After the horrific show Mike Dean displayed on Sunday at the Hawthorns, next up for the Arsenal was Chelsea visiting the Emirates for their Premier League match and the first of three games to be played in January, as both teams are drawn to face each other in the semi-final of the Caraboa Cup.
Anything short of a draw in this match could spell disaster for the Gunners in their pursuit of Champions League football next season. Petr Cech started in goal for Arsenal, who is a clean sheet away from reaching Two Hundred Premier League clean sheets.
Alongside in the Starting XI were Calum Chambers, Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Hector Bellerin, Jack Wilshere, Granit Xhaka, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette. The team looked good but the main issue would always be the back three dealing with the threats of Chelsea.
A lack of miscommunication and understanding between Mustafi and Chambers allowed Morata through on goal as he was faced in a one-on-one situation with Petr Cech; with the Spaniard doing the unthinkable as he spurned his effort well off target that wasn’t threatening to Cech. It was, indeed, a poor take from Morata given the fact everyone thought he’d bury the ball in the back of the net.
The Gunners would find themselves asking the next question of the match but would rather count themselves quite unlucky not to have taken the lead through Alexis Sanchez as Thibaut Courtois made a remarkable save keeping the score goalless at this point.
Alexis struck the ball with such venom in the Chelsea penalty box, as Courtois got a hand on it before hitting both sides of the post, eventually holding onto the loose ball before Mesut Ozil tried to force the ball into the net.
At both ends of the pitch, both Cech and Courtois had to make good saves to keep the score line goalless in the first half. The Belgian international goalkeeper had to dive low to make a good save, preventing Lacazette from scoring who did well getting away from Christensen with a quick sharp turn.
At the other end of the pitch, Bakayoko forced Cech into parrying the ball over the bar, with the Frenchman striking the ball with power but would see his effort result into a corner kick for his team.
Ozil came threatening Courtois with a long range effort from just within the edge of the penalty box but was so close in finding the corner of the opposition post, just skimming right in-front of goal before it bounced its way out.
It was all hugs and smiles between former teammates Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez as referee Anthony Taylor blew for a foul on Fabregas against Alexis, with the Chilean reacting at first before being held by Fabregas as they smiled and hugged one another.
In the second half, Cech had to make two follow-up saves with the first effort which came from Eden Hazard, as the Czech Republic international did well to make a leg save, preventing Hazard from scoring and Bakayoko with the follow-up, providing a cross to Marcos Alonso whose header was saved by the Arsenal goalie.
Lacazette had a great chance to open the scoring of the match, but for the first time since he signed for Arsenal, I watched him waste too much time on the ball. A nifty sleek play between Ozil and Alexis found its way to Lacazette who did well getting away from his marker with the opposition keeper left as his only challenge. But, somehow, it looked like he was playing mind games as he couldn’t decide which foot to strike the ball before Courtois covered his angles and made it difficult for him to shoot.
Eventually the deadlock was broken in the 63rd minute by England’s golden boy Jack Wilshere as he lifted the atmosphere of the Emirates with a cracking goal. Rob Holding attempted a through pass to the English midfielder which came off Morata but still found Wilshere who struck the ball one time – smashing the post and going into the net of Courtois.
The level of officiating in the League seems to be rather appalling week in-week out, especially if it’s the wrong call against a team one is passionate about. Anthony Taylor awarded a penalty to the visitors against Bellerin for a foul on Hazard with replays showing it wasn’t worthy of a penalty amidst a soft touch on Hazard. The Belgian sent his former teammate (Cech) in the wrong direction as he grabbed the equaliser for the visitors.
Chelsea somehow found themselves in front in the 86th minute, courtesy of Marcos Alonso and Zappacosta. The latter did well with his dummy moves before sprinting past Maitland-Niles and then providing a low cross, which Alonso reacted quickest to in order to give his team the lead late in the game.
Never say never is the spirit of football, as the host fought back to get the equaliser in the 92nd minute and what a remarkable goal it was for Hector Bellerin. Mustafi lofted a cross for Welbeck, who didn’t connect well with the ball before dropping for Bellerin who hit the ball one time – sending it beyond the reach of Courtois and into the net.
A minute later and it felt like the Arsenal defence went to sleep, allowing Morata to run free on goal in a one-on-one situation, yet again. But he seemed to have left his scoring boot in the locker, playing the ball straight through at Cech who palmed it into the strides of Zappacosta, who would count himself unlucky as his effort struck the crossbar.
The positives to take from this match were the performances from Ozil who has been brilliant recently, Jack Wilshere who looks to be the player he once was and my man Ainsley Maitland-Niles who isn’t a natural LWB but did very good keeping Victor Moses very quiet in the match before the Nigerian international eventually got substituted for Zappacosta.