Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Ozil, Campbell, Walcott, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Chambers, Gibbs, Gabriel, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Elneny, Alexis
Arsenal had another nightmare day against Chelsea as a Per Mertesacker red card, and a Diego Costa goal, gave the visitors a 1-0 win at the Emirates this afternoon.
Arsene Wenger made one change from the team that drew with Stoke, Mesut Ozil replacing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and there was a welcome return to the squad for Alexis Sanchez who took a place on the bench.
There was early penalty box action at both ends. After Joel Campbell had miskicked a dropping ball around the Chelsea penalty area, a poor Laurent Koscielny pass presented Oscar with the chance to shoot, forcing Cech into a save low down.
There were a couple of nervy moments due to carelessness in possession, but the Gunners settled down well enough. There was a 10th minute yellow card for Oscar for a late challenge on Campbell, and a great chance for Willian after the ball rebounded to him in the box, but he could only poke it straight at Cech.
At the other end Giroud shot over from 30 yards, before the game took a right turn from an Arsenal point of view when Per Mertesacker was sent off. Diego Costa was going through on goal, the big German slid in and as last man he was shown a red card by Mark Clattenburg. Replays showed there was little or no contact with the Spanish international took a dive, despite the recklessness of the challenge.
Arsene Wenger’s decision to bring off Olivier Giroud for Gabriel was met with some bemusement, but the Frenchman had picked up an ankle injury in training this week and was a doubt for the game in the first place.
It got worse just a few moments later when Costa put Chelsea ahead. Ivanovic crossed from the right, Costa ghosted between three Arsenal defenders and poked home from close range. 0-1.
The 10 men tried hard to get back into the game, Walcott given offside after a nice pass by Monreal, but it was hard going. Cech had to save again from Costa, and from the resulting corner the ball was cleared off the line by Monreal.
Just before half-time there was a great chance for Arsenal to equalise. Ramsey found Mathieu Flamini in the Chelsea area with an excellent pass, but the midfielder was caught between a header and a shot, and ended up flicking the ball over the bar with just the keeper to beat.
There were no changes at the break, and with the extra man Chelsea had plenty of the ball and lots of pressure with a series of corners. Arsenal found it hard to hold onto the ball, not helped by giving it away cheaply almost every time we got it, Walcott the chief culprit.
So it was something of a surprise when Arsenal made their second change, bringing back Alexis, but in place of Campbell, in the 57th minute. That came moments after Chelsea had a good shout for a penalty when Fabregas was barged over in the box by Koscielny, but referee Clatteburg waved play on.
The Chilean was involved straight away, helping to drive the team forward, and when Ramsey won a free kick, Ozil’s set-piece created a massive scramble in the Chelsea box, but no Arsenal player could apply the finish. There was no sympathy for Costa from the Arsenal fans when he went off injured, replaced by Remy, and Cech had to save a Fabregas shot as he found space on the edge of the area.
Oxlade-Chamberlain for Walcott was Arsene Wenger’s final change, made in the 75th minute, but it remained difficult for Arsenal to create. For the second time, Courtois created scramble in the Chelsea area by dropping the ball from a set-piece, but once more it failed to fall for an Arsenal player.
Flamini tried a back-flick finish from around the 6 yard box, and Monreal burst into the box but mis-kicked. The Gunners huffed and puffed, throwing Koscielny up front, as the game went into 5 minutes of added time, but despite a big effort in the second half, the goal didn’t come.
Chelsea won, and 2 points from 9 is hardly title winning form. It’s like November all over again.