Arsenal Vs Chelsea: Highlights and analysis from industrious draw

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 09: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on during the Premier League match between Arsenal and AFC Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium on September 9, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 09: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on during the Premier League match between Arsenal and AFC Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium on September 9, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) /

Arsenal travelled to Chelsea in a crucial Premier League tie on Sunday. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis from the 0-0 draw.

A good draw. Away games against the top sides have been Arsenal’s crippling weakness in recent seasons. It was only a few weeks ago that they were being dismantled at Anfield to the tune of four blistering goals. But unlike that miserly display where openness and naivety reigned free, Arsene Wenger proved that his teams can show those elusive traits that title-winning teams must boast: resilience, determination, industry, fight. A 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge is not to be sniffed at, especially at times such as these.

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The first half started as expected for after the teams were announced. Chelsea, through the imperious Cesc Fabregas, sprayed the ball around beautifully, dictating the game with great fluidity, precision and elegance; Arsenal, meanwhile, sat deep, soaked up the pressure and attempted to threaten on the counter-attack, even if the accuracy of their passing let them down at times.

And it was Chelsea who engineered the better openings early, though they were somewhat limited. Alvaro Morata looked extremely spry in the lone central role, with Pedro and Willian buzzing around him, exploiting his lovely touches to release them into the channels, Victor Moses threatened down the right flank, bursting forward well at times, while Fabregas played the role of field marshall wonderfully, orchestrating with great beauty and creativity.

Having said that, it was Arsenal who created the clearest opportunities of the opening half four. Hector Bellerin twice got in behind Marcos Alonso, released by Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey, the first time setting up Danny Welbeck whose stretched header was just off target, sliding, agonisingly past the far post, and the second time pulling a cross back for Alexandre Lacazette to flick a first-time effort goalwards, which was well parried by Thibault Courtois, who was sharp to get down low, and Sead Kolasinac also flashed a shot across the box from the opposite flank, which Courtois again saved with both Lacazette and Ramsey sniffing.

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There was one moment of real danger for the Gunners, when Pedro slipped in behind Shkodran Mustafi — he should have scored with his resultant shot, but a smart save from Petr Cech, helped by a lunging Laurent Koscielny, denied him –, who attempted, unwisely, to play offside. But for the most part, they remained resolute, with the back three working well as a cohesive and communicative unit.

And as the half progressed, Arsenal grew into the game. They started playing with a higher line, allowing Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck to push onto Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta, suffocating them of time and space on the ball, and Aaron Ramsey began to have more of an influence on the game when in possession, able to unshackle himself from the relentless, incessant attentions of N’Golo Kante.

It was from an Aaron Ramsey run, stumble and bundle that the best chance of the opening half came. After picking up the ball after combative work from Alex Iwobi, Ramsey drove away from Cesc Fabregas, squeezed through the challenge of Cesar Azpilicueta and poked a shot towards goal that bobbled past a stranded Thibault Courtois and hit the post. The rebound then fell to Alexandre Lacazette, who was stood four yards from goal and unattended. There is not another man Wenger would have rather had in that position. But Lacazette, in clumsy fashion, ballooned his effort over the bar, seemingly striking the ball with his shin, failing to get any sort of clean contact.

Nonetheless, while frustrating to have missed, it cemented Arsenal as the side in the ascendancy before the break and showcased the attacking threat that they do carry if given the opportunity. There were moments of concern. But, for the most part, this was a positive first half for the visitors and proved that a win was possible in the coming period.

In the second half, Antonio Conte turned to Tiemoue Bakayoko to sure up the midfield of the park and block the surging runs from Aaron Ramsey that were hurting the Chelsea defence. The decision certainly closed up the game. Space was difficult to find in the middle third, stringing passes together was challenging and awkward and chances often came through defensive errors, rather than attacking ingenuity.

And the majority of the chances came to Chelsea through the struggles Shkodran Mustafi in dealing with Alvaro Morata, who was extremely impressive. The Spaniard’s combination of pace and stature caused Mustafi fits. Because of his size and his hold-up ability, the Arsenal centre-half clearly wanted to get tight to his opposite number, impressing himself on the first touch and forcing him into a mistake. But due to Morata’s speed, he was able to use Mustafi’s eagerness to nick the ball, roll him and drive into the subsequent space in behind. Morata won several fouls for his team, relieving them of defensive pressure, was able to create space for a now free-roaming Cesc Fabregas to influence the game in more areas, and provided a focal point for the Chelsea attack.

The moment that all had been waiting for, though, came midway through the second half. Not a goal, but the rolls of the dice from both teams: Alexis Sanchez for Arsenal and Eden Hazard for Chelsea.

But other than a quick dart and shot here and a neat flick and spin there, neither were able to truly influence the game as their managers might have hoped. Arsenal began to sit deeper and deeper, seemingly happy with a point, as they should have been, but chances were still few and far between. In fact, the only point of drama came thanks to a David Luiz red card.

Being chased down by Alexis Sanchez, a loose touch saw Luiz lunge to challenge Sead Kolasinac. His studs were showing, as the old adage goes, but it was only one foot and it lacked the intensity and menace that a normal red card would demand.

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A draw, then, was a fair result. Sturdy, sound and reliable, Arsenal were epitomised by their captain. Laurent Koscielny was superb. He defended heroicly, he led bravely and proved that Arsenal can challenge away from home.