That was some game the Gunners played last night. We have to give it to the Chavs, they were the best team in the first half. They pressed us high and did not allow the likes of Wilshere and Xhaka to receive the ball easily (within space and with time). As a result, there were a number of semi-forced errors which luckily only cost us one goal.
Elneny did his best to find space and time to undo the Chavs’ pressure grip on the defence, and Ozil and Lacazette came deep to help out with this, but we struggled to get into our game and press our opponents back into their own half. Chelsea then suffered the loss to injury of their impressive attacking midfielder, Willian, and they never were the same again after that.
Through a lucky double-pinball head-deflection of Nacho’s wild, ambitious headed attempt on goal, we had levelled the score and saved the atmosphere in the stadium. The crowd found their voice and you could sense that they were one with the hard working 11 Gunners on the pitch; and, in return, this reenergised the players.
There were a number of balls over the top and other clever passes that led to Lacazette and Ozil being flagged off-site; and more than once those decisions went unfairly against us. Still, we were not playing our game and struggled to create scoring opportunities.
Something needed to change and Wenger got it right after half-time. We played more compact in the second half, moving as a tight unit up and down the pitch, and making Elneny, Jack and Xhaka push the opponents back into their own half. Elneny offered also more support for the CBs, and there was little space in and around Koz and Mustafi to be exploited by the now much more isolated Hazard. Conte who had, to little effect, brought on his latest signing for the well-missed Willian, had no ideas, or perhaps suitable options on the bench, to battle back against Wenger’s tactical changes.
Our boys worked hard and played with a post-Sanchez spring in their step whilst the Chavs looked more and more exhausted and clueless. We missed the guile and direct danger of the Chilean at times, but we looked and played like a team of 11+, which I have not seen for quite a while.
Lacazette worked so hard to keep things going in attack, despite a lack of service/opportunities; and Ozil did the same in midfield. We needed another bit of luck for the second, and winning, goal: Lacazette found inadvertently – via the leg of a Chelsea defender – Granit Xhaka, who was just a few yards away from goal; he pounced like a lynx and left the keeper with no chance whatsoever.
Arsenal turned on the style after the second goal, and Iwobi was presented with a great opportunity to score a truly beautiful team goal to put the game to bed. Ozil, with such class and composure, had provided him with the finest of passes and Alex met it well enough, but he gave the keeper a chance to save it and so he did. It did not matter in the end and we will now play the Northern Oilers in the final of the League Cup at the end of February.
I love Alex Iwobi and have no doubt that he will become a top-quality player. But, from watching the game in the ground last night, Henrikh Mkhitaryan will know where he is needed on the pitch, regardless of whether we will sign Aubameyang or not.