Chelsea took on Arsenal at Emirates in what was a monumental clash for both the sides in their respective agendas for the season. While Chelsea strolled their way to all of the three points, Arsenal were left red faced yet again against the side that had shackled them for 5 matches straight in the Premier League.
Arsenal started in the lineup that has become customary for them of sorts since the impressive win against Manchester City with Giroud leading the line and Ozil right behind him. Walcott and Campbell roamed the flanks and a Flamini-Ramsey duo shielded the defence. Bellerin and Monreal were the fullbacks as Koscielny and Mertesacker held the fort ahead of Cech in goal.
Chelsea meanwhile began with the sizzling Costa and Fabregas combo in front as Oscar and Willian shuttled the flanks. Matic and Mikel were the destroyers in midfield, ahead of Terry and Zouma in the defence. Ivanovic and Azpilicueta flanked the central defenders. Courtois retained his customary spot in goal for the Blues.
Chelsea and Arsenal both operated on similar lines in crucial areas of the pitch. Some include:
A striker and playmaker combo. Arsenal had Giroud and Ozil who were both almost exclusively looking for each other all the time they shared on the pitch. Similarly, Costa and Fabregas enjoyed that role for the Blues as they resurged into form over the last few matches.
A marauding right back. Arsenal had Bellerin who was quick as a squirrel but failed to make an impact offensively. Chelsea had Ivanovic who had immense strength and was skimming in sublime crosses but needed a lot of cover to operate in that role.
A slow, solid defender paired with a quick Frenchman. Chelsea had the impressive Zouma covering for the slower Terry while Koscielny did the same for the BFG, Mertesacker.
These similarities made it easier for both the opponents to mark out the zones they wanted to conquer on the pitch and ended up making a huge impact on the match.
While Chelsea striker Costa was constantly on the lookout for Mertesacker and was hoping to catch him on the break. When that opportunity came, Costa ghosted past the German and trapped him into making a stupid tackle, for which he received a straight red.
Meanwhile the Gunners were looking to target the area left behind by Ivanovic as well as the generally poor defending from the Serbian to prise open the Chelsea defence instead of focussing on Terry’s lack of pace. This resulted in unfavourable results for the Gunners as they were shut down by the monstrous Zouma who made sure not a single cross from Walcott reached its intended destination.
This poor tactical decision, presumably by Wenger, was clearly marked out since Terry was occasionally being caught out against the through balls from Ozil to the midfield runners. These were the chances fluffed by Flamini over the course of the first half. Even as this path showed promise, there were no runs made by the striker in those zones to exploit a potentially rewarding situation.
The crux of the match would have been in the midfield pivot battle between Ramsey and Mikel as well as Flamini and Matic. Both the sets were marking the respective opponents and if there had not been a red card for Arsenal so early into the match, it would’ve been interesting to see if Mikel would’ve left Ramsey for Terry to deal with or accompanied him into the Chelsea box. Flamini, meanwhile was let go by Matic far too often and this resulted in chance after another for the Frenchman, all of which he miscued.
On the wings, Campbell was in a lost battle with Azpilicueta as he was simply shut down by the Spaniard and the only hope was an overload by Bellerin. With Oscar working diligently on the wings, it would not be the case and Chelsea had control of their left wing all over the match as a consequence. On the other wing, it was a different story as Willian forced Monreal back but Ivanovic’s forays and follies left Walcott in acres of space often, requiring the help of Zouma to bail Chelsea out.
In terms of strikers, the match was a favourable one for both as Chelsea were always expected to hit on the counter and Costa had the pace to hurt them meanwhile, as Chelsea would’ve sat back and allowed Arsenal possession, Giroud would’ve enjoyed a physical battle with Chelsea centre halves to get on the end of crosses.
The red card put a lie to all that as Wenger opted to let Walcott on as the striker while Giroud was taken off for Gabriel. Just four minutes later, Chelsea claimed the lead that won them the match as Costa made a trademark striker’s run in between Gabriel and the irate Koscielny to tap in the brilliant skimming Ivanovic cross past Petr Cech.
Ever since that, it was a game that played into the hands of Chelsea as Arsenal looked to pile on the pressure but were reluctant due to their numerical disadvantage. Meanwhile, Chelsea played the perfect counter attacking game in case Arsenal overcommitted.
In possession, Arsenal were reasonably direct and looked for Ozil/Sanchez in hope that he would create a chance. They were provided support on the wings as Chelsea played compact and the said support almost always managed to underwhelm as none of the crosses were especially accurate.
Chelsea, meanwhile, looked to draw out the Gunners when they had the ball with a deep passing game. They were content in passing between the defenders as well as the destroyers and that meant that Arsenal really had to push upfield if they wanted to recover the ball. This left the Gunners in a quandary who were with a man as well as a goal down.
This theme lasted well into the home stretch of the match at which point Chelsea completely went into their shell and looked to weather the storm against a Sanchez inspired Arsenal side. This was not a really recommended strategy against Arsenal but the fact that they were a man down as especially, lacked Giroud made it easy for Chelsea.
In the end, Chelsea managed to demolish Arsenal’s hope to get back on top of the table with an impressive performance right in their own backyard. With such form, Chelsea can only go upwards while Arsenal need to rediscover their mojo if they harbour any hopes to win the championship. Chelsea have now kept Arsenal at bay for 6 consecutive matches in the league and haven’t lost in nine matches to the Gunners over the previous half-decade in the league.