In perhaps the most entertaining game of the young Premier League season so far, Chelsea beat London rival Arsenal 3-2 on Saturday at Stamford Bridge.
The home side opened the scoring when Pedro struck nine minutes into the match, and the Blues doubled their advantage through Alvaro Morata at the half-hour mark.
Arsenal came roaring back almost immediately, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan starting the comeback, then supplying the assist on Alex Iwobi’s equalizer before halftime. But Marcos Alonso put the Blues ahead for good with less than 10 minutes to play.
Here are three quick thoughts on the match:
1. Exciting? Yes. Quality? Not so much
It was only the second match of the 2018-19 campaign for both teams, and it showed. The amount of sloppy play on display was almost jarring at times given the stature of the clubs involved, with errors all over the field, especially at the beginning of the match.
Arsenal’s finishing, in particular, was borderline amateurish early on. Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both skied point-blank chances in the first half, and both of them missed other opportunities that were almost as good.
And while the end-to-end play was a treat for fans, the poor defending by both sides will probably keep Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri and his Arsenal counterpart Unai Emery awake tonight.
2. Chelsea far from convincing
When Sarri was introduced after replacing Antonio Conte earlier the summer, he said he hoped his team would play an entertaining brand of football. This, however, probably wasn’t what he had in mind. While Chelsea looked in sync going forward – the run Morata made to receive the long pass before his goal, combined with the perfectly executed cutback-finish, was a thing of beauty – they gave the visitors way too many chances.
Even the presence of all-world – and World Cup-winning – destroyer N’Golo Kante in Chelsea’s midfield couldn’t stop Arsenal from making repeated forays into the final third of the field and creating dangerous chances. A 2-0 lead should have been more than enough for Chelsea to see the game out at home. Sure, Sarri’s team got the goal it needed to secure all three points in the end, and the smile on the coach’s face after the final whistle said he knew he stole one on Saturday. But if the Blues truly intend to compete for the title they relinquished to Manchester City last season, they’ll have to be far stingier the rest of the way.
3. Arsenal unlucky, but must blame themselves
Unlike last week’s loss to Man City, the Gunners can take plenty of positives from this match. And if their finishing had been a bit sharper, they might have taken a point or three as well.
Arsenal came into the game in a tough spot. Needing a morale-boosting result after last week’s defeat at home, they were up against one of their chief rivals, who also happen to be among the richest clubs on Earth.
After going down by two goals, they could’ve packed it in. Instead, the fight they showed to quickly get back into the game says that Emery has plenty of character to work with. The finishing will sharpen as the season goes on. One has to think the Gunners’ main weakness – at the back – will improve with reps, too. On the other hand, the table as it stands says they are 17th after starting the season with consecutive losses. Chelsea is leading the pack. That can’t sit with anyone at Arsenal, least of all Emery.
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