Arsenal Vs Chelsea: Highlights and analysis from dramatic draw

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 03: Jack Wilshere of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on January 3, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 03: Jack Wilshere of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on January 3, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) /

Arsenal hosted Chelsea on Wednesday night in a crucial Premier League tie. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis of the 2-2 draw.

What a wonderful game of football. Irrespective of the 2-2 scoreline, this was an exciting, vivacious, vibrant match. Chances, drama, mistakes, and some real quality. There was very little that didn’t happen on Wednesday night. Arsenal will be disappointed with the loss, especially having taken the lead and given their position in the table. But there were many positives for Arsene Wenger to learn from, particularly in the forward positions.

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The game started in a blistering fashion. Both sides wanted to press one another, both defences vacated vast spaces in their defensive thirds, and both had chances.

Alvaro Morata missed a gilt-edged one-on-one after Calum Chambers, someone who looked extremely nervous early on, was caught napping, Victor Moses then flashed a low-cross into the lap of Petr Cech with Morata lurking, and Eden Hazard continued to look extremely threatening, enjoying the freedom of his off-the-striker role.

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At the other end, Arsenal’s attacking potency, primarily through Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, was clear to see. Ozil was wonderful in a similarly roaming role to Hazard. It was Ozil that slipped in Ainsley Maitland-Niles with a beautifully weighted pass when the youngster thought he had a penalty; it was Ozil that linked up with Alexis Sanchez when the Chilean struck both posts with an angled effort after a brilliant tip from Thibault Courtois; it was Ozil that fed Alexandre Lacazette with a visionary pass into the Frenchman’s feet when Courtois again brilliantly tipped his low-effort after a neat spin around the post.

And chances continued to flow for both sides: Tiemoue Bakayoko had a shot parried clear by Petr Cech; Bakayoko then failed to bring down a brilliant Cesc Fabregas angled through pass that scathed over the head of Rob Holding; Mesut Ozil continued to work his magic, lashing a shot wide, while probing his way through the midfield, finding space in behind Bakayoko and N’Golo Kante.

Arsenal’s control of the match did increase as the half progressed. In particular, it was the growing influence of Ozil that drove the Gunners forward. He was phenomenal throughout the first half, finding space in the midfield, creating chances, and providing the primary threat of both sides. There was one warning sign for the home side right before half-time, N’Golo Kante made an excellent, hooked sliding tackle on Ozil, Eden Hazard, via a swept Cesc Fabregas pass, collected the ball, weaved his way inside before brilliantly teeing up Fabregas with a deft backheel. Fabregas, though, skewed the shot from the edge of the penalty area high and wide.

Despite the scoreline, this was an extremely enthralling game, with action at both ends. Wenger, though, may have been the more frustrated of the two managers. His side had the better of the play but could not find the net. Given the vulnerabilities that Chelsea exposed in Arsenal’s defence, that is a cause for concern.

The second half started in exactly the same fashion as the first: Explosive. It was Chelsea who had the first run of chances: Eden Hazard shot at Petr Cech’s legs after a lovely slipped through pass from Cesc Fabregas; Marcos Alonso then called Cech into action for a second time, heading Victor Moses’ rebounded cross; Tiemoue Bakayoko fired high and wide from a well-worked short corner.

But Arsenal did not lay flat. Ainsley Maitland-Niles skipped past Victor Moses, but his cross was inches over the head of Alexis Sanchez. Mesut Ozil continued to probe his way through the Chelsea midfield, his influence growing with every touch. Alexandre Lacazette squandered a one-on-one after some lovely football from Ozil and Sanchez, with the Frenchman choosing to blast his effort at the goal, rather than attempt a more nuanced approach.

One thing that was concerning for the Gunners was the number of yellow cards that they picked up. Rob Holding cynically fouled Alvaro Morata and then bundled into Cesc Fabregas. Jack Wilshere was already on a yellow for a late foul on Fabregas when he chose to throw himself into the leg of Andreas Christensen, which could have been adjudged a dive. Shkodran Mustafi was lucky to escape a yellow card when he threw himself into Eden Hazard. Given the balance of the game, any sending off would be hugely detrimental.

Thankfully for Arsenal, if they were to fall to ten men, they would be defending a goal lead. That came thanks to a stonking Jack Wilshere shot. The chance actually came shortly after Mesut Ozil had chosen to try and square a one-on-one, rather than shoot. But for the goal, Wilshere never wavered in his decision. The goal actually came from a short corner. Wilshere and Mesut Ozil exchanged passes, never really threatening the penalty area. The ball eventually falls to Rob Holding, who tries to feed Wilshere with a first-time pass. The pass deflects off the toe of Alvaro Morata, into the path of Wilshere who, without hesitation, lashes his shot past Thibault Courtois at the near post.

The lead, though, would not last for long. Sanchez, Lacazette and Ozil, again, had just linked up wonderfully in a blistering break, which led to Lacazette’s shot being deflected around the post by Courtois. The missed opportunity would be costly.

At the other end, Eden Hazard was trying to weave his way through Arsenal legs. Stalling his progress, the Belgian then tries to clip a cross into the six-yard box. The ball bounces off the Arsenal defender, and as Hector Bellerin goes to clear, his boot strikes the bottom of Hazard’s foot. There was contact, but it was a dive. Hazard, predictably, scored the penalty.

And then, the key moment of the game. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who had been outstanding throughout, failed to get tight enough to Davide Zappacosta. The low cross came in from the Chelsea wing-back, and it was met, emphatically, by the other wing-back. Marcos Alonso darted across the face of Shkodran Mustafi, who did very poorly to not anticipate the danger, to flick the finish home. A dagger to the Arsenal heart.

Arsenal, though, would not give up. Wenger threw on Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott to try and provide an attacking spark, but it would come, eventually, through an unlikely source. As the ball rebounded to the edge of the penalty area with Hector Bellerin stood over it, few expected the Spaniard to caress a lovely volley into the top corner. But that is exactly what he did, striking the ball sweetly and rescuing a point for his team.

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The draw was perhaps the deserving result. It was pulsating Premier League football at its very best. What a wonderful, wonderful watch.