The Premier League is known for exciting matches, and on Saturday, Chelsea and Arsenal delivered another thriller at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea winning 3-2.
An absolutely maniacal first half gave way to a little bit more sanity in the second half, but that should take nothing away from a match where both teams seemed as if they’d forgotten how to defend at times.
It wasn’t a surprise for either side. Arsenal had real problems last week trying to defend against Manchester City’s incessant attacks, while Chelsea allowed Huddersfield a couple chances in the first half due to slack defending.
But it was Arsenal that was punished first. Playing an extremely high line, Arsenal were given a warning just five minutes in when Jorginho’s over-hit pass just eluded Ross Barkley who had sprinted clear through the inside-left channel.
Arsenal failed to heed that early warning, and just five minutes later, Jorginho wedged another ball through the inside-left channel for Alonso to chase. Alonso sprinted to the edge of the penalty area and squared the ball for Pedro to guide past a stranded Petr Cech.
Chelsea continued to exploit Arsenal’s high line, first with David Luiz playing another long ball over the top to find another run through the channel. This time, N’Golo Kante was the recipient who laid the ball off for Barkley to fizz just over the bar.
Then it was Willian’s turn to cut inside and find Pedro sprinting through the right channel, but Willian’s pass was a little out of the reach of Pedro and Cech was able to collect.
Arsenal should have had their equaliser through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when Matteo Guendouzi’s through ball for Bellerin caught Alonso napping. Bellerin got to the byline and cut the ball back for Aubameyang at the penalty spot, but the striker somehow managed to fire over the bar.
Chelsea immediately punished Arsenal for that costly miss. With Arsenal’s defensive line almost pushed into the Chelsea half, Alvaro Morata found another run inside the channel and was found by another long diagonal pass, this time from Cesar Azpilicueta. Morata was left with only Shkrodan Mustafi to beat, and Morata cut inside the Arsenal defender and slotted the ball past a stranded Petr Cech.
Chelsea were rampant and it looked as if this score could be anything, but for 15 minutes, Chelsea seemed to completely lose their way.
Chelsea’s midfield and defence began to look completely disorganised and out of position, and Arsenal began to create chances by playing the ball wide and finding late runners for cutbacks.
But Arsenal’s woes in front of goal continued. It was Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s chance to look towards the sky when Alex Iwobi’s pull back found Mkhitaryan in almost the same spot as Aubameyang. The result was exactly the same, with Mkhitaryan’s shot sailing over the bar with the entire net in front of him.
Mkhitaryan made up for that miss to score Arsenal’s first. Perhaps he needed just a bit more space, but minutes later, Iwobi again found Mkhitaryan with a pull-back. But this time, Mkhitaryan was just outside the penalty area and swept the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga, though the goalkeeper did get fingertips.
Arsenal clearly spotted a weakness in the Chelsea defence, and Mkhitarayan turned provider for their second, finding space near the byline and pulling the ball back for Iwobi to smash home from the penalty spot.
Just before the end of the first half, Iwobi joined the bad-miss club by firing over the bar from 12 yards after yet another pull back from Mkhitaryan.
Chelsea’s midfield just didn’t seem to be clicking, and after an hour, Sarri sent on the reinforcements, bringing on Eden Hazard and Mateo Kovacic for a tiring Willian and Ross Barkley.
Hazard’s presence seemed to affect Arsenal, who started to sit deeper and Chelsea began to dominate the ball.
Bellerin’s torrid day continued as Hazard zipped past him down the left, but Hazard’s low cross into the box found nobody in a blue shirt.
Hazard continued to torment Arsenal, and on 80 minutes, he took advantage of some slack Arsenal play. Alexandre Lacazette played a lazy backpass directly to Hazard, and after an exchange of passes, Hazard again zipped down the left side. This time, Hazard’s cross was met by a late run from Alonso who swept his shot just under Petr Cech.
Hazard could have added some gloss to the score line when he and Olivier Giroud were sent clear on an 2 v. 1. But Hazard opted to pass to Giroud whose shot was saved.