Arsenal and Chelsea, as the kings of the capital city, played another intriguing game here. And like in Azerbaijan, we came up second best again. And yes, kings of the capital city, since they’ve both won major trophies in recent history – unlike a certain football club in the Borough of Haringey. Chelsea -as they did in Baku – took the spoils again. But unlike then we put up far more of a fight. This was a reasonable performance and in some ways a game of two halves.
The first half saw us dominate Chelsea and our captain headed us into the lead. We wanted some heart and fight – and we got it. Chelsea won via a smash and grab, but there are many positives to extract from this game.
These points stood out for me here:
Best defensive performance in years
For the first time in a while, we defended well and defended with depth and conviction. This included some of our most maligned players such as David Luiz and Mustafi. Mustafi even took a bang in the head late on, and it didn’t really cost him any effort or work-rate. Luiz performed well against his old club and was ironically part of their triumph and our trouncing in Baku.
Our general shape was good also, and it was really two errors late in the game that cost us.
I like Leno a lot. In our rubbish season thus far, he has been a shining light. But today….less so. Well, he was and he wasn’t. He looked untroubled up until not flapping at the ball for Jorginho to tap in. And he has made some telling saves lately.
Players make mistakes – they’re human. So I don’t think it’s right to give Leno immense stick here.
Auba had an excellent performance overall here, and whilst opening the scoring he was a major part of our overall work-rate. He was aiding the defence well and showed a true captain’s performance.
Our German and one-time World Cup winner had a great first half and showed his best game for a while. He was engaged in pressing, and his short-range passing was the best we’ve seen in a while. He has come under some stick lately, but then he answered the critics in a big way in this game.
Laca is amongst our most technically able players. Though in recent games he hasn’t been on it. He was trying, though I believe he needs to boost this lack of form and soon.
Our first-half performance was full of fight and passion, though in the second half Chelsea dominated it more. They didn’t really have many chances up until our errors. But then we were too negative in the second period. and even though we handled Chelsea’s crosses well enough (to a point) we didn’t really capitalise well enough.
It was a bitter pill to swallow, but then we did allow Chelsea too much time on the ball and too much space in our final third. Willock had a chance in the mid-second half, though neither Auba nor Laca were effective in the second half.
We did have the capacity to kill the game off, and we didn’t really take this chance.
I’ve seen and noted a lot calling the referee out.
He should have sent off Jorginho, and on Sky Sports, it was interesting to see that both Martin Tyler and Gary Neville thought the same. But despite this, and the fact that Jorginho scored the equaliser, it’s not worth blaming the referee.
It wasn’t the ref’s fault that Leno missed the cross. Or that we didn’t take out Willian in the build-up to Abraham’s winner.
It’s cheap – in my view – to blame the ref for our defeat, and it was ultimately our defensive weaknesses. And yes, we defended pretty well in this game overall.
In the post-match presser, Arteta looked down and out, and understandably so. His game plan worked largely, and he cannot account for defensive errors nor refereeing mishaps.
In the Bournemouth and Chelsea games, despite not winning them, the team has shown some improvements in work rate and shape. There have been far fewer individual errors, and the team does have more of a balance to it.
The Man United game would need more of a Herculean effort, considering they are doing far better than us despite our better summer transfer window.
Arteta – 6 – The gameplan worked well, though we were too negative in the second half. It was though an encouraging performance, not accounting for mistakes and calamities.
Man of the match
Luiz and Ozil were strong, though Auba’s goal and comprehensive work-rate showed here.