On a lovely summers evening at Stamford Bridge two London giants with new managers clashed in what might already be the game of the season, as Chelsea secured a thrilling 3-2 victory over their rivals Arsenal.
It is fair to say that “Sarriball” is in full effect, and equally fair to say that shaking Arsenal out of the late Wenger period will take a bit longer than a few weeks and buying a holding midfielder. The state of flux of both teams led to a ludicrous, end to end encounter which produced a ridiculous forty shots and ended with Chelsea edging a five goal thriller.
Both managers made surprising team selections, with Emery making two changes in swapping Ramsey for Iwobi and Maitland Niles being replaced by Monreal but still leaving Lacazette out, whilst Sarri picked the same side that dispatched Huddersfield meaning Hazard again sat on the bench. Ruben Loftus Cheek was also left out of the squad as Chelsea started their role as the Real Madrid development squad by naming Kovacic for his debut.
The early exchanges were dominated by Jorginho and David Luiz who has been reintegrated into the team not so much a sweeper more like a false number five as the evolution from Conte’s conservative style to Sarri’s continued apace. Despite the early possession, Chelsea conceded the first two chances as Aubameyang rolled a tame shot into the arms of Arrizabalaga and then Ozil swept a shot wide. A minute later Marcus Alonso left Mkhitaryan with embarrassing ease and squared for Pedro who left Bellerin with embarrassing ease and slid past Petr Cech for an 8th minute lead.
In the following ten minutes Chelsea carved Arsenal open three times by exploiting Mkhitaryan; Kante set up Barkley and Willian nearly found Pedro as Chelsea poured forward. Eventually the pressure told as Morata chased down an Azpiliqueta lump up front and bullied and turned Mustafi inside out like a Diego Costa tribute act, a really good one though, one who make a lot of money doing weddings.
Chelsea’s second came a minute after Aubameyang had missed an open goal from eight yards, this was followed by a Mkhitaryan miss from eight yards in near identical fashion – the Jedward of identical shocking misses. By the half hour mark Emery was so pensive, so agitated, so broken he may aswell have had a long grey coat he couldn’t unzip.
But out of nowhere Arsenal finally found their touch in the penalty area as Mkhitaryan drilled in from the edge of the area under Arrizabalaga, who ought to have done better before the Armenian pulled back to the previously ineffectual Iwobi who smashed it into the roof of the net. A riotous first half still had time for Aubameyang to scuff another sitter and Iwobi to blaze over.
The second half started in the same fashion as the hopeless Xhaka was replaced by Torreira and Arsenal created two quick fire chances as Aubameyang’s work found no one in the middle and Monreal had a header blocked.
Chances were created and frittered at breakneck speed and if the chaos threatened to subside an attacking substitute was thrown on, Hazard for Willian, Ramsey for Ozil. And when the pace slowed on came Lacazette and Giroud as both teams slugged each other to a standstill.
Kante missed a great chance with ten minutes to go as he headed over from ten yards, another indication of how is game may develop, before Lacazette sloppily gave the ball away and allowed Hazard to dance his way past Bellerin and cut back to Marcus Alonso who swept a gorgeous low finish past Cech to restore Chelsea’s lead. There was still time for both Hazard and Giroud to bring smart saves from Cech and Aaron Ramsey to nearly give the game the three all scoreline it deserved with a dipping volley that went just over.
Both teams now move on to much more favourable runs of fixtures as Chelsea travel to Newcastle and then host Bournemouth and Cardiff while Arsenal play West Ham and then Cardiff, but on today’s showing both have work to do to regain a Champions League place. Arsenal did show some spark and fight here today which suggests the bottom 14 will be swept aside in some shellackings, whilst Chelsea look to have all the tools to compete but maybe Sarriball needs some Conte-ball throwing in just to remind someone at the club to defend.