Arsenal (2) 3 Chelsea (0) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Saturday, 26th December 2020. Kick-off time: 5.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Pablo Marí, Kieran Tierney; Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Dani Ceballos, Alex Rúnarsson, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Cédric Soares, Nicolas Pépé, Shkodran Mustafi, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah,
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazette (35 mins), Granit Xhaka (42 mins), Bukayo Saka (56 mins)
Yellow Cards: Pablo Marí, Kieran Tierney
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 40%
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistant Referees: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett
Fourth Official: Stuart Attwell
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Paul Tierney; AVAR Constantine Hatzidakis
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
For today’s white-hot London derby match with the men from SW6, Gabriel is out of the team after coming into contact with someone who has coronavirus so he is isolating; David Luiz and Willian both fell ill this week but have fortunately tested negative for the virus, but they are still not match fit to take the field this afternoon. Good to see Gabriel Martinelli back in the side after the shin injury he picked up against Manchester City four days ago, but still no start for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who starts this match on the substitutes’ bench after recovering from a calf injury. Let’s go!
A good start from us, with Gabriel Martinelli unlucky in not opening the scoring within the first minute, when his shot went narrowly wide of the Chelsea post. We certainly had the best of the early exchanges with Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney testing the Chelsea defence with penetrating crosses that the visitors struggled to contain. Mason Mount hit the outside of the post from a free kick that was given away by Granit Xhaka, and we have started to follow the pattern of the past few matches, in allowing the opposition to dominate the spaces that are suddenly appearing in our defence. However, we are catching Chelsea on the break with Emile Smith-Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli getting close with excellent attempts to score. The match is swinging from end-to-end, and after half an hour it would be fair to say that this game is anyone’s to take at the moment, the difference being that we are shooting from close range, whereas Chelsea are tending to take longer range shots, from outside the box. Penalty! Reese James brought down Kieran Tierney, and Alexandre Lacazette scored from the spot to give us the lead with ten minutes of the first half remaining. The penalty certainly fired us up, with our players showing more urgency than the visitors do. Just before the half-time break, Granit Xhaka scored with a superb left-footed free-kick from twenty yards out, that went right over the Chelsea wall, past Edouard Mendy and into the back of the net to give us our second goal of the day. Nice to go into the break two goals ahead for a change!
As expected, Chelsea brought the match to us with several attempts on our goal which was thwarted excellently by our defenders, but amazingly, after fifty-six minutes, Bukayo Saka collected a pass from Emile Smith Rowe, then ran in to the Chelsea penalty area and chipped a shot over the head of Edouard Mendy which bounced off the far post and into the net for our third of the night. Was it a cross or a shot? Who cares, they all count! Eight or so minutes later, Gabriel Martinelli won the ball in midfield, passed it to Kieran Tierney who ran sixty yards with it, crossed the ball into the centre for Gabriel Martinelli to take a shot that Edouard Mendy somehow managed to keep out of the net. Joe Willock replaced Emile Smith-Rowe after sixty-five minutes, and five minutes later, Nicolas Pépé replaced an exhauseted Gabriel Martinelli to give Arsenal extra legs for the final twenty mintues of the game. The visitors came forward time and time again and tested our defence constantly, but they held firm throuhgout. And still we kept on trying to score more goals, our hunger there for all to see at last. Alxandre Lacazette capitalised on a mistake by Edouard Mendy and was unlucky not to score, and a minute or so later, Mohamed Elneny hit the upright. Tammy Abraham got one back for the Blues with five minutes left on the clock, and despite some serious pressure on our goal, including a penalty which was brilliantly saved by Bernd Leno in the second minute of injury time, and Alexandre Lacazette being replaced by Shkodran Mustafi, we held out to take the three points.
How about that, then? Who really saw that one coming? After the games in the past few weeks, this was a revitalised Arsenal, the likes of which no-one saw possible. Everyone played well, in particular Kieran Tierney, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, who never stopped running and constantly poked and probed Chelsea throughout. Let’s hope that we have turned this big beast around and start to move up the table, starting with a win at Brighton on Tuesday evening.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Bighton and Hove Albion at the AMEX Stadium on Tuesday, 29th December at 6.00pm (Premier League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.