- The week leading up to the much anticipated match between Chelsea and Arsenal revolved around each side’s playmaker. Unai Emery asked Mesut Ozil to work harder for the side on the defensive end in an effort to refocus the midfielder after a controversy filled summer. Emery also wanted Ozil to be more demanding in attack. Many managers have tried to unlock that level of consistency within the now 29-year-old Ozil.
- Meanwhile, ESPN FC analyst Stewart Robson went on a now epic rant against Jorginho by saying he was the “eighth or ninth” most important player from Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli side, that he only passes or squares the ball sideways, and that he’s not athletic enough for the Premier League. Robson then doubled down from Twitter criticism in saying he wants his defensive midfielder to either be athletic or play forward passes.
- Emery defended his decision of playing out from the back against Manchester City’s press which lead to shaky moments from Petr Cech and Matteo Guendouzi. He then broke down the percentages of his playing style, saying he wants Arsenal to have a set mentality 70% of the time, with the other 30% focused on adapting to the opposition.
- Cesar Azpilicueta once again gets the captain’s armband for Chelsea. Eden Hazard and Lucas Torreira each start on the bench, as does Aaron Ramsey.
- Chelsea begin the match with early pressure. David Luiz is showing his aggression on the ball, driving the ball into Arsenal’s half without much resistance. As was the case against Manchester City last weekend, Arsenal’s most effective tool in responding to Chelsea’s high press is through a direct counter attack. Ozil had an early chance go wide.
- Jorginho’s backline splitting ball to Marcos Alonso on Chelsea’s opening goal was appropriate given the controversy throughout the week. It was a textbook counter attack as Chelsea’s movement allowed Alonso to find space on the wing for an easy square pass to Pedro.
- Both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan had chances to equalize after receiving cut back passes in front of net. Guendouzi’s ball for Hector Bellerin on Aubameyang’s chance shows glimpses of passing vision from the 19-year-old.
- Morata showcased his dribbling quality immediately after Aubameyang’s miss. While their center backs will be blamed, Arsenal’s left side put no pressure on Azpilicueta on his long pass for Morata. Taking or missing opportunities in a matter of minutes shows the thin margins of the Premier League.
- Arsenal’s first goal came from pressure resulting in Ross Barkley’s wayward pass. Mkhitaryan’s left foot finish displayed his quality, but this was about Arsenal’s press finally paying off with a tangible result.
- Mkhitaryan again got free on the Chelsea’s touchline in cutting the ball back for Alex Iwobi’s goal to tie up the match. Mkhitaryan is displaying his unique traits as playmaker in how much of his work comes from creating space with off-ball runs to give himself room to pick a pass.
- With Arsenal tying up the match in a span of four minutes at the end of the first half, I’m reminded of Antonio Conte’s quote about how you can never control matches in England.
- Torreira comes on for Granit Xhaka to start the second half to partner Guendouzi, as he did against City.
- Barkley does provide thrust and drive in attack, but Sarri opted for midfield solidity in bringing on Mateo Kovacic to calm play. Hazard also comes on for Willian.
- Ozil comes off after another nondescript performance.
- Arsenal’s defensive structure with Torreira and Guendouzi is preventing Chelsea from creating chances through the middle. We said this last week, but Torreira must start as soon as he’s fit enough to play 90 minutes.
- Chelsea’s match-winning third goal featured a brilliant individual move from Hazard. Yet Alexandre Lacazette must take blame for not only losing the ball in his own half, but also his half-hearted attempt to stop the Chelsea winger as he accelerated into Arsenal’s third. And while Torreira and Guendouzi offer solidity through the middle, Arsenal need more workrate from their wingers late in matches. This is also a matter of conditioning as well.
- As managers new to England quickly discover, Sarri will need to figure out his defending off scrambles and second balls to prevent what he described as a “horrible” 15 minutes in which Arsenal evened the score in the first half. That control may come through Kovacic, who provided muscle while completing 43 out of 43 passes after coming into the match.
- And while Sarri continues to downplay expectations, this match displayed the depth of his attack. Substitutes Hazard and Olivier Giroud presented a different look from starters Willian and Morata, each effective in their own combinations. But those interchangeable parts at the wing and forward roles allow Chelsea to score as Hazard gains fitness.
- He may get his own in-depth look in the future, but Alonso’s movement into Arsenal’s attacking third shows how aggressive fullbacks can be under Sarri.
- Emery, meanwhile, preaches “calm” after two consecutive losses. His side created several chances in the first half, each let down by the final touch. Mkhitaryan and Iwobi showed their playmaking and movement from the outside in, yet this performance raises more questions of their attack. We’ve still yet to see the best from Ozil, Aubameyang or Ramsey. Like Torreira, Lacazette should probably start as well. Taking the long view, these opening matches are an opportunity for Emery to find players to rely upon. Next week’s match against a last place West Ham side should give Emery space to breathe.
Premier League Match Abstract: Chelsea 3, Arsenal 2