Bloggerkayrico of Ghnewsfile looks back on the talking points from Chelsea’s 4-2 loss against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.
There were some obvious standout performers in Arsenal’s 4-2 win over Chelsea on Wednesday night, but it’s worth focusing on the unsung heroes first. As the Gunners’ top four challenges veered off course in recent weeks, one of the things that made it feel more terminal than previous bumps in the road this season was how much it exposed the perceived lack of depth.
Injuries to Thomas Partey, Kieran Tierney, and Takehiro Tomiyasu disrupted what appeared to be a solely upward trajectory at the Emirates, and the quality gap between the starting XI and the squad players saw Arsenal’s form plummet. However, with their backs to the wall at Stamford Bridge, it was the second string that took the lead.
Of course, Eddie Nketiah will get the attention, but a special mention must go to Mohamed Elneny, who was outstanding at the base of the midfield. Only Aaron Ramsdale had fewer touches than Romelu Lukaku, and this was largely due to the work Elneny did in cutting off the supply line to Chelsea’s number nine.
Nuno Tavares, on the other hand, had his second solid game in a row. He was admittedly ball-watching for Cesar Azpilicueta’s strike, but his quick reaction to intercept the Spaniard’s misplaced pass essentially made Nketiah’s second, which ultimately proved to be a knockout blow for Chelsea.
Rob Holding, who made his first start in any competition since January, also recovered from a shaky start to produce a creditable backs-to-the-wall performance as Arsenal sat deeper towards the end of the game.
Mikel Arteta was eager to highlight the performance of those he had turned to in difficult times following the game. highlighting their character to maintain professionalism despite limited playing opportunities “If you look at the training session we had on Sunday after the loss, if you look at Mo Elneny, Rob, Nicolas Pepe, how they trained, I think that’s why we won,” the Spaniard said in his post-match press conference.
“Before the game, I told them that good things happen to good people, and we have some really, very wonderful individuals in that locker room, and it shows when they aren’t participating, not in the happy moments. They did well today because of how much they care for themselves and how much they care for the team.”
While there is no doubt that Arsenal will need to bring in reinforcements if they are to reduce the gap on a team like Chelsea, the present crop’s dedication to the goal of qualifying for the Champions League cannot be questioned. The Gunners’ second-string stepped up when they were required.
Nketiah transmits a transfer message
When footage of Alexandre Lacazette’s return to the team for Wednesday night’s encounter was published on social media, many anticipated Eddie Nketiah would be the one to miss out. The England under-21 had not done badly while standing in for Lacazette during the 1-0 loss to Southampton as he recovered from COVID-19, but given the established pecking order at the Emirates, it appeared unlikely that he would start.
Mikel Arteta will be thanking his stars that he did, as he came up with two goals that look to have sent Arsenal back into the top four. What was particularly intriguing about the strikes was that they were goals that he could score but Lacazette would almost certainly not be able to.
Yes, Nketiah was lucky in that Andreas Christensen miskicked his backpass to Edouard Mendy for the first goal, but imagine Arsenal’s number nine having the determination to push that high up the pitch, followed by the mobility to run away and finish with accuracy. The second was also lucky, but it’s difficult to see Lacazette being such a proactive focal point in the center of the box that he could feed off such crumbs.
It may make you ask why we haven’t seen the 22-year-old sooner, and Arteta explained why after the game. “If there is one guy I believe I have been unjust to, it is him,” the Spaniard remarked. “He’s given me every right to try something new, and if Eddie doesn’t play more, it’s my problem, and it’s because I missed something as a manager, or I didn’t have the bravery to play him more. Today he demonstrated again further how mistaken I was.”
To be honest, there were still things that reminded people who had misgivings why they had them. Nketiah equaled his Premier League goals tally for Arsenal since June 2020 in one night at Stamford Bridge, while his trampoline-like link-up play gave lost possession cheaply in the build-up to Timo Werner’s opening equalizer.
Despite Arteta’s public pleas to persuade him to stay, Hale Ender appears to have made up his mind about his plans. Almost immediately after full time, he retweeted a link to an interview he gave earlier this week, in which he asked for more opportunities to demonstrate his ability on the football field and admitted that he is far from certain of being an Arsenal player next season.
