Arsenal v Chelsea – tale of two owners. One much more successful than the other with 16 trophies and a contrast highlighting the importance of who is at the top and what flows from it – which is often hidden.
In the attacking sense, the gulf in class was embarrassing. A horrible watch.
But Arsenal were dogged and rode their luck. This result wouldn’t have been possible over a year ago – showing how much Arteta has brought stability and more structure to the defence.
The last time Arsenal did the double over Chelsea was when the west London club was bought with Russian money in 2003. The last win here was a decade ago with van Persie grabbing a couple in a 3-5 away win.
Mari joined Holding in central defence, Elneny partnered Partey in midfield with Odergaard and Smith Rowe just behind Aubameyang. Arsenal were unbeaten in last five away games.
Chelsea made seven changes. Silva and Zouma came in the defence, Gilmour and Jorginho formed the midfield duo with Mount, Pulisic and Havertz up front.
Chelsea pressed aggressively in the first five, leading to a Mount shot. They showed class in their passing and speed in movement off the ball.
Soon the pressure led to a crack showing in Arsenal’s defence. Mari let Havertz steal it from a loose pass from Gabriel. But luckily the German lifted over the bar on a one on one with Leno – a pivotal incident.
Arsenal pressing led to Jorginho blind passing back to Arrizabalaga who scrambled it clear with an outstretched hand – but only for Aubameyang to find Smith Rowe to tap home with a scuffed shot in off the post.
Chelsea continued to dominate with accurate passing and off the ball running. At times it was embarrassing, exemplified when Chilwell caught Saka out leading to a cross saved by Leno.
Hudson Odoi came on for Gilmour at half time. Gabriel ran into Havertz clumsily in the area narrowly escaping a penalty. At the other end Tierney found Odergaard but he shot over the bar.
Tuchel sent on Giroud on 65 to shake things up in the area. And Arteta replaced Saka on the right with Bellerin. And with ten minutes left he subbed Aubameyang for Lacazette, with the captain showing signs of muted frustration and a bit of a sulk.
Arsenal came into it more mounting a few attacks of their own. But In the 89th minute Zouma’s header was tipped onto the bar and Giroud hit the bar from the rebound which would have re-opened wounds over transfers to and from the two sides.
After the match, Smith Rowe said: “It is an important result. We had to dig deep. We worked in training on the high press. We defended well. It was a good performance.”
Mikel Arteta somewhat surprisingly concentrated on mis-quotes from press conferences: “I don’t accept somebody putting words in my mouth that I don’t say. When it’s related to my players, they’re going to hit a wall. They can try to give their opinions from the outside, that’s fine, but to try to break what we have inside there is not possible.”
“I said if I don’t get 120% off each player it’s my fault and responsibility. It wasn’t like this in the press. I’m so annoyed by that.”
Rob Holding put it into context: “I’m really pleased with our attitude and effort. The stuff came out in the media yesterday which he [Arteta] said isn’t true. It’s out of context. He explained that to us. We knew it wasn’t his opinion. We showed that tonight and we backed him and we did what he asked.”
Reece James: “Arsenal are a good team and hard to break down. We didn’t take our chances.”
On the effect of the Chelsea changes, he said: “The games come thick and fast and players come in and out.”
Tomas Tuchel said: “It is our fault we lost the game. We had huge chances. We made our own goal a gift. There wasn’t the same energy and intensity as usual. There were too many changes from the last match. I felt it in training. I regret it on the pitch. I didn’t feel sharpness and energy. We are on a good run in a good mood. The choices were not so good. We were unlucky. We can lose and we did.
Chelsea: 1Arrizabalaga, 28Azpilicueta (Substituted for Ziyech at 78’minutes), 6Thiago Silva, 15Zouma, 24James, 23Gilmour (Substituted for Hudson-Odoiat 45’minutes), 5Jorginho, 21Chilwell, 9Mount, 10Pulisic, 29Havertz (Substituted for Giroud at 65’minutes)
Arsenal: 1Leno, 16Holding, 22Marí, 6Gabriel, 7Saka (Substituted for Bellerín at 66’minutes, Substituted for Chambers at 88’minutes), 25Elneny, 18Partey (Booked at 90mins), 3Tierney, 11Ødegaard, 32Smith Rowe, 14Aubameyang (Substituted for Lacazette at 79’minutes)