Image from Goal.com
Arsenal’s match with Chelsea on Wednesday night had everything; from contentious refereeing to players accused of simulation, along with chances and goals galore. It was a heated encounter too, with strong challenges and certain players with something to prove against their former sides, and the sound of the final whistle proved to be a disappointment for fans of the Gunners, the Blues and also the neutrals, who had all experienced a real advert for Premier League football as a whole. A 2-2 draw, with all of the goals arriving in a whirlwind final 25-minute period, as Hector Bellerin’s fabulous stoppage time strike cancelled out Marcos Alonso’s 84th minute goal and divided the points between the London rivals. Here are the key factors into determining the result of the game.
Super Jack is Back
Chelsea’s defence has been quite resolute in recent weeks, but felt terrorised by Arsenal’s attack throughout the whole ninety minutes. While none of the troublesome trio of Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette were unable to get on the scoresheet, all three players’ running off the ball whilst the Gunners were in possession, as well as their relentless pressure when their side were not in control of the ball, kept the Blues’ backline busy over the course of the match. Moreover, the superb displays from wing-backs Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles very much pushed back their opposition counterparts meaning Chelsea were less influential on the counter attack, and the latter’s performance was so damaging to the visitors that his opposite man, Victor Moses, had to be withdrawn on the hour mark.
Arsenal’s main man, however, was once again Jack Wilshere, whose performance earned himself a long-awaited goal to break the deadlock, unleashing a rasping shot at Thibaut Courtois’ near post and into the net. One of the Englishman’s key attributes is his burst from deep, and not even the three-man midfield of Cesc Fabregas, N’Golo Kanté and Tiemoune Bakayoko could prevent Wilshere from running at the Chelsea defence and motoring the Arsenal midfield. What is incredible is that, despite his recent injury record, ‘Super Jack’ has started every single Premier League game for Arsenal over the busy winter period and has showed no signs of weakness. With the 26-year-old back amongst the goals, and picking up more and more plaudits in recent weeks, perhaps it’s time to start thinking of Wilshere as a potential poster boy for England at the World Cup later this year.
Morata’s Misses Prove Costly
Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata also didn’t get on the scoresheet, which came as a great surprise considering he could – and should – have scored a hat-trick on Wednesday. The Spaniard put a clear one-on-one shockingly wide of Petr Cech’s net in the first half before clipping a shot in similar circumstances in the second. He was also presented with the chance to win the game in the dying seconds but somehow fired straight at the Arsenal ‘keeper.
In fact, Morata’s wastefulness in front of goal against the Gunners summarising Chelsea’s fortunes in front of goal in the big games this season. The current champions failed to trouble Manchester City’s goal in their September encounter and they only scored in extremely fortunate circumstances against Liverpool several weeks ago at Anfield, therefore highlighting a reason why Antonio Conte’s men aren’t closer to runaway leaders Manchester City this season. If the Blues are to have more fruitful second half of the season, they have to start taking more of their chances in the big games.
A Defender needed in Arsenal’s Dodgy Defence
The main reason why Morata was allowed the opportunity to score a hat-trick, however, was down to Arsenal’s sloppiness in defence. Morata’s first two chances came from lacks in concentration from Callum Chambers, while Rob Holding made a similar error for the striker’s last-minute effort. Although Chambers is currently embarking on his fourth season in North London – via a loan move to Middlesbrough last season – the 22-year-old hasn’t quite materialised in the way that Arsene Wenger hoped that he would. However, despite his mistake in the closing minutes, Holding put in an astute display which was reminiscent of his performance in Arsenal’s victorious FA Cup Final against the Blues in May, and along with Maitland-Niles, the Gunners’ manager can be pleased in the way in which he stepped up to the mark in such a big game. Furthermore, contrary to his recent critics, Shkodran Mustafi has shown that he is indeed a good player, although not a world-class defender as of yet, with nine interventions on Wednesday including five key blocks.
However, a more clinical Chelsea side would have exposed Arsenal’s flaws in defence and an addition in this role in the January transfer window is needed, and not just in the form of young Greek defender Konstantinos Mavropano who is set to move to North London from the Greek Super League. Despite it being a very raw Arsenal backline, 32 year-old Laurent Koscielny is starting to show signs that age is catching up on him, while Nacho Monreal continues to divide opinion as to whether he is actually a centre back. Players like Kostas Manolas and Marquinhos have been linked with a move to Emirates Stadium in the past, and the Gunners need to create a strong defensive partnership if they are to improve their ever-increasing troubles in defence.
What do you think? Who deserved to win the game? Are we too harsh on Morata? And is Wilshere actually good enough for England? Let us know in the comments.