Arsenal came away from Stamford Bridge unscathed and without doubt the happier of the two teams. A 0-0 draw shouldn’t normally be cause for celebration, but against the backdrop of Anfield away, a clean sheet and a point felt pretty exceptional.
The question I posed pregame was whether Wenger had the nerve to do something interesting, and without doubt he did. Fortunately, Mesut Ozil disappeared before the game (rather than during), dropping out due to an injury. The big miss from the players available was Alexis Sanchez who dropped to the bench after scoring a wonder goal in midweek. Wenger truly reasserting some power and also rewarding Danny Welbeck for some solid performances.
The long and short 0f it was a very good first half we dominated. Lacazette will look back on that game and wince. He missed a pretty good chance inside Chelsea’s area, firing right at the keeper. His second miss from 6 yards out after Ramsey powered through Chelsea’s midfield and defence was the more embarrassing.
The second half saw Chelsea resort to the battering ram strategy, they introduced Bakayoko to pair with Kante. The two tightened up the game and limited us going forward. However, we didn’t cower. We gave it some back and because Cheslea sacrificed creativity, they didn’t make much of a dent on our goal.
The final roll of the dice from both managers was to intro the star players. We brought on Sanchez, quickly followed by Conte introducing Hazard. The two didn’t really affect the game. We sadly lost Danny Welbeck to another injury. The biggest incident after that was a stupid red card for Luiz when he petulantly attacked Kolasinac with a cowardly two-footed challenge.
A point a piece, but plenty of positives for Arsenal.
Life without the wantaways:
Wenger went bold dropping Alexis. He lucked out not having Ozil, who he’d have played. The output was a solid hardworking performance from the team. No one noticed we didn’t have Ozil. Sure, we could have used some creativity in the second half, but the reality is Ozil wouldn’t have dealt well with being roughed up by good players. You can call it an agenda from me, or just accept that stats and facts that show Ozil isn’t good against big teams and without him, we put on a good show.
Doesn’t mean Ozil isn’t useful, just means we should think about who the future of our #10 role is and invest there. Especially away from home.
Alexis is a little more debatable. Would he have scored one of the two chances Lacazette screwed? Undoubtedly. He’s a far more capable #9. However, you have to say that normally you’d expect Lacazette to bury both of those. We didn’t miss the selfish play and turning the ball over every 3 passes. Now Danny W is out, it’s unlikely there will be much bench time for the Chilean.
The guy put in the sort of performance we’ve missed. He’s finally fit, he’s put a run of games together, and he’s starting to play like the player we’ve been waiting for since 2013. He brought players into the game, he created chances, and he showed a bit of discipline for once. A really encouraging performance out there. I hope Wenger starts to see Aaron as the focus of attention because we need a number 10 next year and that won’t be Mesut.
(Also a shout out to Iwobi who I thought was very good)
Great game for the defensive unit. I thought Kolasinac grew with the game. Monreal was solid as ever. I thought Koscielny was a total beast. Bellerin looked strong in a more familiar position. Mustafi was a funny one, a lot debating his impact. For me, he had a very good game against an exceptional player. Sure it was clumsy at times, but look, he kept a clean sheet and had the better of him on the day. Also worth noting that Petr Cech is making the saves now… he’s having a good season after finishing strongly last year.
I’ll give credit where it’s due. He was right to drop Sanchez. He picked the right team today. He’s thinking about morale and balance. He changed the formation when it wasn’t working in midweek. He stuck to his guns with 3 at the back today. Really good work.
It feels kind of low that we’re celebrating a draw. The expectations are so low now that sitting in 12th in the league is kind of fine because we didn’t get absolutely tanked today. That was progress out there regardless, but Wenger really needs to build on that if it’s to have any further meaning. City and United are looking strong, but outside that, there’s a lot of sputtering. Maybe top 4 isn’t so crazy after all? A 6 point gap can be made up quickly if we have a good ten game run.