The game started at frantic pace and it continued that way for much of the match. Arsenal were 2-0 down inside 20 minutes after Pedro and Alvaro Morata scored for Chelsea. However, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi got their side back on level terms at halftime. The second half was a tight affair and Marcos Alonso scored for Chelsea with just under 10 minutes to go. Ultimately Chelsea held on and ran out 3-2 winners.
So after a highly entertaining match, what did we learn?
Wrong Tactics From Unai Emery
Arsenal’s manager Unai Emery got his tactics wrong against Chelsea. In the Chelsea game, he played a very high defensive line, which was disastrous from the start. Chelsea played balls down the sides of the centre-backs and fullbacks as well as balls over the top of the defenders on numerous occasions. Chelsea’s first two goals both came from balls played in behind Arsenal’s high defensive line. With three of Arsenal’s four defenders being slow this high line implemented by Emery was borderline suicidal. Chelsea could easily have scored three or four more goals by exploiting Arsenal’s high defensive line.
This high defensive line cannot be persisted with going forward or Arsenal will continue to concede far too many goals.
Lucas Torreira Must Start For Arsenal
Arsenal’s total lack of control in the midfield in the first half was astonishing. Jorginho was controlling the play with N’Golo Kante extremely effective at running off Arsenal’s midfielders into attacking areas of the pitch. Granit Xhaka, in particular, was awful and could not cope with the intensity and cleverness of Chelsea’s midfield duo. Rightly so, Xhaka was hooked at halftime with Lucas Torreira replacing him.
Torreira was excellent in the second half. He played precise forward passes, intercepted numerous passes, prevented counter attacks with well-timed tackles and committed a few fouls when needed. In his 45 minute cameo, he showed how important he will be for Arsenal team this season.
After his performance against Chelsea, Torreira must be the first name on the team sheet for the West Ham game next Saturday.
Eden Hazard Will Be Key for Chelsea
Luckily for Chelsea, Eden Hazard has confirmed he will be staying this season. In the Arsenal game, we saw why Chelsea were desperate for him to stay. He only came on after 65 minutes but boy did he have an impact.
Hazard’s dribbling was artistic and beautiful to watch. He weaved his way past Arsenal players effortlessly when in possession. There was no surprise when his brilliance led to Chelsea’s match-winning goal. It was his masterful turn and dribble past Alexandre Lacazette that was followed by a great cross which Marcos Alonso scored from.
Providing Hazard maintains this form, he will be key for Chelsea this season and could lead them to a sixth Premier League crown. When he’s in that type of mood, he’s simply unstoppable.
N’Golo Kante Must Return To Deepest-Lying Midfield Role
Even though Chelsea looked good going forward and created many goal-scoring opportunities, they were vulnerable defensively. In the first half, in particular, Arsenal got players in the spaces behind Jorginho and in front of the centre-backs. This caused a lot of problems for Chelsea with Arsenal scoring two goals and missing three easy chances from these situations. Jorginho, though excellent in possession was poor without possession and simply couldn’t cover the ground to protect the two centre-backs, leaving them exposed. This problem highlighted why Kante needs to be moved back into the defensive midfield role. Many of the chances Arsenal created was due to Jorginho’s lack of mobility and defensive awareness. This wouldn’t have happened if Kante was there. He is the best midfielder in the world at reading the play, winning tackles and intercepting balls played into dangerous areas.
If Chelsea don’t move Kante back into the defensive midfield position, the problems they encountered against Arsenal will continue to happen. Once they come across a better side than Arsenal they will be punished and it could be a heavy defeat at that.
Arsenal Have NO Chance Of A Top 4 Finish After Failure To Sign Commanding Centre-Back
This match once again reinforced the commonly held view that Arsenal need a tall and commanding centre-back. Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi are anything but that. They aren’t tall enough, both around 6ft1, nor strong enough physically. On top of that neither of them are particularly effective in the air.
Papastathopoulos and Mustafi were bullied by Alvaro Morata in the first half, although they improved in the second half. It’s not like Morata is the strongest and most rugged striker you’re likely to see. So if he’s dominating your centre-backs physically, like he did in this match, you know something’s not right.
In the Premier League, you can’t be successful without a towering centre-back who is strong, powerful and consistently wins headers. Manchester City have Vincent Kompany, Liverpool have Virgil Van Dijk, Tottenham have Jan Vertonghen, Manchester United have Eric Bailly and Chelsea have Antonio Rudiger. Arsenal don’t have anyone comparable to those players. Until they get the commanding centre-back they desperately need, they won’t be able to compete for a top-four place let alone the Premier League title.