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Match report: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 2

Arsenal (1) 1 Chelsea (0) 2
Premier League
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 29th December 2019. Kick-off time: 2.00pm
(4-3-1-2) Bernd Leno; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Calum Chambers, David Luiz, Bukayo Saka; Mattéo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira, Reiss Nelson; Mesut Özil; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Nicolas Pépé, Shkodran Mustafi, Emiliano Martínez, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Joe Willock, Emile Smith-Rowe, Tyreece John-Jules.
Scorers: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (13 mins)
Yellow Cards: Ainsley Maitland-Niles, David Luiz, Mattéo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira, Alexandre Lacazette.
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 42%
Referee: Craig Pawson
Attendance: 60,309
Today’s match is extremely important for Arsenal; not to put too fine a point on it, it’s absolutely crucial for many reasons, and not just for petty London bragging rights, either. Before kick-off, we have twenty-four points and currently stand at twelfth position in the Premier League table, seven positions away from Manchester United, who are in fifth place with thirty-one points; horrifyingly, we are six positions above Aston Villa, who reside in eighteenth position with eighteen points. Undoubtedly, a win today against The Pensioners is absolutely paramount.
After just thirteen minutes, the answer to this question looked affirmative. A corner from Mesut Özil found the head of Calum Chambers, who deftly knocked the ball into space for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to open the scoring in our favour from point-blank range. From then onwards we were dominant, with superb passing moves, everyone knowing what they had to do and reducing space in the middle of the park. Mikel Arteta’s excellent 4-3-1-2 formation completely and utterly ran the show, with Mesut Özil triumphant in his fantasista role conducting proceedings. David Luiz was masterful, winning every ball, and being first to the tackle wherever he was needed. Unfortunately, we lost Calum Chambers after twenty-one minutes to an injury (replaced by Shkodran Mustafi) but still, the show went on. We were unlucky not to get more goals before the hiatus, but Arsenal went into the half-time break confident and ebullient.
It was a real shame that the match was not finished after the first half, as Chelsea started slowly and surely, to wake up and get into the game. Frank Lampard changed their formation during the break, and suddenly their 3-4-3 first half line-up (which we found to our advantage) turned into an nightmarish 4-3-3, which we found difficult to both contain, and ultimately break down. Now the match became a feisty and high-spirited one with tackles and subsequent free-kicks appearing all over the park. The game’s most controversial moment also became the turning point for the visitors. Jorginho, who was already on a yellow card for an earlier foul, pulled back Mattéo Guendouzi; surely this should have been a second yellow card and a sending off. Nope. At least not according to referee Craig Pawson, who decided to turn a blind eye to the incident. The visitors felt confident now, and the game was starting to turn in their favour; seven minutes from the end of the match, Bernd Leno unfortunately misjudged Mason Mount’s free-kick that gave the controversial Jorginho an easy task to equalise the scores. Three minutes later, we were caught again by a classic smash-and-grab movement; breaking out from one of our attacks on the Chelsea goal, the ball arrived at the feet of Callum Hudson-Odoi, who crossed the ball to Tammy Abraham, losing Shkodran Mustafi as he span around, and simply slotted the ball low and into the net past Bernd Leno. Despite a late strike by Joe Willock that went past Kepa Arrizabalaga’s post, that was it, really, sadly.
A very, very disappointing end to a match that started so well for us. But there were positives to take away from the game, namely the Mattéo Guendouzi-Lucas Torreira-Reiss Nelson midfield axis that worked well, as did David Luiz in defence, Mesut Özil as an unorthodox inside-left and the strike partnership looked committed and sharp as ever. Our work rate was superb, our commitment unquestioned; but we just could not hold on to our lead. Mikel Arteta has got a lot of work to do here, and with the transfer window about to be upon us next week, he must surely look to strengthen the squad as soon as possible. But, before all that, we have Manchester United here on New Years’ Day, and we simply have to win in order to get points on the board, otherwise we shall just drop down the Premiership table like a stone in a well. 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: Manchester United at The Emirates on Wednesday, 1st January 2020 at 8.00pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Steve

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.

