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Arsenal 2 - Chelsea 2 match report: mostly bad, some good (enough)

The Gunners battled back to earn a point at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Arsenal came back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw at Chelsea on a wet, sloppy evening in West London. It was a pretty poor performance from the Gunners, who still just don’t look right or like they are firing on all cylinders this season. A semi-competent first half had the commentators singing Chelsea’s praises, but those songs went strangely quiet when the Blues stopped playing in the final 20-25 minutes of the match.

From where I sit, it’s a disappointing result from the Gunners. Sure, you’re happy that Arsenal came back from 2-0 down to earn a point, but in reality, that’s two points dropped against a thoroughly mediocre side. I think Mikel Arteta got it wrong started Jorginho in the midfield and Declan Rice in a more advanced position. The Italian doesn’t do well against athletic, high-energy opposition, like Chelsea have with Caicedo, Enzo, and Gallagher. The Arsenal attack was wanting for another technician like Kai Havertz or Emile Smith Rowe, too.

Arsenal played poorly for the first 60-odd minutes of the match and were gifted a way back in when Robert Sanchez misplaced a pass for Declan Rice, who was easily Arsenal’s best player on the pitch, to fire into the empty net (from a decent distance, mind you).

The Arsenal second goal was incredible. Kai Havertz, who made a difference when he came on, laid the ball off for Bukayo Saka. Saka’s ball to the back post was otherworldly. Inch perfect. And it was an excellent effort from Leandro Trossard to get on the end of it and touch it in, too.

Mikel Arteta’s subs once again made the difference. Takehiro Tomiyasu locked down a defense that looked shaky in the first half. Trossard scored. Havertz provided physicality and control. Emile Smith Rowe got involved in the play. Eddie Nketiah brought energy, although some of his decision-making nearly had me throwing things at the television. Arsenal have the ability to bring on fresh, quality players as “finishers” in matches, a marked change from last season, that has been decisive two games running.

Today on TSF Referee Watch: Arsenal were on the wrong end of the three biggest calls in the game. It also felt like Marc Cucurella was targeting Bukayo Saka, trying to re-injure his leg, and was given far too much leeway to foul him after getting beat.

  • Cole Palmer managed to stay on the pitch after going in late, studs up, and from behind on Gabriel Jesus.
  • Chelsea were awarded a penalty for a handball on William Saliba that virtually every former player in the media agreed shouldn’t be a penalty.
  • Arsenal weren’t given a penalty when Robert Sanchez came flying off his line, was nowhere near the ball, and smashed into Gabriel Jesus on a play reminiscent of Onana against Wolves, a play the PGMOL apologized for not calling a penalty.

Those were all calls that could have gone either way. It’s unfortunate they all went against Arsenal. If the Gunners get one of them they likely pull out a somewhat undeserved victory.

The Gunners might also have won the match if Oleksandr Zinchenko wasn’t a disaster defending. Or if Jorginho didn’t have an absolute ‘mare. Or if Arsenal could find a way to get Martin Ødegaard involved and / or the captain got himself into the match.

Or if David Raya didn’t get caught out. To be fair to the keeper, Mudryk completely miskicked the ball and it wound up in the back of the net, but either way, he probably shouldn’t be getting beat from there. He got caught leaning, I think. He got lucky minutes later when an awful turnover didn’t lead to what would have been a backbreaking third goal. I’m not sure the David Raya experiment has worked, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Aaron Ramsdale get another shot sooner rather than later.

Arsenal remain unbeaten in the Premier League this season, but only just. They’d be the most unconvincing unbeaten side in ages if it weren’t for Tottenham, who I think are fraudulent, somehow also being unbeaten.

The Gunners have an attacking problem. They are not generating enough going forward. The play isn’t as fluid and the chances aren’t there. Some of that is because the preferred attacking three started just their first match together all season today. But the issue may run deeper than that. I’m willing to give it a bit of time and see how things look with Saka, Martinelli, and Jesus playing together, but the attack needs to get better.

Hey, sometimes the points come ugly. Arsenal are keeping pace in the league while not being anywhere near their best. As long as they don’t dig themselves a hole, they’ll be in a pretty good position when they find their form. But man, did they try hard to immediately undue all their hard work to win against Manchester City. On to the next.