This game brought out some emotions we haven’t felt for a while.
Pride, satisfaction, enjoyment… I experienced all of those for large parts of the match – and it has been a long time since an Arsenal performance produced that effect.
Then absolute heartbreak and disappointment, which again felt novel. This season our defeats have just been a depression sandwich with a layer of inevitability sauce smeared on the top.
But not yesterday. Yesterday we looked like a team that was well organised and that cared, so when we lost at the death I cared too and I think most fans felt the same.
A summary of the game: for the first half hour especially (and overall until we tired in the last 15 minutes) we actually looked like a team that knew what it was doing.
We were compact, we were organised, we tackled and chased. We were really good and it brought us a 1-0 lead that was thoroughly deserved. A cross from our left was flicked on by Chambers and Aubameyang’s movement and determination got him to the ball in the six yard box to head home.
We had other good chances throughout the game to score – Aubameyang laid it off to Lacazette in the box but his first touch was poor; a Willock shot drifted wide.
Torreira was having an excellent game in the holding midfield role and Ozil was pulling the strings going forward. Thirty minutes in we were so on top it was embarrassing.
In Saturday’s blog I raised the question of whether Arteta or Lampard had more promise as a manager. Well, Arteta is clearly having an instant impact on Arsenal, but it was Lampard who pulled off the managerial masterstroke.
With a little over half an hour gone and Chelsea being outplayed all over the pitch, he took the brave decision to make an early substitution, hooking Emerson and replacing him with Jorginho. Although we continued to play well, the change gave Chelsea more compactness and they started to have more of the ball from that point on.
In the second half Chelsea had plenty of possession but we were coping well and they had few chances on goal.
Then, with 10 minutes to go, our most consistent player of the season made an almighty boo-boo. A high cross came in from our right and Bernt Leno charged out to punch it, got nowhere near and the ball flew over everyone to Jorginho, who was unmarked at the back post for a tap-in.
It was a shocker from Leno and, if he had not messed up I’m pretty confident we would have held on for the three points.
Stung by the goal we went all out for a winner (Arteta threw on Pepe for some fresh legs). But whatever else we’ve been doing in training over the last year it’s clear that fitness has not been a priority and we were obviously tiring in the last quarter of an hour. So when one of our attacks broke down and Chelsea launched a counter, too many of our players lacked the energy to chase back effectively.
Chelsea got the ball wide, from where a cutback from Willian allowed Abraham to collect the ball in the box, turn and shoot home through Leno’s legs.
I have seen lots of people slaughtering Mustafi for the goal, but that’s just the usual scapegoating that certain Arsenal fans feel the need to indulge in whenever things don’t go the way they like. Could Mustafi have been tighter on Abraham? Yes, but Willian’s cutback was nicely disguised. It had looked as if he was going to square the ball across the six yard box and Mustafi took half a step to cut it out before seeing the ball cut backwards. No doubt if he had stayed with Abraham and Willian had squared the ball leading to a goal, Mustafi would be being slaughtered for not anticipating the cross.
However, I think you can question whether it was sensible to push for a winner at 1-1, when we had so many tired legs.
Even at 1-2 down, Torreira had a great chance to volley home unchallenged to salvage a point but misconnected with the ball.
There were other gripes: the referee was awful, allowing constant small fouls by Chelsea players and showing massive inconsistency by not giving Jorginho a second yellow for a shirt tug on Guendouzi; we lost yet another defender to injury when Chambers had to leave the pitch; our fitness levels need looking at.
But my big take away was that for the first time in a long time we looked like a team that both had a plan and believed in that plan. I’ll take that for now, despite the pain.
Sorry, I know that’s harsh and he has been good all season but… that was one terrible time to make such a colossal blunder and it cost us all three points.
Continues his steady run of form.
Good energy and positional discipline for the most part. And linked up well going forward.
Looked comfortable until forced off by injury.
Good game for the Brazilian, winning headers, making tackles and cutting out Chelsea attacks.
Seems to be loving being played in his proper position. A very effective midfield shield throughout. A shame he didn’t connect with that late volley chance.
Plenty of energy but a little bit of a weak link yesterday. His tendency to make silly fouls is a dangerous one and we were lucky that VAR didn’t award a penalty for his tug on a Chelsea arm in our box. He needs more discipline.
Was running the game for most of the first half and looked good throughout until tiring, at which point he was subbed off.
This lad is justifying his selection under Arteta. Another decent game. His willingness to take on defenders helps make things happen.
Aubameyang 8 MoTM
Took his goal really well and worked tirelessly all game, often appearing to be an auxiliary left back. An example to the rest of the team.
I don’t know where he left his shooting boots, but I wish he’d hurry up and find them.
Filled in well when he came on for Chambers on 23 minutes, but he does not have Chambers’ composure on the ball and that probably affected us a little. Some will say he was at fault for Chelsea’s second but I think that’s harsh.
On for Ozil on 76 minutes. Didn’t make a huge impact.
Got four minutes plus injury time (another seven minutes) but didn’t get a chance to do much.