Result: Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
Date: 1 August 2021
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Leno, Chambers (Bellerin, 70), Holding (White, 45), Mari (Kolasinac, 70), Tierney (Tavares, 70), Partey (Xhaka, 40), Elneny (Lokonga, 70), Smith Rowe (Willock, 70), Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette (Nketiah, 70)
Arsenal’s penultimate friendly of pre-season ended with a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea in front of 20,000 fans at the Emirates.
Kai Havertz gave the visitors the lead on 26 minutes finishing off a counter-attack with an emphatic finish after Pablo Mari was left exposed. Moments later, a second break by the Blues should have seen Werner double the lead but the German toe-poked into the side-netting.
In response, Smith Rowe lashed a low drive against the post and two Arsenal penalty claims were waved away by referee Andre Marriner.
More worrying than the lack of attacking rhythm was the injury that forced Thomas Partey to limp off before the break. The Ghanaian had looked very strong in midfield before an ankle knock took its toll.
The Gunners might have fallen further behind when Ziyech’s effort also rebound off the post.
Thomas Tuchel made a host of changes at the break – even Danny Drinkwater came on – while Mikel Arteta handed a debut to Ben White.
Our new centre-back, who replaced Holding, was quick to make a decisive intervention denying Ziyech after the Moroccan had nicked a through ball past Leno.
At the other end, Pepe had a shot deflected just wide and Mendy got down low to parry a Lacazette free-kick for a corner.
The Gunners continued to look ragged at the back and were thankful that Chelsea’s finishing was poor. Baba Rahman skied over on 65 minutes and Leno got lucky after making a poor pass to Xhaka that saw the Swiss dispossessed in the box.
While Xhaka did draw us level with a header from a corner on 69 minutes, our problems at the back continued. Within two minutes of coming on, Hector Bellerin gave the ball to Tammy Abraham who calmly slotted past Leno.
The end-to-end action continued. Tavares put in a brilliant cross that Auba should have converted and Willock, teed up by Pepe, crashed an effort against the bar which, had goal-line technology been in operation, would have been ruled a goal.
Sarr and Abraham had further opportunities to extend the Blues’ lead before Auba missed another sitter after Nketiah flicked him in on goal.
The two sides will meet again at the Emirates in three weeks time, judging by this showing, Arteta has a fair bit of work to do.