4/10 Kepa, Kante struggle as Chelsea held to demoralising draw by Arsenal
LONDON -- On the face of it, Mikel Arteta has made an unimpressive start to life as Arsenal manager. Tuesday's 2-2 draw at Chelsea left him with just one win in six Premier League games since taking charge last month, and the club he described as the "biggest in England" lie in 10th position in the Premier League. Arsenal are 10 points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea, and their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League are hanging by a thread.
Yet statistics don't tell the full story where Arteta is concerned, especially after this London derby at Stamford Bridge when Arsenal emerged unbeaten, despite being reduced to 10 men after just 26 minutes following David Luiz's red card against his former club for a reckless foul on Tammy Abraham.
Progress, measured by the black and white of the league table or won-and-lost column, is hard to find, but this was a night when Arsenal showed they are displaying the green shoots of recovery that have been conspicuous by their absence for longer than anyone at the Emirates cares to remember. Young players, such as goal scorer Gabriel Martinelli and full-back Bukayo Saka (both 18), showed tenacity and ambition beyond their years, while right-back Hector Bellerin grew with the responsibility of the captaincy.
Chelsea, with an extra man and home advantage, twice took the lead, but Arsenal somehow emerged from Stamford Bridge with a point.
"I am so proud of the courage, the fight and the leadership," Arteta said. "I am very pleased.
"We are playing with a lot of young kids and what we showed tonight means we can be very proud of them. They stepped up; if a teammate makes a mistake, they have to have their back."
Arsenal are clearly at base camp in their rebuilding job under Arteta. Unai Emery was unable to bring stability and progress following Arsene Wenger's exit in May 2018, so Arteta has inherited a mess at the Emirates. His squad lacks quality in key areas, and there are too many players, such as Luiz and Mesut Ozil (who was substituted after 56 ineffectual minutes), who drag the team down due to their deficiencies.
But while Arteta has struggled to improve results since relinquishing his role as Pep Guardiola's assistant at Manchester City, he has found a way to get his players to do the basics. That should be the first objective of any manager, but Emery was unable to get his Arsenal team to fight as a collective and stick to a coherent tactical plan, so Arteta is already doing a better job than his predecessor on that score. The fact that Arsenal were a better team without Luiz and Ozil, despite being down to 10 men, says everything about the improved mentality Arteta has already instilled.
"After this game nobody will have to speak about us," Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka said. "We showed big character. A lot of people say we have no character in the team, so after this game we showed we have."
Battling and scrapping and chasing lost causes will get a team only so far, however. Arteta will have to reshape his squad in the summer to ensure that his side make greater progress in terms of results. But the stunning goals scored by Martinelli and Bellerin to secure a point will at least give Arteta the belief that he has some players who can help Arsenal get back to where they want to be as quickly as possible.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is attempting a similar rebuild at Stamford Bridge, and he is not much further up the mountain than Arteta, having been in the job since only July. Chelsea have a better squad -- a reality borne out by their position in the top four -- but they are beginning to lose momentum after winning just four of their past 12 league games.
Lampard's challenge is different to Arteta's because he has better players, but he now needs to help his young stars by adding experience to the squad. Failing to beat an opponent that has been forced to play with 10 men for more than an hour is an example of the lack of game-changing quality in Lampard's squad, and he will be concerned about slipping out of the top four if the poor run continues.
"We could have had three or four goals today," Lampard said. "Having shots, crosses and lots of 'ooh' moments. But we have to be clinical. When gameday comes you have to have the killer instinct. We've not got that at the moment.
"We might be a bit young and in a bit of transition about us, but we have to have that quality."
While Lampard was frustrated, Arteta was realistic.
"Time will tell if this is a steppingstone, but at least I saw a reaction," he said. "I demand from the players that they never give up -- we have to keep playing with the spirit we showed in every game."
Arsenal's problem in recent years has been their inability to build on good performances. If Arteta can change that, Arsenal can look forward to better days ahead.
Arsenal earned a point at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, drawing with Chelsea 2-2 on a disappointing yet dramatic night for both sides. The draw sees the Blues consolidate their position in fourth place in the Premier League, but Frank Lampard will be bitterly disappointed his side couldn't punish Arsenal's 10 men.
Jorginho broke the deadlock from the penalty spot after David Luiz brought down Tammy Abraham in the box. Luiz, returning to his former club, was sent off for his efforts. Chelsea dominated the first half and should have added to their lead, but the hosts made hard work of things in the second period. Arsenal took full advantage when Gabriel Martinelli seized on a slip from N'Golo Kante to slot home his 10th goal of the season. Cesar Azpilicueta thought he'd won it with a late toe poke, but Hector Bellerin levelled with a beautiful late curling effort.