Match Report Bournemouth 1 Arsenal 1

AFC Bournemouth (1) 1 Arsenal (0) 1
Premier League
The Vitality Stadium (Dean Court), Bournemouth BH7 7AF
Thursday, 26th December 2019. Kick-off time: 3.00pm
(4-3-1-2) Bernd Leno; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Bukayo Saka; Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira, Reiss Nelson; Mesut Özil; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Nicolas Pépé, Shkodran Mustafi, Emiliano Martínez, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Joe Willock, Mattéo Guendouzi, Emile Smith-Rowe.
Scorers: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (63 mins)
Yellow Cards: Lucas Torreira, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette.
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 61%
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Attendance: 10,324
More history in the making; today is the first occasion in which Amazon have bought the complete Boxing Day fixtures for the Premiership to be made only available to subscribers who are Prime account members. Also, more importantly, this match is the first one in which Mikel Arteta has taken charge of the team, so today is the start of the official Arteta era here at Arsenal Football Club. We genuinely wish him well.
Although the match started with chances for both teams, it was Arsenal who certainly made the best of the early action.
Alexandre Lacazette whacked a shot over the crossbar and high into the stands, whilst Mesut Özil, who has been creating chances for his team-mates and himself, had the nearest early attempt which was saved by Aaron Ramsdale, who tipped his shot over the bar. Most of the action was taking place in the home side’s half, and although they tried to stop Arsenal, it started to look as if this tide would wash completely over them, but unfortunately we got caught by a classic smash-and-grab movement by Bournemouth.
On the thirty-fourth minute, we lost the ball in our own half, a move that led to Dan Gosling getting the opening goal for the Cherries following a neat cut-back from Jack Stacey, which meant that despite all of our good work here at The Vitality Stadium, we got caught napping by a ridiculous move from the home team, who scored with their first shot on target today. We immediately came back at them, but it was obvious that the goal buoyed them up, and in doing so, it meant that every time we came forward, there was a Bournemouth man frustrating our forwards constantly. The goal really took the wind out of our sails somewhat, and we were most fortunate not to go two down when Joshua King’s shot was saved miraculously by Bernd Leno from close range just before the half-time break.
Mikel Arteta’s words of wisdom at half-time are appearing to bear considerable fruit. We certainly started the second half with some purpose, and it was not before long that our chances to equalise arrived. Despite the unfortunate Lucas Torreira receiving a booking from Stuart Attewell for a ridiculous challenge on Stuart Cook, we kept applying considerable pressure onto the home side’s goal. As far as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was concerned, it was a case of three shots on the Bournemouth goal within five minutes; the first two were complete and utter duds, but the third and final one hit the back of the Cherries’ net on the sixty-third minute, when a Reiss Nelson shot went awry, and our number one bandit was on hand to equalise the scores.
Now we have a game! Mikel Arteta substituted Mesut Özil for Joe Willock after 75 minutes (note: no glove histrionics today) and seven minutes later, Nicolas Pépé replaced a beleaguered Reiss Nelson and we smply ramped up the pressure on the home team. For the last five minutes or so of this game, we were looking more and more likely the team to grab a late winner, and Joe Willock nearly did, with just minutes left on the clock. But it was not to be, and Mikel Arteta’s first match in charge of The Gunners ended in a draw in the rain on the south coast on Boxing Day 2019.
Overall, we were by far the better team and should have won this game quite convincingly; we showed good heart and a desire to win, even when we were one down early on in the match. Mikel Arteta asked for commitment and overall, he got just that from this team of players. We have some big matches coming up and it would be nice to get maximum points from them; and why not? They certainly have the ability to do so; maybe all that they need is a little bit of lady luck coming their way at the right time, and hey, who knows what may happen?
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: Chelsea at The Emirates on Sunday, 29th December at 2.00pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Steve

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.

MAtch report: Standard Liege 2 Arsenal 2

Standard Liège (0) 2 Arsenal (0) 2
UEFA Europa League, Group F, Matchday 6 of 6
Stade Maurice Dufrasne, Rue de la Centrale 2, 4000 Liège, Belgium
Thursday, 12th December 2019. Kick-off time: 5.55pm
(4-2-3-1) Emiliano Martínez; Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Ainsley Maitland-Niles; Joe Willock, Mattéo Guendouzi; Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith-Rowe; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Calum Chambers, Gabriel Martinelli, Tyreece John-Jules, Zak Medley, James Olayinka.
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazette (78 mins), Bukayo Saka (81 mins)
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 57%
Referee: Andreas Ekberg (Sweden)
Attendance: circa 27,000
Freddie Ljungberg’s team selection here in an extremely cold Liège evening, reflected both the confidence he feels with the team being top of Group F and with one eye on Sunday afternoon as well, which is also a good chance to have a look at some young players and their possible roles within his team structure.
Agreed, the home team had to beat Arsenal by a cricket score for us to be deposed from our position at the top of Group F, but there was surely no excuse for some sloppy play in the first half. And yet, despite all this, young Emile Smith-Rowe was extremely unlucky not to score after a quarter of an hour, and both Bukayo Saka and Reiss Nelson came close with their clever efforts. The conditions here in Liège were not exactly conducive to good football, with the ball bouncing and bobbling here and there, which made things doubly worse for our young side. Standard Liège never really looked as if they were at the races in the first forty-five minutes, but also we never capitalised on their poor performance with regards to goals scored.
Come the second half, and a different match was revealed. Within minutes of the restart, the home side took the lead with what could best be described as a most fortunate goal indeed. Samuel Bastien hit a ball from twenty yards towards our goal, and on its travels, took a ricochet from Sokratis Papastathopoulos and spun helplessly past Emiliano Martínez into the net for the first goal of the night. We became rather unsteady and unconfident after this setback, and did not create the play needed to equalise the scores.
To tell the truth, we looked patchy and indecisive, and on the sixty-ninth minute, another hammer blow to our ever-shaky confidence appeared. Incredibly, and unfortunately for us, it was another deflection that led us to be two down in this match. Just inside our penalty area, Selim Amallah’s shot caught the unlucky Konstantinos Mavropanos and yet again the ball took a different direction from what was expected by Emiliano Martínez and in the blink of an eye we were two down with twenty minutes left on the clock.
Our substitutes suddenly became technically important; Gabriel Martinelli for Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Calum Chambers replacing Ainsley Maitland-Niles meant that we were able to change the direction of the game in our favour. Nine minutes after going two down, Alexandre Lacazette scored a superb header from a Bukayo Saka cross, and then suddenly we were back in the match again. And so, three minutes later, with just nine minutes of the match remaining, Bukayo Saka, surely the Arsenal man of the match tonight, equalised the scores with an excellent right-footed shot; in another time and place, this goal would have been worthy of a trophy victory. But tonight, it enabled us to hold our heads high and head back to North London with a well-deserved draw.
Overall, this was truly a character-building match, with our young players showing what they were made of in difficult circumstances indeed. Make no mistake about it, it was great to come away from Belgium with a draw, when at times, quite frankly, we looked in trouble. It was a shame that we had to go two behind for us to wake up, spark up and drag something out of this match by the scruff of the neck. We will have more idea of how we are progressing when we host the Premiership champions on Sunday afternoon. All this and Christmas too. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, stick with the winners. Our next match: Manchester City at The Emirates on Sunday, 15th December at 4.30pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

 

Steve

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.