Mikel Arteta made some bold changes to his starting XI for Chelsea’s visit but remained loyal to his captaincy, which influenced a crucial win that will hopefully breathe some much-needed life back into the Premier League title challenge of Arsenal.
Frank Lampard and Mikel Arteta both agreed to give surprise starts to a player Tuesday night against their former club Arsenal beat Chelsea 3-1.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was brought back into the starting XI for the first time in the league since this same game at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea’s caretaker chief sought to bring a focal point to his attack by including a player with a point to prove, giving us a potential tasty narrative in the process. The other man brought in was ex-Blue player Jorginho, who replaced the out-of-form Thomas Partey. The storytelling was lacking in comparison, but there was still an opportunity for it to be a little juicy.
Having seen his side’s title challenge fall by the wayside in recent weeks, Arteta has made some changes which would hopefully lead to a more confident performance. Jakub Kiwior came on for his first Premier League start against a side lacking any bite in the final third, while Leandro Trossard started ahead of Gabriel Martinelli, who was the unlucky one in the relentless front three to be effectively left on the bench.
With Manchester City back on top, Arsenal they needed a win, and facing this Chelsea team was a perfect opportunity. Last season’s Arsenal may have lost this game – as they did against Brighton in April last season with the Seagulls going on a seven-game winless run – but their depth and mentality are much better this year.
There were a sign or two of nervousness and a lack of confidence with Oleksandr Zinchenko sacrificing possession on several occasions early on. Luckily for him, Chelsea were treating the ball like a hot potato and clearly wanted nothing to do with it. Some anxiety vanished after 18 minutes as Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard scored an absolute peach, greatly improved by Kepa Arrizabalaga tipping it over the underside of the bar. The skiff outside the woodshop really adds a chef’s kiss, doesn’t it?
Chelsea fought back relatively well by going from behind and should have equalized with first touch in the opposition box when Ben Chilwell was denied by Aaron Ramsdale. After 13 successful minutes for the visitors, Odegaard grabbed his double to give the Gunners a two-goal lead, squandered twice in the previous four games.
The defense for both Odegaard goals was awkward. He was able to get into a scoring position without a man scoring it correctly both times. Chilwell kept his eye on him for the opener and Raheem Sterling was an innocent bystander as the Norwegian playmaker raced up behind him to double his side’s lead.
A more chaotic defense helped Gabriel Jesus make three and it was game over. Kepa didn’t get big enough after his defense couldn’t handle a ball in the box, then sublime chest control from Jesus, Xhaka’s shot and the Arsenal No9’s subsequent finish.
After barely touching the ball in the first half, Lampard opted to drop Aubameyang at the break, sparing him some abuse as he was able to trudge from the dressing room to the bench instead of after an hour in front of home fan.
Zinchenko set out to spoil the hosts’ chances of keeping a clean sheet by making his best impression of Sterling as Chelsea’s best player of the night, Noni Madueke, took advantage and made it 3-1. This was Chelsea’s second goal in six games under Lampard.
The Blues boss tried to give us another opportunity for a narrative by bringing in Mykhaylo Mudryk, who was met with boos as he climbed the field he desperately wanted to call home – but he would never have much chance to turn things around, which he would have found difficult if he started as Chelsea are rubbish.
Arsenal should have been more ruthless in the second half. They had the opportunity to embarrass their London rivals and failed to do so. Why show mercy? And despite their dominance for much of the match, Arsenal gave Chelsea the incentive to attack in the final 15 minutes, setting up a potentially nervous finish at the Emirates. Arsenal grabbed the crucial win to return top of the Premier League, which is all that really matters, especially considering they ended a four-game winless run in the meantime.
The introductions of Trossard, Kiwior and Jorginho from the start were more than justified. Jorginho and Trossard did everything they knew they could do, while the vast majority of us didn’t know what to expect from Kiwior, who rightfully replaced Rob Holding, whose place in the squad makes the Gunners far less dominant.
Positive debut for the Polish defender. He is due to start in Newcastle on Sunday and begged the question: Should Arteta have faced him sooner? Completing 53 of his 57 passes is a tidy total. Meanwhile, three interceptions, four rejections and a tackle are a solid return. Winning one of his four dogfights is mildly concerning, he has to say.
Unfortunately, there was no tasty narrative from Aubameyang, Jorginho or Mudryk. Just one manager who has made some great chances that have paid off for him, and another who is definitely out of his league, but is giving something to smile about for fans of the other 19 Premier League clubs.
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