Mikel Arteta could not hide his disappointment after Arsenal’s 2-1 loss to Chelsea, but he offered no excuses in his press conference afterwards. Should Jorginho not have been sent off? “We can’t change that,” he said. Was Bernd Leno’s error to blame for the collapse? “It happens.”
Instead, he conceded that Arsenal simply fell short when it mattered, that they lacked the stamina to go until the end and that their naivety was punished at crucial moments. He is under no illusions about the work that lies ahead for him at Arsenal. But it was telling that there was also a focus on the positives. “I am pleased with a lot of things that I have seen,” he said
Because aside from the crushing disappointment of the result and the manner in which Arsenal gave up the decisive goals, there was plenty to like about their overall performance. Arteta’s first home game in charge did not yield any points, but it did at least provide clear signs of progress.
Arteta had spoken about turning the Emirates Stadium into a fortress in the build-up to the game. He talked of “connecting the team with the fans” and implementing an exciting, forward-thinking playing style that would lift Arsenal up the table and change the mood around the club.
For the opening half-hour, it seemed he was already fulfilling those aims. Arsenal were irresistible in that period. Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang and Alexandre Lacazette set the tone, pressing Chelsea’s defenders aggressively high up the pitch and – together with Reiss Nelson and Mesut Ozil – springing forward at pace at every opportunity.
Some of the combination play was dazzling and the home fans showed their appreciation in the stands, applauding the flicks and feints and imploring Arsenal to keep piling forwards. From his technical area down on the touchline, Arteta cajoled his players, using breaks in play to offer encouragement and relay instructions.
The Spaniard has only had a week to work with these players, but it is a testament to his coaching ability that a side so often limp and disjointed in recent months were instead incisive and meticulously coordinated. The opening goal came from a well-worked corner, but it was from open play that Arsenal caused the most problems for Chelsea.
The visitors could not cope with their speed and movement and soon resorted to fouling them. At one point, there were three bookings in the space of four minutes, with N’Golo Kante, Mason Mount and Antonio Rudiger all penalised for late challenges. At the break, Chelsea had committed 13 fouls – the most in one half by any side all season.
Arsenal’s dominance forced Frank Lampard into an early change of system, with Jorginho replacing Emerson as he switched to four at the back. Jorginho gave Chelsea greater control of the midfield and would go on to score the equaliser, but Arteta will also be encouraged by how Arsenal kept them contained before the late collapse.
Source: Sky Sports