Euro 2020 Special
 

Premier League: Arsenal Battle Hard to Beat the Blues

Chelsea 0-1 Arsenal

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal sprung a surprise tonight as they earned a 1-0 win away to high-flying Chelsea, thanks to a battling display and a helping hand from their hosts.  

Premier League Chelsea vs Arsenal is one of the classic London derbies and there was plenty riding on this one. The Blues wanted a win to cement their Champions League place while the Gunners were playing for pride and with the slightest chance of grabbing a Europa League place.

Having beaten 2021 champions Manchester City in a battle of the juggernauts last week, Chelsea were fully expected to see off their visitors, but a defensive blunder allowed Emile Smith-Rowe to give Arsenal an early lead. And they hung on despite Chelsea throwing everything at them and hitting the woodwork twice.

Highlights of the game

Emile Smith Rowe pushes Arsenal to eighth with victory over Chelse
Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe celebrates scoring a goal with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang against Chelsea

With the Chelsea vs Arsenal betting odds at 1.99 for a Blues win and Arsenal at 3.73, even though the Gunners won the reverse match on Boxing Day, it was no surprise that the hosts started on the front foot.

Kai Havertz had a golden opportunity with just 10 minutes on the clock; he was clean through on goal and lifted his shot over the keeper but over the bar as well. You’d have to take a look at the Chelsea vs Arsenal highlightsto see just what a bad miss it was, though I doubt the young German will be watching them.  

But then, only five minutes later, the hosts were wondering how they found themselves 1-0 down and, in all honesty, it was a complete howler; so uncharacteristic of this Thomas Tuchel team.

Jorginho played a back-pass without looking, and stand-in keeper Kepa was caught unawares, and he had to scramble back across the goal-line to stop an own goal. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seized on the loose ball, pulled it back to Smith-Rowe, who scuffed his shot, but it rolled into the net for his second goal in two games.  

Chelsea fought back, as expected, and Mason Mount’s goal-bound effort midway through the first half was blocked. Bernd Leno then made an excellent save to deny the midfielder minutes later.

The hosts continued to probe in the early stages of the second half, and Havertz had a penalty shout when he nudged the ball past Pablo Mari and went down under the Spaniard’s challenge, but the referee was unmoved. And Chelsea thought they’d taken the lead when Pulisic bundled the ball into the net, but his effort was chalked off for offside.  Arsenal brought Hector Bellerin on and he tested Kepa almost immediately with a low shot after a slick move. But it was a rare foray into the Chelsea half and as the hosts pressed for a leveller they came so close in the dying minutes when Kurt Zouma saw a looping header tipped onto the crossbar by Leno and Olivier Giroud smashed his shot against the upright.

Key statistics

Despite having eight shots to Arsenal’s two, in the first half, and three to one on target, the Blues found themselves a goal behind.  

Arsenal’s last win at Stamford Bridge was 10 years ago, in an eight-goal thriller, as Robin Van Persie scored a hat-trick to give Arsene Wenger’s team a thrilling 5-3 win. Mikel Arteta was in the Gunners’ lineup that day.  

Chelsea had lost in each of their last eight Premier League games at Stamford Bridge when behind at halftime, a fact which can’t have given Blues fans much comfort. By the final whistle, Chelsea had registered 19 shots to Arsenal’s five and five to two on target as the Gunners held on to complete their first double over Chelsea since the Invincibles’ season of 2003/4.

What’s next?

Chelsea need to recover quickly. On Saturday they face Leicester City in the FA Cup final, before meeting the Foxes again, the following Tuesday, in a battle for third place in the Premier League. 

The Blues’ last league game is away to Aston Villa, and then they are in the Champions League final against Manchester City, having seen off Real Madrid in the semis. Take a look at the SBOTOPodds for that huge match, Pep Guardiola’s Sky Blues will start as favourites, but having beaten City twice in recent weeks Tuchel’s boys will fancy their chances.

Meanwhile, the Gunners conclude their season with two very winnable games, against Crystal Palace and Brighton and Hove Albion.