When there’s a rotten fruit in a basket, you take it out to prevent the other fruits in the basket from getting rotten also. This is the case of Arsenal and Alexis, so it seems, as the Gunners have been impressive in their last two games without the Chilean – completing a transfer to Manchester United earlier this week.
The Gunners took to their second leg semi-final showdown of the Carabao Cup against Chelsea at the Emirates, with the first leg ending in a goalless draw; it was all to play for at the Emirates. David Ospina, Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, Alexandre Lacazette, made the starting lineup for this encounter as they team lined up in a 4-2-3-1 system.
VAR technology was used in this fixture and took only five minutes for it to come into good use. Pedro who was in an offside position headed the ball past Ospina after receiving a cross in. It was a clear decision to make with the assistant referee raising his flag for offside.
Two minute later, poor shambolic defending from the Gunners cost them to go a goal down as they were sloppy clearing the ball from their own half. Pedro played an advancing pass to Hazard who wasn’t marked, as he slotted the ball in the bottom-corner of Ospina’s post.
The Gunners soon responded through an unsung hero in Nacho Monreal in the 12th minute, with the Spanish international being influential for the Gunners in their last two games. A corner taken by Mesut Ozil was headed by Monreal, which took a double deflection from two players (Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger) before landing in the net of Willy Caballero who couldn’t prevent the ball from going in.
The Gunners slowly got themselves back in the game but Chelsea look threatening in the first half, opening play and stretching the Gunners but lacked the cutting edge to finish up their efforts as Eden Hazard played in the main striker’s role. Granit Xhaka also had an effort from a free kick that almost dipped into the net but was just a fraction over the top.
The second half saw a more organized Arsenal, as Wenger reverted his side to his newly used 3-4-3 system, with Elneny playing in the holding role just in front of the back three and the Egyptian did quite a decent job in the holding role.
Arsenal took the lead in the 60th minute in what was a BoomXhakaLaca connection, as Lacazette and Xhaka combined well to give the team the lead. Lacazette did well holding up play in the opposition box, hitting the ball which deflected off the right foot Rudiger as Xhaka reacted quickest to poke the ball past Caballero – sending he, his teammates, fans and manager into raptures as they celebrated taking the lead.
Alex Iwobi missed a sitter to put the game beyond the opposition, after Mesut Ozil played him through on goal with Caballero as his only challenge. An advancing play from the Gunners, as Hector Bellerin played Mesut Ozil through; picking out the run of Iwobi who played the ball with his first touch but was denied by the left leg of Caballero.
A solid team performance particularly in the second half as the Gunners played as a unit, digging deep and fought hard for the win in this derby fixture. Wenger couldn’t hide the excitement on his face once the referee brought the game to an end, punching the air and congratulating his opponent Antonio Conte who hasn’t defeated him in five encounters.