Regardless of his performance at Stamford Bridge, most Gunners fans have probably made their peace with him. But there is still work to be done between now and the end of the campaign. Nketiah is a lock to start against Manchester United this weekend, and with Champions League qualification on the line, the hope is that he can live up to the high expectations that he’s placed on himself.
Saka exorcises the summer ghosts
Bukayo Saka was not supposed to take the penalty that gave Arsenal their first back-to-back away wins over a big six opponent since 2012. Indeed, as Mikel Arteta revealed after the game, there was general panic among the Gunners bench as the 20-year-old stepped up to take the penalty kick.
“I thought Gabi would take it, but then I saw Bukayo was going to take it,” the Spaniard explained. “Honestly, the first thing that came to mind was the summer and what happened.” Everyone is aware of what that is by this point.
Saka had to endure something at the age of 19 that no one should have to endure at any age, as he was subjected to a barrage of racist abuse after missing a crucial penalty kick in England’s EURO 2020 final. That has been a constant source of anxiety for him since. Even on Wednesday night, vile and tasteless chants of “you let your country down” could be heard from some Chelsea fans who booed him during the reverse fixture at the Emirates in August.
Regardless, Hale Ender has risen above it, building on a season that saw him earn a starting spot in England’s first successful international semi-final in 55 years. Saka now has more Premier League goals and assists than any other player under the age of 21, and he has reached double figures in his first season as a forward.
Even so, it would have been easy for him to avoid the penalty at Stanford Bridge. Bigger players have already done so. Dennis Bergkamp never took another penalty kick for Arsenal after missing one in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final. Saka, on the other hand, appears to be made of tougher stuff.
As he nestled his kick into the top right corner, a weight lifted from his shoulders as he exorcised the demons of last summer. The Arsenal squad, as has been the case since that day in July, were overjoyed for him and spent as much time as they could celebrating.
“I told you guys when that happened to Bukayo, it happened for a reason,” Arteta said, reflecting on a pivotal night in the 20-year-career. old’s “He’s learned a lot and been through a lot, which is why he’s having the season he’s having today. For him to have the courage to say, ‘I’m going to take it again,’ even though I’m sure it was in the back of his mind, is outstanding, even if he missed it.”
The top four are back on.
Perhaps it’s the fatalistic nature of the modern football observer, but as Arsenal suffered their third consecutive defeat, it appeared as if their chances of qualifying for the Champions League had vanished. Tottenham had opened a door earlier in the day by losing to Brighton, but the Gunners had done everything they could to slam it shut again.
Sure, it was technically in Arsenal’s hands if they won every game from now until the end of the season, but look who they had to play! The European champions, one of the most expensively assembled squads in the Premier League, and Europa League semi-finalists – and that was only the first three games!
Even the most optimistic fans didn’t give Mikel Arteta’s men a chance as they arrived at Stamford Bridge depleted and deflated, but the Spaniard’s message to his players before kickoff was clear. “I told them that if they want to play Champions League football, they have to come to these big stages and beat the best teams,” he said after the game. “We finished it tonight.”
By doing so, the Gunners have effectively re-entered the Champions League race. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the top four race, it’s that nothing can be taken for granted, but with Manchester United’s performance against Liverpool on Tuesday, Arsenal would surely fancy their chances in their upcoming match on Saturday. Following that is a trip to West Ham, whose minds will most likely be turned by the two Europa League semi-final legs that sandwich that game. Things are suddenly looking brighter.
What is clear is that the Gunners are determined to achieve their goal. “They’ve been disappointed because they have hope, they can see it there after a long time for the club and they see that it’s there for the taking,” Arteta said after the game.
“Then, after one disappointment, two, and even three, they say, “We don’t deserve to lose these matches.” We have 23 shots to their two, and we are losing the matches.’ Some of them find it difficult to comprehend. However, the gap mentioned in this game will cause you to suffer because when you expect something, something different happens, and this is the beauty and reason why we are all here.”
Momentum is gold dust at this point in the season, and a win in a derby like that one will undoubtedly provide Arsenal with plenty. This thin Gunners squad has been given a boost that may just be enough to get them over the finish line.