The Gunners put on a promising display against Chelsea despite losing 2-1, with the opposition tactics causing two defensive calamities, that lead to a first defeat under new manager Mikel Arteta. For 70 minutes of this Arsenal vs Chelsea fixture, Arteta’s team looked promising, and for me deserved a draw rather than a loss. Arsenal’s relentless marking and tactical tracking showed signs of improvement.
However, this defeat was frustrating because of the manner of the defeat. In this game of two halves; Arsenal opened up the Chelsea team regularly in the first half, forcing their manager Frank Lampard into an early tactical substitution. In the latter stages of the second half, Arsenal played a tactic known as ‘keep ball,’ that allowed Chelsea to advance, expose and open up the defence, prompting two soft, yet calamitous goals.
The Arsenal defence appeared to back away from Chelsea, allowing them more chances to score and win the match. Chelsea played in the second half with a more clinical edge giving Arsenal a lesson in ruthlessness. Chelsea forced a major keeping error from Leno – errors that have happened regularly for him, stretching back to last season. It is necessary to point out Leno is tentative, hesitant to deal with crosses and he doesn’t trust his fragile defence to deal with extreme pressure. Chelsea forced a calm and direct Arsenal side in the first half, into an error-strewn one in the second. Centrebacks Mustafi and Luiz failed to defend the on-rushing Chelsea attack, that led to them scoring the decisive winning goal.
Arsenal teams of old were very good at winning ugly, and punishing teams when winning, they would regularly score vital goals in the dying minutes. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had his teams playing efficiently with few errors, his side often scoring late goals and winning matches late in the game and holding on defensively. Mikel Arteta will need to drill his team in training about how to ride out close football matches and could may benefit from analysing and learning from Wenger’s abilities and tactics. Chelsea attacked the Arsenal team, and gave them a much needed lesson in calmness, tactical awareness and team confidence.
It appeared the Arsenal players suffered from fatigue towards the end of the game, possibly because of their high pressing style in the first half. Yellow cards and fouls proved to frustrate the Arsenal players into committing their own. For example, Alexander Lacazette with his dissent towards the Referee prompting him to reverse a second yellow card and instead booking the Arsenal striker.
Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta in a post match interview with BBC Sport said:
“It was very cruel the way we lost it, in the first half we saw a lot of positives and saw what we are trying to implement. But the way we conceded was disappointing.
It was clear why it was disappointing, I don’t need to say any more.
Our reaction was right, we were doing the right things, it is hard to dominate all periods of the game against this team. We started to defend too deep and our energy levels are in a different place to Chelsea’s.
We need to sustain those periods for longer periods in the game and against top sides. Individual errors cost you games but I can’t fault the effort, commitment and for putting in place what we practised.”
I predict Arsenal will play well against Manchester United like they did against Chelsea for 80 minutes of the match. Pepe should start as well for the Gunners, instead of Reiss Nelson. Nelson did not pass in attacking positions against Chelsea, but Pepe has shown he is a dangerous player at his best, and unleashing him on Man United could cause their leaky defence problems. I would like to see Pepe and Ozil click in an attacking sense, because although United won their last two fixtures, their performances may well be papering over defensive cracks.
Against Chelsea, David Luiz had one of his best games for Arsenal, he cleared the ball convincingly and should start against United. Calum Chambers, who picked up an early knock could return for the visit of Manchester United. It was Chambers’ flick-on that led to Arsenal’s first goal, and his injury changed the game.
When Chelsea made their substitution, as a result of Arsenals’ dominance, there did not appear to be a plan B for Arteta. For me, a half time substitution of Pepe for Reis Nelson could have changed the game for Arsenal in a a positive way. A good run in the FA and Europa Cups may be the only cause of optimism for Arsenal this season, with Champions League qualification via League position looking a tough obstacle.