Lampard will be scratching his head as to how and why his side enabled 10-man Arsenal back into a game in which the visitors hadn't had a single shot until the equaliser. His side were dominating the play before Luiz was sent off, with Callum Hudson-Odoi in particular a livewire from the start.
Chelsea's poor home record continues, with Tuesday's draw earning them only their 18th point at Stamford Bridge this season. Lampard's biggest frustration will be that his side didn't attack with more pace and vigour. Instead, Chelsea's play was laboured, his side not making the most of the extra man and allowing Arsenal to get numbers behind the ball. When they did attack, they were wasteful -- Hudson-Odoi, Abraham and Andreas Christensen all guilty of profligacy.
4 -- Lampard did all he could to try to liven up the pace of his side by bringing on Ross Barkley and Mason Mount, but by then the momentum of the contest had swung to the visitors. He will be frustrated by his side's inability to kill off the game.
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 4 -- With the Spain international already low on confidence, Tuesday's game will do little to help his cause. He had little to do until the first goal, and not much to do until he was again picking the ball out of the back of the net.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 -- Had little to do around his own area, but often found himself in the opposing third. He linked up well with Hudson-Odoi early on, which on one occasion enabled Mateo Kovacic a shot at goal. The two linked up well again on the hour mark, but he couldn't quite pull his cross back far enough to avoid Bernd Leno. He scored what he thought was a late winner with a well-timed toe poke.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 5 -- A steady presence at the back, sweeping behind the teammates when required but generally starting forward movements from the back. A quiet night for the central defender in which he was ultimately as culpable as his teammates of allowing Arsenal back in.
DF Andreas Christensen, 5 -- Had a glorious chance to open the scoring from a Chelsea corner in the opening exchanges. Unmarked, he seemed surprised the ball made it through so many bodies to reach him, and it subsequently hit his head and bounced wide.
DF Emerson Palmieri, 4 -- Cautioned for a fairly blatant foul on Nicolas Pepe after the Ivory Coast international's silky feet had given Emerson the runaround. He was quiet throughout but nullified Arsenal's midfield in the first half. Lost his way in the second.
MF N'Golo Kante, 4 -- A quiet and disappointing night for the World Cup winner. Arsenal didn't have a single shot on target until the goal, and that was in part down to Kante & Co. restricting their attacking movements, but he was at fault for the equaliser when his slip presented Martinelli a clear path through to Kepa's goal.
MF Jorginho, 5 -- Made no mistake from the spot when he scored his sixth penalty of the season to break the deadlock. After his customary staggered run-up, he placed the ball into Leno's bottom left-hand side, leaving the Gunners' stopper with no chance.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 5 -- The former Real Madrid man had the first chance of the game when he sent a thundering shot into Shkodran Mustafi's nether regions. He switched play well but was guilty of slowing the tempo, and was subsequently hooked by Lampard.
FW Willian, 5 -- A quiet performance in comparison to Hudson-Odoi on the opposite flank. His first major contribution was a shot in the last 20 minutes that stung Leno's hands. Busy, but no end product.
FW Tammy Abraham, 7 -- Should have scored in the 15th minute when, after Hudson-Odoi crossed to the back post, Rudiger sent a header back across goal to Abraham, who was unmarked, but he could only head straight at Leno from close range. He won the penalty that led to the opening goal when, after having seized the ball following Mustafi's under-hit back pass, he was brought down by pantomine villain Luiz with the goal at his mercy. A frustrating night for the leading scorer.
FW Callum Hudson-Odoi, 8 -- Enjoyed a lively start and was involved in all of Chelsea's attacking forays, running at players on both flanks. He struck the top of the cross bar with a cross-shot on 17 minutes and then had a superb shot on the half-volley with the outside of his foot following a neat one-two that forced Leno into a fine save at full stretch.
MF Ross Barkley, 5 -- The England midfielder came on with 22 minutes remaining to try to liven up Chelsea's attacking play. He failed on that front, but he made a clever run that enabled him to send in a glancing header that was well saved by Leno 10 minutes from time.
MF Mason Mount, 5 -- The midfielder came on for his 33rd game of the season, but could do little to change the tempo of Chelsea's play.
FW Michy Batshuayi, N/R -- The Belgium international was a late addition but couldn't influence the game.