Arsenal have in recent years seemed to reverse the trend of Chelsea being their bogey team. Gone are the days when Didier Drogba would taunt the Arsenal defence for fun or when José Mourinho would make it his personal mission to unsettle Arsène Wenger before a match.
Nowadays, it’s Chelsea who struggle with Arsenal. Arsenal do seem to grind a result out when they least deserve it, but they usually have something on the line to scrap for.
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea side happen to be in utterly blistering form of late, having reached both an FA Cup final and a UEFA Champions League final in a short space of time since Tuchel’s arrival in the wake of Frank Lampard’s subsequent (but utterly telegraphed) sacking.
Arsenal’s set up saw them revert to the back three formation that won them an FA Cup last season. It seemed as though Mikel Arteta was more interested in frustrating Chelsea than relying on his team’s doubtless attacking qualities.
And that seemed to be the tactic for a long while. Chelsea were all over Arsenal for the majority of the game, with Arsenal’s only real attacking promise coming down Kieran Tierney’s left-hand side.
Despite this, Chelsea were undone by an utterly gifted goal. While Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has copped a lot of flak in his time with the club, he wasn’t to blame as Chelsea midfielder Jorginho rolled a pass back to the goalkeeper that was scrambled off the goal line, fell to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who promptly squared it for Emile Smith Rowe who gave an Arsenal a surprising and utterly undeserved lead.
It was a comedy of errors and the kind of goal that Arsenal usually give away not this season’s Champions League finalists.
From there, it was one-way traffic. Arsenal struggled to even get out of their own half, such was Chelsea’s dominance. Though Chelsea did have the ball in the back of the net through Christian Pulisic, it was rightly ruled out by VAR for an offside, with the American himself seemingly aware even as he was reluctantly celebrating.
Chelsea came close a few more times with a lopping header from Kurt Zouma being tipped onto the crossbar from Bernd Leno and former-Gunner Olivier Giroud smashing the subsequent rebound against the post.
The final whistle was perhaps the most welcome sound in the world for Arsenal fans as the team staggered to a very undeserved three points to keep their Europa League tilt alive.
It was a very poor performance from Arsenal. Though a clean sheet is always a welcome bonus to a win, it has to be said that the team really did not play well at all. Exceptions can be made for Thomas Partey, Rob Holding, Bernd Leno and Emile Smith Rowe, however, the rest looked either tired or poor.
A win was very much against the odds and the fire shown by Mikel Arteta in his post-match interview with Sky Sports seemed to serve up something his team would have been good to show in the match.
It was however, a very uncharacteristically solid performance from the Arsenal defence. Rob Holding was solid, while Pablo Marí and Gabriel Magalhães struggled early on, they soon grew into the game. It’s clear that the defensive improvements this season are palpable from Unai Emery’s tumultuous teure at the club, however, it may not be enough to rely on defence over attack alone moving forward.
Arsenal will need to be better as they face Crystal Palace on Wednesday night.
1.) Bernd Leno
16.) Rob Holding
22.) Pablo Marí
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
7.) Bukayo Saka (Bellerín 66’ (Chambers 88’))
25.) Mohamed Elneny
18.) Thomas Partey
3.) Kieran Tierney
11.) Martin Ødegaard
32.) Emile Smith Rowe
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) (Lacazette 79’)
33.) Maty Ryan
21.) Calum Chambers
2.) Héctor Bellerín
17.) Cédric Soares
8.) Dani Ceballos
19.) Nicolas Pépé
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
9.) Alexandre Lacazette
1.) Kepa Arrizabalaga
28.) César Azpilicueta (c) (Ziyech 78’)
6.) Thiago Silva
15.) Kurt Zouma
24.) Reece James
23.) Billy Gilmour (Hudson-Odoi 45’)
21.) Ben Chilwell
19.) Mason Mount
10.) Christian Pulisic
29.) Kai Havertz (Giroud 65’)
16.) Edouard Mendy
57.) Tino Livramento
3.) Marcos Alonso
33.) Emerson Palmieri
55.) Tino Anjorin
22.) Hakim Ziyech
20.) Callum Hudson-Odoi
11.) Timo Werner
18.) Olivier Giroud