Result: Chelsea 0-1 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 12 May 2021
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Arsenal: Leno, Holding, Gabriel, Mari, Tierney, Saka, Elneny, Partey, Smith Rowe, Odegaard, Aubameyang
Subs: Ryan, Bellerin, Chambers, Cedric, Ceballos, Willian, Pepe, Martinelli, Lacazette
Emile Smith Rowe took advantage of calamitous Chelsea defending to snatch a 1-0 win for Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.
Thomas Tuchel’s side dominated the game from start to finish but couldn’t overcome the shock of falling behind on 16 minutes after a terrible mix-up between Jorginho and keeper Kepa.
The Gunners were disciplined in their defensive work but were thankful to Bernd Leno and the woodwork as Kurt Zouma and substitute Olivier Giroud both went close late on.
Mikel Arteta made five changes from the side that beat West Brom on Sunday. In came Pablo Mari, Thomas Partey, Kieran Tierney, Martin Odegaard and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the expense of Calum Chambers, Dani Ceballos, Nicolas Pepe, Willian and Gabriel Martinelli who all took up places on the bench. It looked like three at the back with Saka and Tierney playing as wing-backs.
It’s fair to say that Chelsea will have felt hard done by at the break. The home side had more of the ball (63% possession), were more accurate in their passing, won more duels and had eight shots to Arsenal’s two.
And yet it was the Gunners who had the lead courtesy of some laughably calamitous defending.
The Blues had two very decent chances to score first. As early as the fifth minute, Mount shot straight at Leno and not long after Havertz, pouncing on a short pass from Gabriel to Pablo Mari, blazed over when the goal was gaping.
We started to put a few passes together after that but our goal, which came on 16 minutes, had nothing to do with slick football. Not looking before he attempted a back pass, Jorginho nearly rolled the ball into an empty net and was lucky that Kepa managed to keep the ball out with a desperate save. The reprieve was temporary. Aubameyang pounced on the free ball, laid a pass off to Smith Rowe and the youngster found the net via the post. His second goal in as many games. (1-0)
With a lead to defend, Mikel Arteta’s side had no qualms sitting back in two lines of five and soaking up pressure. Chelsea weren’t completely unsuccessful at picking the lock. On 22 minutes, Pulisic’s cutback found Mount and his volley looked like it was going to beat Leno before Holding got his body in the way. The centre-back didn’t know a whole lot about it. We were lucky.
Further let-offs came when Mount hit a tame sidefoot effort at Leno and when Pulisic headed over after Zouma got up high to meet a corner. Chilwell will also be kicking himself that he didn’t do better after getting the better of Saka on the byline. A combination of Elneny and Leno kept the ball out.
It was more of the same in the 10 minutes after the restart. Blue players buzzed around the edge of the Arsenal penalty area while men in red and white stuck legs out to try and steer them away. Tuchel’s players grew increasingly frustrated and began to force the issue. Havertz hung out a leg trying to win a penalty but saw his claims waved away and Hudson-Odoi struck over.
We needed to find a way out, playing this way was not sustainable. Another warning came when Pulisic put the ball in the net from a corner only for VAR to rule it out for offside.
The managers traded substitutions. Giroud came on for the Blues and Bellerin replaced Saka at wing-back. Both were immediately in the thick of the action; the Spaniard forced Kepa to claim a low shot and the Frenchman took a wild swipe at a shot that flew well wide.
As the game opened up, we started to find out attacking feet. Odegaard swept over after good work by Smith Rowe and Tierney down the left. The England youngster almost single-handedly kept us moving in the final third.
As the clock ticked down, we went back into our shell. A fine bit of defending by Bellerin stopped Hudson-Odoi reaching a Ziyech pass. He overstretched in the process and bought some time on the turf claiming a hamstring injury. He laboured on for a couple of minutes but had to be replaced by Calum Chambers.
The Blues cranked up the pressure. In the final minute, Leno produced a brilliant save to tip a Zouma header onto the bar before Giroud crashed the rebound against the woodwork. We had to keep going through six minutes of stoppage time but did just enough to claim the points.
A first league double against Chelsea since 2003/04 takes us up to eighth in the table and prolongs our small hopes of sneaking back into Europe.