Arsenal Vs Chelsea: Highlights and analysis – Embattled victory

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 24: Nacho Monreal of Arsenal and Alex Iwobi celebrate the own goal of Antonio Rudiger of Chelsea during the Carabao Cup Semi-Final Second Leg at Emirates Stadium on January 24, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 24: Nacho Monreal of Arsenal and Alex Iwobi celebrate the own goal of Antonio Rudiger of Chelsea during the Carabao Cup Semi-Final Second Leg at Emirates Stadium on January 24, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) /

Arsenal hosted Chelsea in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday night. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis of the 2-1 win.

Arsene Wenger has never won the Carabao Cup. It is the only domestic competition that he has not won during his 21 years as Arsenal manager. But on February 25th, he will have the chance to do so. The only small problem is that Manchester City lie in his way.

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To get there, his Arsenal battled their way past a Chelsea team that were much the better for long periods of the game. But thanks to a little good fortune and a lot of fight, they were able to overcome their London rivals to the tune of a 2-1 scoreline.

The first half started in a disastrous fashion for the Gunners. They looked sluggish in their overall play, gifting Chelsea possession on several occasions, they failed to circumnavigate the Blues high press in midfield, and the space that they afforded the Chelsea attackers was asking for trouble. That trouble very nearly came as quickly as the fifth minute.

Cesar Azpilicueta, as he so often does, stood in a deep, inside-right position midway through the Arsenal half. With time on the ball, he checked up, surveyed the field, and clipped a floated, crossed-through pass, right onto the head of Pedro. The Spaniard leapt forwards, directing his header past David Ospina from close range. Unbenknownst to him, Pedro was offside. The goal was disallowed. The danger, though, was most pertinently made known.

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Two minutes later, Chelsea had the ball in the back of the net for the second time. On this occasion, it stood. N’Golo Kante was allowed to stride through the midfield untouched. He played a forward pass into the feet of Pedro. Pedro turned, saw the dart of Eden Hazard beyond Laurent Koscielny, who didn’t know whether to come or go, and threaded a lovely pass into the path of the Belgian. One-on-one, only Ospina to beat. 1-0.

The goal was thoroughly deserved. It spelled trouble for an Arsenal team that hadn’t quite realised that the match had kicked off. Crucially important, then, was the quick-strike equaliser. Nacho Monreal was again the instigator, very much like at the weekend. And, again, it came from a looped run around the far post from a corner.

This time it was Mesut Ozil on corner duty. He floated it high, drifting it into the air, confusing the Chelsea defenders a little. Monreal met the ball with a powerful header. It then careered first off Marcos Alonso, then Antonio Rudiger, who will be the unfortunate burden of an own goal on his resume, before bounding over the goal line past an utterly stranded Willy Caballero. It was an astonishing goal, one that Arsenal did little to engineer or deserve. But it was vital. This was a game that was slipping out of their control, quickly.

For the remainder of the half, though, Chelsea regained their control of the game. They played with an extremely high defensive line, pressed Arsenal all over the pitch, and suffocated the game. Willian skewed a low shot past the far post, in the best chance of the remainder of the half, while the continued switched pass from a deep position to Victor Moses, who stretched the width of the pitch by standing as wide as possible, was deployed with great frequency. Mesut Ozil did have a shot deflect past the far post just before the break, as Jack Wilshere burst through the midfield ranks. But Arsenal created very little and deserved even less. They were extremely fortunate to be level at the halftime.

That fortune continued in the second half. Both teams pressed for the winner, with a lack of quality scuppering their respective moves with the final pass, touch or shot, but it was Arsenal who were able to next ripple the net. Alex Iwobi did well to win the ball in midfield. Calmly, he sprayed a pass out to Granit Xhaka on the opposite flank. A through pass down the channel for Alexandre Lacazette led the Frenchman wide, but as he twisted and turned to cross, the ball deflected back into the path of Xhaka, wrong-footing much of the Chelsea, who prodded home the finish.

After the goal, Arsenal’s tails were up. They remained positive, not settling into a conservative style, and actually created the better of the openings. Granit Xhaka pulled a shot wide of the post, Hector Bellerin burst clear down the right flank on a couple of occasions, while Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette continued to link up well to relieve the defensive pressure through holding onto the ball and winning freekicks.

Alex Iwobi had the best chance of the closing stages, teed up perfectly with just Willy Caballero to beat. But his first-time effort was straight at the legs of the shot-stopper, and Chelsea were able to clear.

As the game drew to a close, Chelsea pressed for the equaliser: Marcos Alonso saw a ferocious volley well blocked by Hector Bellerin; Antonio Rudiger failed to meet a corner with David Ospina flailing behind him; Alonso then flashed a freekick from distance well over the crossbar, which summed up their controlled, if a little rushed and lacking, performance.

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Ultimately, Arsenal were able to hang on. Chelsea huffed and puffed, but the openings they created were marginal at best. It was not perhaps the most deserved victory, but it continues a run of four domestic semi-final wins in the last four seasons. Manchester City await, in what is sure to be a testing and thrilling final. But this Arsenal team are good at winning cup competitions. They will, and should, be confident.