When the team news came through, I’d no idea Covid had forced Mikel Arteta to make a few changes. That’s assuming Mikel opted to change his team around because of it of course. I first thought ‘at last, he’s changing tact’.
No Willian, Gabriel or Luiz. No Aubameyang or Pepe to start with either which made me smile with relief. Xhaka in midfield though against an exciting Chelsea attack was a concern to say the least. Misplaced though, totally misplaced.
A perfectly executed penalty from Lacazette, a wonderful free kick from Xhaka and the most audacious shot from man of the match Saka to make it 3-0.
Without my Arsenal tinted specs on, we utterly deserved those three points, and more had they been on offer. Not one of the starting eleven deserve criticism in my opinion, not even Xhaka. He might not be the quickest to get back but he was getting back. Some of his attacking passes were excellent. ESR looked right at home in the team. Saka, our best player was creating chances one minute, back in defence, digging us out of trouble the next. Lacazette was smiling! Leno saved a penalty but otherwise, had very little to too because Arsenal defended well. Holding was superb.
The only annoying bit was not smacking another 2/3 goals past Mendy. Martinelli and Lacazette will be kicking themselves. As will Elneny after rattling the woodwork.
Anything, everything Chelsea tried, we dealt with comfortably. Until Mikel Arteta made his substitutions. Pepe simply doesn’t have the same energy as Martinelli. Nor does he, or rather did he, offer the same level of assistance to Tierney. Willock did appear to be as calm on the ball as ESR but that’s not be being overly critical, just an observation.
The goal we conceded was disappointing, as was the penalty but at least it gives us all a chance to applaud Leno for his excellent penalty save. I thought his ball handling was better yesterday too as I’m sure I saw him catch the ball on more than a handful of occasions.
As for the game itself, it was good. From an Arsenal perspective of course. Frank Lampard, the much praised young manager with a glut of players to choose from, certainly in the attacking department, versus another young manager on the verge of the sack. There was only ever going to be one winner.
I thought Arsenal came out in a positive mood and it wasn’t long before Elneny and Bellerin worked the ball down our right. Bellerin whipped the ball into the box where Martinelli was lurking. His shot went just wide of Chelsea’s goal. Chelsea too had a good chance, the result of a rare silly mistake made by Xhaka as his challenge led to a free kick which Mount took and hit the outside of the post. That was probably the closest they came to scoring until the moment they did.
Just before the half hour mark, Bellerin was involved in another attack which ended with the ball at the feet of ESR. His shot was rushed, miss hit but Martinelli was on hand to try his luck but a deflection resulted in an Arsenal corner. When were we going to get Lady Luck back on our side? Ten minutes before halftime was the answer, although she wasn’t needed because Michael Oliver didn’t hesitate to point to the spot when Tierney went over in the box. He’d beaten the Chelsea right back, felt contact and did what every other player would do. He went to ground. Up stepped Lacazette to send Mendy the wrong way.
Michael Oliver was probably checking his watch for halftime when Kante fouled Saka just outside the box. The angle of the free kick definitely suited the left foot of Xhaka but with Lacazette looking interested, I thought he was going to take it. I was wrong. Xhaka, pace, accuracy and 2-0.
Ten minutes after the break, we were 3-0. An incredible goal really but then Saka is an incredible talent. In a flash, a moment of brilliance probably raised all Arsenal fans hopes. Beliefs even that this terrible run we’ve been on was about to end. We were beating a Chelsea side who were aiming to finish the day in second place but three goals. I wanted Michael Oliver to blow his whistle there and then.
Chelsea got one back, annoyingly and when Mari conceded a penalty late in the game, my nerves returned. But it was our day because Leno did what very few Arsenal keepers have done over recent years. He saved it.
Finally, Arsenal had won a game. Not by luck and certainly not by playing badly. For most of the match I thought we were excellent. The best we’ve played this season.
I’m not for one minute going to suggest Mikel Arteta has cracked it, or Arsenal’s troubles are over etc because they’re not. This is just one game and one victory. But a darn good one and one to build on.
See you in the comments.