Arsenal (3) 3 Chelsea (0) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Tuesday, 2nd May 2023. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-3-3) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, Jakob Kiwior, Gabriel Magalhães, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Martin Ødegaard (c), (Jorge Luiz Frello Filho) Jorginho, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus, Leandro Trossard.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Thomas Partey, Emile Smith-Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah, Rob Holding, Fabio Vieira, Reiss Nelson, Matt Turner.
Scorers: Martin Ødegaard (18 mins, 31 mins), Gabriel Jesus (34 mins)
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 55%
Referee: Robert Jones
Assistant Referees: Timothy Wood, Wade Smith
Fourth Official: Graham Scott
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Andre Marriner; AVAR Stuart Burt
After the disappointment of last week’s match, it is important that we return to winning ways tonight, starting with a white-hot London derby with Chelsea. With regards to team selection, Mohamed Elneny and Takehiro Tomiyasu remain out of contention tonight due to injury, as does William Saliba, of course. Mikel Arteta has made three changes for tonight’s match, with Rob Holding, Gabriel Martinelli and Thomas Partey dropping to the substitute’s bench. Leandro Trossard, Jakub Kiwior and ex-Chelsea midfielder Jorginho are in the starting eleven.
The visitors kicked off the evening’s procedures, and almost immediately we won the ball and applied pressure to Chelsea, with Bukayo Saka twisting and turning onto his left foot and taking a shot at goal from the edge of the penalty area but Thiago Silva blocked it. After some nervousness in the Chelsea defence, Granit Xhaka was unlucky not to open the scoring and it took a fortunate stop from Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Blues goal not to let it go into the net. For the opening stages of the match, we were constantly applying pressure onto the Chelsea goal, and from a short corner with Leandro Trossard playing a quick ball with Martin Ødegaard looked clever but his cross to the back post was too deep and went harmlessly behind for a goal kick. Our high tempo game nearly paid off when Bukayo Saka sent over a looping header at goal. It looked like it was creeping in just under the bar before Kepa Arrizabalaga got his hands to parry it away. It fell to Gabriel Jesus only a few yards out, but the visitors managed to clear the danger. A couple of minutes later, we opened the scoring when Granit Xhaka found Martin Ødegaard with a square pass from the left side of the penalty area, who hit a superb strike past Kepa Arrizabalaga, with the ball going in the net off the underside of the bar, for a well-deserved goal. The goal appeared to wake the visitors up, who started to look like that they wanted to take part in this match, with Ben Chilwell bursting through and his strong shot was pushed aside by Aaron Ramsdale for a Chelsea corner, which was easily cleared by our defenders. We had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Robert Jones for a hand ball by Wesley Fofana, and just after the half hour mark, we grabbed a deserved second when in a very similar goal to the first one, Granit Xhaka crossed the ball in from the left, Martin Ødegaard lost his marker and this time struck a low, first-time shot, past Kepa Arrizabalaga. Three minutes later, with yet more shocking defending from Chelsea, who were just unable to deal with Ben White’s cross from the right wing; Gabriel Jesus kept it alive, Granit Xhaka fell over but he did manage to send the ball back into Gabriel Jesus’ path and this time he drilled it into the back of the net from close range for our third goal of the evening. The match was stopped for a while as Wesley Fofana was being attended to by the Chelsea medical staff, and in the two minutes injury time, despite Chelsea making some inroads in our half, the score remained three-nil to us.
Arsenal started the second half confidently, and although Chelsea started to push the ball around better, we dealt with them fairly easily. Gabriel Jesus was chopped down by Cesar Azpilicueta, cynically and crudely close to the byeline, which somehow did not earn him a yellow card. Five minutes after the restart, it looked like we had grabbed a fourth goal from a superb header by Gabriel (via a corner by Leandro Trossard), but somehow the ball had not crossed the line, and in spite of that, we carried on regardless. Bukayo Saka, after linking up with Ben White, struck the ball from a tight angle but Kepa Arrizabalaga stuck out a leg to keep it out. Bukayo Saka fired a shot from twenty yards, but the ball went just wide. Just before the hour, Leandro Trossard was replaced by Gabriel Martinelli, and our desire to carry on and score continued. However, the visitors got one back with Noni Madeuke scoring from close range, and after Gabriel hobbled off the pitch with an injury briefly, our pressure continued. Bukayo Saka and Oleksandr Zinchenko were replaced by Reiss Nelson and Kieran Tierney for the last nineteen minutes of the match, and as ever in this match, we looked hungry and confident to score more goals. The visitors tried to catch us on the break several times using their fast players, but their attempts petered out into nothing. Martin Ødegaard nearly got his hat-trick with a superb left footed shot that was saved by the goalkeeper, and Gabriel (who came back onto the pitch earlier), was still hobbling around and looking uncomfortable, so him and Jorginho were replaced by Thomas Partey and Rob Holding for the remaining five minutes of the game. The visitors had one or two chances to score in the five minutes injury time period (including a free kick which could have been dangerous), but they had run out of steam, with the only shot of note being saved well by Aaron Ramsdale, but it mattered not, as we ended up worthy winners tonight.
We played absolutely brilliantly tonight, and our win not only returns us to the top of the Premiership, but also sends a message to Manchester City that we are prepared to fight for the title to the bitter end. We looked full of self-confidence and vigour, and the only bad moment was when we allowed Chelsea to get a goal back late in the game. Other than that, every man played their part (and played well too), and the supporters got behind the team which was great to see and hear. Either way, it was a satisfactory night for everyone involved with club. Keep going, chaps!
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: Newcastle United at St. James’ Park on Sunday, 7th May at 4.30pm(Premier League). Be there, if you can. 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