Blues struggle to break down the deep sea of red shirts at the Bridge.
Before taking on Leicester in Saturday’s FA Cup final, Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea first had the task of overcoming their London rivals at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening.
Despite the game not holding much value for the visitors, the three points at stake were still of immense value to the Blues – who were looking to shift back into third position and secure their place within the Premier League’s top four.
Having beaten Chelsea 3-1 at the Emirates in December, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal looked to complete their first double over the Blues since the 2003/2004 campaign. However, the Gunners haven’t enjoyed much success at the Bridge in recent years, with the North London club being winless in their previous eight Premier League trips to Chelsea (two draws, six defeats).
Heading into the game, Mikel Arteta made five changes to the team that overcame West Brom on Sunday – as Pablo Marí, Kieran Tierney, Thomas Partey, Martin Ødegaard and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were all rotated into the starting eleven. The visitors were without former Blue David Luiz who is side-lined through injury, whilst Willian is named on the Arsenal bench.
Following a memorable win at the Etihad on Saturday, Thomas Tuchel made seven changes to his Chelsea side. Alongside the return of Kepa Arrizabalga – Thiago Silva, Kurt Zouma, Ben Chilwell, Jorginho, Mason Mount, and Kai Havertz all bounced back into the starting line-up.
The Blues started the game on the front foot, with Mason Mount hitting the target in the opening 5 minutes. However, effort from the English midfielder lacked pace and conviction – making it an easy stop for Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
Overall, it was a slow start to the game with neither side taking control. However, suddenly – Kai Havertz disposed Pablo Marí to find himself in a 1-on-1 opportunity with Leno. Despite the golden chance to find the opener, Havertz fired his effort over and failed to beat his fellow countryman.
Just minutes later, the Blues are made to pay as a defensive howler gifts Arsenal an early opener in South-West London.
The Blues were hurried at the back by an Arsneal press, causing a wayward back pass from Jorginho which was very nearly misplaced into his own net. The Italian midfielder was targeting Arrizabalaga, who did well to recover and scoop the ball off the line. The Spainard’s touch could have be deemed handball from the back pass, but referee Andre Marriner let play go on as the rebound found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – who squared the ball to Emile Smith Rowe for an easy tap-in.
Despite the Gunners lead, Chelsea almost bounced back just 6 minutes later as Mason Mount’s goal bound volley was crucially blocked and redirected for a corner.
The England international was involved again 5 minutes later, as Kai Havertz shifted the ball onto Mount who was once again denied by Arsenal’s German shot stopper.
The Chelsea attacks never stopped there, as the hosts later had chances through Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount once again.
Despite Chelsea’s attacking threat, the Blues struggled to find a way past the Gunners in the first half at Stamford Bridge.
Although their season has been riddled with inconsistency, Arsenal have won all 9 of their Premier League games in which they led at half time.
That impressive record was almost at risk just 2 minutes into the second half, as Chelsea were appealing for a penalty following a challenge from Gabriel on Kai Havertz.
Despite not being given the penalty, Chelsea remained on the front foot – as substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi looked to guide the ball beyond Leno and into the top corner. Instead, the winger’s effort headed into the skies as the hosts frustration began to build.
As the game rolled on to the hour mark, Chelsea had the ball in the back of the net through Christian Pulisic. However, for the fifth time in less than three games, the goal was disallowed as the American was penalised for being offside.
The Gunners responded to the scare with an attack of their own as Héctor Bellerín looked to double Arsenal’s lead. However, the Spaniard’s effort was comfortably saved by Arrizabalaga.
There were later shots from Kurt Zouma, Olivier Giroud and Kieran Tierney, with the Arsenal defenders deflected attempt being the only one which hit the target.
On the 86th minute, Chelsea continued to search for an equaliser as Giroud played a through ball to Hudson-Odoi, who played a sweeping ball across goal to Christian Pulisic. The American struggled to make clean contact on his shot, which led to yet another simple save for Bernd Leno.
As the game entered the first of the six minutes in added time, both Kurt Zouma and Olivier Giroud struck the frame of the goal within seconds as Chelsea’s troubles in front of goals continued.
As the minutes unwinded, the visitors did an excellent job of seeing the result out and earning all three points against their London rivals.
After the whistle:
Regardless of the perspective, there aren’t many positive points that can be said about either side’s performance.
Despite winning the game, Arsenal themselves didn’t pose much threat, and capitalised on a horrific Chelsea error. Following the goal, the Blues had chances to equalise, yet failed to convert as they lacked conviction when it mattered most.
With an FA Cup final around the corner, Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea would have hoped for better to give them the boost they need for Saturday’s kick off.
The defeat leaves the Blues in 4th, whilst Arsenal have benefitted from the three points as they climb into 8th. Next up for the Gunners is a trip to Selhurst Park next Wednesday.
Chelsea 0-1 Arsenal.
- Smith Rowe (16’).
BBC Sports player of the match:
Kieran Tierney (Arsenal).
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta © (78’), Silva, Zouma; James, Gilmour (45’), Jorginho, Chilwell; Mount, Pulisic; Havertz (65’).
- Subs: Hudson-Odoi (45’), Giroud (65’), Ziyech (78’).
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Leno; Holding, Gabriel, Marí, Tierney; Partey, Elneny; Saka (66’), Ødegaard, Smith Rowe; Aubameyang © (79’).
- Subs: Bellerín (66’, 88’), Lacazette (79’), Chambers (88’).
Chelsea (68%) vs Arsenal (32%).
Chelsea (19) vs Arsenal (5).
Shots on target:
Chelsea (5) vs Arsenal (2).
Chelsea (9) vs Arsenal (1).
Chelsea (7) vs Arsenal (6).
- (credit | BBC Sport).
- (credit | Sky Sports Football).
Written by Ryan Bellenie (@BellenieSport).