Result: Arsenal 1 – 2 Chelsea
Competition: Premier League
Date: 29 Dec 2019
Venue: The Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Luiz, Saka, Torreira, Guendouzi, Ozil, Nelson, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Martinez, Mustafi, Mavropanos, Willock, Smith Rowe, Pepe, John-Jules
Arsenal fell to a 1-2 loss to Chelsea in Mikel Arteta’s first home game in charge that showed much of the team’s new solidity in defence before old habits came back to haunt them.
The Gunners were dominant in the first half as they controlled the game and took the lead through an Aubameyang header. Chelsea soon made tactical changes and controlled the game though Arsenal held them back proficiently. However, 2 defensive lapses in the last 10 minutes allowed Chelsea to sneak in 2 goals, leaving Arteta winless in his first 2 games as Arsenal head coach.
Mikel Arteta’s line-up was almost identical to the one against Bournemouth with a couple of exceptions. Sokratis, who suffered a concussion in the last game, was replaced by the steady Chambers and Xhaka made way for Guendouzi due to illness.
The first few minutes saw a decent spell of possession for the Gunners who played it simple but effectively from the back while evading Chelsea’s high press. However, clear cut chances were at a premium as both teams were cagey and did not want to make any mistakes due to their recent poor form.
It was Chelsea who made the first error of the game and were punished by Aubameyang’s predatory prowess on the 12th minute. Ozil’s well-weighted corner was flicked on by Chambers. His header floated towards the penalty spot and Aubameyang evaded Emerson to head the ball into the net. 1-0 Arsenal
Arsenal almost doubled their lead five minutes later as the Chelsea defence was caught high up and exposed. Maitland-Niles lofted a ball down the right wing for Nelson to run in behind Emerson. The right winger crossed the ball perfectly for Aubameyang who cushioned it into the path of an on-rushing Lacazette. The French striker’s recent poor form showed as he miscontrolled the ball and allowed Kante to recover and make a clearance.
It seemed all positive thus far until Chambers clattered into Abraham while looking to clear the ball. He seemed to have hurt his foot upon landing and he was distraught as he made way for Mustafi.
Chelsea was struggling to keep pace with Arsenal’s movement, especially with Ozil returning to his mercurial best with his feints and flicks. By the 30th minute, Kante, Mount were booked for late tackles and Lampard pondered a change in formation. It was not long after that Emerson was taken off for Jorginho and a 4-3-3 formation, providing the Gunners with a new problem to solve.
The change did spark the Blues into life and they grew into the game with a spell of possession though Arsenal kept firm and kept Chelsea at an arm’s length. It was a very positive first half for the Gunners who looked lively in attack while maintaining a solid shape during the defensive phase. For the first time in awhile, the players headed to the half-time team talk to thunderous applause.
The game restarted the same way it ended – with Chelsea turning on the screw. Arsenal showed some steel by putting in the hard yards to cover for their defence – Aubameyang displaying a captain’s performance to cover for his inexperienced left back. Even Lacazette was deep and defended just in front of the penalty box with Nelson being the target for a quick counter.
Fifteen minutes in and Arsenal were penned deep in their half and unable to wrestle back control. The Gunners were sat too deep and couldn’t string their passes out of their half. David Luiz had to be sharp to block a shot on goal by Abraham after a clever pass from midfield. The Brazilian defender was on hand again to clear a low cross into the path of Abraham which was surely going end up as a goal.
Come the 75th minute, Arteta needed to inject some energy to the team and it was Ozil who made way for Willock. Ozil was excellent in the first half but couldn’t help the team keep possession. Willock’s powerful box-to-box play almost paid off immediately during a rare foray into the Chelsea half – he received the ball with his back to goal, swivelled and lash the ball just wide.
Chelsea’s pressure finally caused Arsenal to cave in. Despite David Luiz’s heroics, it was a rare Leno error that led to the conceding of the goal. Chelsea floated in a freekick from the right wing and Leno misjudged the path of the ball for it to land at the feet of an unmarked Jorginho who only had to tap in to an empty net. Questions have to be asked about Jorginho’s continued participation in the match as he made a foul deserving of a second yellow card which was not given just minutes before. 1-1 Chelsea
It seemed like Arsenal reverted to their old frailities just minutes later as they conceded from another swift counter attack. Luiz and Mustafi gave Abraham too much space to run at them and the striker laid off to Willian down the flank only for the former to receive Willian’s cutback to slot the ball through Leno’s legs for a second goal. 1-2 Chelsea
Arsenal couldn’t find a breakthrough during 7 minutes of stoppage time and it ended 1-2 in favour of Chelsea. Like the game against Bournemouth, Arsenal displayed improvements in their performance – with a strong defensive show led by David Luiz catching the eye. However, the late capitulation showed that Arteta still has some ways to go to ensure that the team builds on these performances and show more consistency to last the full 90.