Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal revolution hit a stumbling block as Chelsea hit two late goals that meant Arteta is still looking for his first win as Arsenal boss.
The two sucker punches from the Blues also meant that Arsenal go into 2020 in the bottom half of the table – and with one win from the last 15 games.
The numbers don’t read well, but they are only half of the story.
Arteta selected a youthful bench to back up a solid looking team, recalling Calum Chambers to the lineup and reinstating Matteo Guendouzi to the central positions as Granit Xhaka fell ill. Our attack was the same too, with Reiss Nelson keeping out Nicolas Pepe on the right.
The first half? Probably our best this season.
The intensity, the high press, the work rate, the quickness of our movement. Everything was what Arteta had mentioned, and it meant that Chelsea were on the back foot from the off.
Mesut Ozil has often been a quandary that has been unanswerable, but the German looked imperious in this forty five, linking our attack with the right pass every time. We also were capitalising on some bad tactics from Chelsea. Tomori and Emerson were at sixes and sevens on the right of defence, and we were stretching them every time.
Our good start meant we got the lead early too. A Calum Chambers flick-on was met by Aubameyang and it meant we had made the most of our dominance.
We nearly doubled our advantage straight after too, but fine play from Maitland-Niles and Nelson combined to find Laca, who had the ball whipped away from his toes just as he was about to shoot.
Then, some bad luck. Chambers, who has been one of our most consistent performers this season, landed awkwardly and twisted his knee. The prognosis doesn’t look good for the defender, and he was replaced by Mustafi.
Chelsea were beginning to lose their cool, and a string of bookings followed. Lampard reacted ten minutes before half time to our dominance, by switching to a back four and bringing on Jorginho for Emerson, and Chelsea looked far better. They didn’t improve enough to test Leno though, and at half time, we had the lead.
The second half was a different matter to the first. Chelsea slowly turned the screw as we held firm in the face of increasing Chelsea pressure. We were doing well too, Torreira and Guendouzi both coping well.
Changes for both sides followed, with Ozil coming off for Willock, but Chelsea were looking the likelier to score. With ten minutes to go, we still had the advantage, but the reliable Leno then flapped at a cross, leaving Jorginho the easiest task to stab home at the back post.
What made matters worse, was that moments earlier, the booked Jorginho got away with a blatant pull-back of Guendouzi.
It was to get worse three minutes later, as Abraham turned Mustafi too easily before finding the bottom corner. It gave Chelsea the win in the end, as we were unable to muster enough to hit back before the final whistle.
It was heartbreaking, but can we piece together anything to take from the game?
Arteta Plan Taking Shape
Our first half showed what we need to latch onto. High press, win the ball high up the pitch. We also zipped the ball far quicker, much more in-keeping with what Arsenal are known for. More of the same please.
Fitness Let Us Down
The second half didn’t see us continue our intense pressure. We simply ran out of steam. The same happened in Klopp’s first season at Liverpool as the players struggled to maintain the new, intensive tactics throughout an entire 90. Time will see us improve.
Arteta Needs A Window
Until Arteta can bring in his own reinforcements, it will be down to how quickly he can help his men regain confidence to gain the extra ten percent we are missing. First on his list is a new defender or two.
No time to rest for our boys, we play Man Utd at The Emirates on New Years Day.
How do you think our boys did? Rate the Team here.