Ten-man Chelsea and Arsenal had to settle a for a point each after playing out a hard fought draw at Stamford Bridge, in what was their second meeting this season.
It was a tense battle, that got much more exciting towards the end. It ended with David Luiz getting sent off for a ridiculous tackle on Sead Kolasinac in the 87th minute and as the scoreline suggests, the Gunners weren’t able to take advantage of a ten-man Chelsea in such a short span of time.
This match couldn’t possibly have ended more evenly. Chelsea enjoyed 51% possession to Arsenal’s 49%, took 13 shots on target to Arsenal’s 11. Chelsea had a 78.2% passing accuracy to Arsenal’s 79.2% and the Blues took 4 shots on target to Arsenal’s 2.
Chelsea made 533 passes to Arsenal’s 518. Chelsea made 21 clearances to the Gunners’ 24, conceded 11 fouls to Arsenal’s 15 and made 13 tackles to Arsenal’s 18 and attempted only 1 more shot than Arsenal from both inside and outside the box.
As evenly matched they may have been, this result is likely better for Arsenal than Chelsea and it also ends the Gunners’ five-match losing streak at Stamford Bridge. We take a look at some of the key talking points from the stalemate played out at the SW6 on Sunday.
Morata Needs More Time
The Spaniard has been winning plaudits from the moment he stepped on the the pitch as a late substitute in the Blues’ opening day loss against Burnley. This was set to be the biggest test of his fledgling Chelsea career and he may have not gotten on the scoresheet, but he didn’t disappoint.
Morata was smart in distribution and constantly pestered Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi, who had to be at their very best to keep him quiet. Their combined aggression, pace and understanding though, proved too much for the former Real Madrid man and it was good enough to keep him out of the scoresheet.
While he often did seem isolated upfront for the most part as Pedro and Willian struggled to provide proper service as the game went on, that didn’t stop Morata from putting in the work and trying to support his teammates by dropping deep and constantly trying to link up with them.
He was constantly chasing down the ball and applying pressure and his movement off the ball was very good, something that couldn’t be taken advantage of due to the lack of service. One wonders though, if Costa’s constant bullying, instigating and could’ve helped Chelsea get over the line on an occasion like this.
With each passing game, the differences between the 24-year-old and Costa become more evident. While that may not be a bad thing, Chelsea will need time to get used to having a different kind of forward upfront and learn to play to his strengths.
Missing Their Mavericks?
There were some questions raised when Alexis Sanchez was left out of Arsenal’s starting XI. The Chilean superstar started and completed the entire 90 minutes of Arsenal’s Europa League win over FC Koln and even scored his first goal of the season.
Eden Hazard’s absence from the starting XI was understood, given that he is only just recovering from an injury and was in no condition to play a full game just yet. However, both teams clearly missed the creativity of the main men in their starting XI.
Arsenal, though, certainly seemed to have fared much better without Sanchez and Ozil, than Chelsea did without Eden Hazard for the most part. That doesn’t bode well for the Blues going forward and their over dependence on the Belgian could prove costly this season, given the number of games they will have to play.
Arsenal, on the other hand, can take away positives from the promising performances of Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck. The match didn’t end well for Welbeck, however, who had put in a good shift but had to hobble off in the 73rd minute due to an injury.
Sanchez was introduced in the 66th minute for Alexandre Lacazette, which came as another surprise. The Frenchman could’ve surely done with support from Sanchez in behind him. Could Wenger have been giving us a glimpse of life without Sanchez and Ozil next season perhaps? Only he can tell.
Arsenal’s stronghold on the midfield was a large part of their ability to subdue the Chelsea attack. Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey put in a fantastic display to prevent Cesc Fabregas from exerting his influence and provided a good balance in both attack and defence.
As per Squawka Statistics, he completed 100% of his attempted take-ons, won 3 tackles and made 2 interceptions. Xhaka, had a respectable 77% pass accuracy, made 2 interceptions, won 2 tackles, made 2 clearances and made 2 blocks.
This midfield dominance never allowed Chelsea to have more too much time on the ball, which didn’t let them string a number of passes together. Fabregas was handicapped as a result and the solidity of that Arsenal midfield allowed their wing-backs maraud forward more often.
Conte likely wanted to bring on some more dynamism in the middle of the park and took off a seemingly injured Pedro at half time to bring on Tiemoue Bakayoko. The Frenchman set up shop in behind N’Golo Kante, to allow Fabregas a slightly more advanced, freer role.
The result was almost immediate. The Blues looked far more dominant in the second half and suddenly there was a balance to the game. Bakayoko was the only player on the pitch to with a 100% take-on and pass completion rate and this helped the Blues get right back in the game.
While it is too early to say whether he is an upgrade on Matic, the 23-year-old has been improving with every passing game and Chelsea clearly have a talented player on their hands. Going forward, it is likely that the 3-5-2 will now be the staple against the bigger teams.
Arsenal Win The Day
As things stand, Chelsea are now placed third on the table, a point ahead of fifth placed Newcastle United and 3 points behind Manchester United and Manchester City. They will also have to deal with the absence of David Luiz for their next three games and possibly Pedro as well.
While this draw isn’t likely to shatter any confidence that the Blues had built up since that victory against Tottenham Hotspur, they will be wary of the need to start looking more convincing going forward against the bigger sides, if they are to keep up with the Manchester sides.
The points may have had to be shared on this occasion, but Arsenal will have no qualms about losing out on the other two. In the absence of Sanchez for most of the game and Ozil for its entirety, the Gunners put in a mature, disciplined performance to keep their hosts at bay.
The Gunners have an easy run of fixtures going forward, starting with Doncaster in the Carabao Cup, followed by West Brom, BATE Borisov and then Brighton. The fact that they very nearly came away with a victory at Stamford Bridge, a stadium that has haunted them in recent seasons, should serve as a huge confidence boost going forward and help get their season back on track.