What a goal-fest it eventually turned out to be! Even though it didn’t look like it would in the opening stages of the match. Matches between two teams struggling with form and having underwhelming seasons rarely are. Especially when the two teams are matched up with identical formations.
Only a few days after using the three at the back formation against West Brom, the Arsenal used the same formation for the match against Chelsea at the Emirates, with a slight twist. Usually, the returning Mesut is pushed to the right to provide width and guile on that wing but instead he was deployed in the centre of midfield alongside Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka, to form a left sided trident. This meant Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette were upfront in the 2 of what looked like a 3-5-2.
Almost from kickoff, it was abundantly clear what the manager was thinking about playing Ozil in the formation as the German was increasingly able to escape the clutches of Bakayoko and Kante almost as will. The Arsenal playmaker has been having somewhat of a resurgence lately but he took it to a new level in this game. The German was absolutely imperial, stroking the ball left and right, like it was nothing and bamboozling the Chelsea defence.
Playing with an untested back three of Chambers, Mustafi and Holding was a recipe to give Arsenal fans indigestion and surely soon enough, Chelsea were waved through on goal when Chambers and Mustafi and their wires crossed. The Cheese striker, Alvaro Morata found himself with the freedom of the Emirates and was bearing down on goal towards Petr Cech. Only his shoddy finishing ensured that Arsenal did not go a goal down.
From that point forward, Arsenal turned the screw and were utterly dominant. They created good chances too. Unlucky Lacazette stung the palms of Thibuat Courtois after he smartly turned a Chelsea defender at the edge of the box. There was even time for an Alexis shot from inside the box to strike one post, roll across the goal line, strike the other post and roll safely into the arms of the Chelsea goalkeeper. At the interval, the away team was the happier to be going in level.
The second half was more of the same, only this time, there were goals. Midway into the half, Jack Wilshere opened the scoring with a ferocious shot at the near post that even Courtois could not save.
It was at the point the match referee decided to intervene and determine the result of the game. Eden Hazard ambled into the box, saw Hector Bellerin’s leg and completed a swan dive over it. Obviously, the ref pointed to the spot and awarded a farcical penalty against the Arsenal for the second consecutive game.
It is difficult to fathom what goes through referee’s minds when they decide to shaft Arsenal, if anything at all. But surely, they don’t think they wont be any blowback. They couldn’t possibly think we, the fans, the manager, would continue to stand for such blatant bias and incompetence. The chickens are going to come to roost some day, I tell you.
From then on it was a uphill task. Marcos Alonso soon took the lead for Chelsea and it looked like it would be another home loss for the team when they deserved all three. But right in the nick of time, Bellerin popped up with a glorious equaliser.
Disappointing as it seems, one can take a lot of courage from the performance, if not the result. After all it is not every team that has to play week in week out with one hand tied behind its back against 12 men.