’ lack of pace nor, it seems, can we raise Mustafi’s footballing intelligence.
The Calm Before The Storm
That became evident shortly after when Chelsea doubled their advantage. Aubameyang scooped a simple chance over the bar after great play from Bellerin. That we created so many similar chances in the 90 minutes underlines that the players grasp the attacking segment of Emery’s philosophy.
The miss proved costly as a punt downfield caught Sokratis on the hope and Mustafi out of his depth. We’re so poor that even Alvaro Morata scored against us. At this point, a drubbing was on the cards; it genuinely was but to the players credit, we fought back.
Mkhitaryan missed a chance as straightforward as Aubameyang’s before making amends as half-time approached. A sweet finish from the Armenian from the edge of the area gave us hope. That was almost extinguised soon after but this time Cech produced a great save from Morata.
Nacho Monreal’s pressing created the goal, robbing Willian and freeing Iwobi. Both flanks proved productive during the game in an attacking sense. We’ve just got to produce a better balance between that and the defensive side.
The equaliser came from the same type of move. This time Mkhitaryan turned provider, with Iwobi slamming home from the centre of the penalty area. By half-time, Aubameyang grazed the outside of the post from close range while Iwobi missed in a similar style to the two blazed over the bar before.
Arsenal were rampant to the point that Shkodran Mustafi performed a drag-back in injury time. Yes, that Shkodran Mustafi.
A sign of the new regime came with Granit Xhaka whose ineffectiveness saw him hooked for “tactical” reasons, as well as the yellow card he received for being Xhaka. Mesut Özil suffered the same fate in the second half after 60 ineffective minutes. There are no longer any untouchables at Arsenal.
The Wrong Time, Boyo
At the end of the match, Emery felt “we lost the positioning in the pitch and were too deep in some moments.” We certainly lost impetus and drive; I don’t think anyone would argue that half-time impacted us more deeply than Chelsea. Sarri certainly got a more positive response from his players.
Cech produced several great saves from Barkley and twice from Giroud. He couldn’t stop Alonso when another mistake cost us the game. Lacazette gave the ball away cheaply, Chelsea exploited space on the left and nobody tracked Alonso, who sealed our fate.
Despite the obvious failings, there were positives. Guendouzi’s performance improved on last week to the extent that I read somewhere his pass completion sat at 100% for the first half. It’s a promising start to his Arsenal career, leaving Torreira and Xhaka to fight for the other place alongside him. Or at least, I hope that’s how Emery is looking at it given the decisions made to hook Swiss and Özil.
The tough start to the season is over. Now, we face games we view as winnable and the complexion of the season will change with back-to-back wins before the first international break.