*Hector Bellerin, Arsenal stand-in Captain for the night taking the kick that saw Arsenal equalise
Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga is going through one of those stages when he does not save very much. He will hope it does not last but for the time being he continues to look cursed. Neither of Arsenal’s equalisers were particularly his fault here, but nevertheless the visiting team had two shots all night and they both went in.
That is never a great look and after a horror show at Newcastle on Saturday — when Chelsea somehow managed to lose a game they had dominated, four minutes into added time — they suffered once again. This is a difficult time for manager Frank Lampard. After guiding his team so impressively through the early stages of his first season, Lampard’s grip on fourth place in the Premier League is beginning to loosen. And when things start to turn against you, it can start to feel as though they will never turn back.
This was a game that Chelsea were dominating long before the moment Arsenal lost defender David Luiz to a red card in the 26th minute. The Gunners had not looked terribly clever before then and were even less convincing thereafter. But Chelsea’s other problem at the moment is turning territory into goals. It cost them in the North East on Saturday — Lampard saying as much afterwards — and it cost them again here. Maybe that is why Chelsea are courting Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani and are happy to let that be known.
The statistics of this evening in west London told their own story. Chelsea had 19 shots and 16 corners, but how many saves of note did Arsenal’s Bernd Leno make? Two, perhaps: a block from Callum Hudson-Odoi in the first half and a late save from a Ross Barkley header. That is not enough creativity for a team playing against 10 men and it is a problem that will no doubt trouble Lampard ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Hull City.
Arsenal will take heart from this display. Mikel Arteta’s team deserve credit for hanging in there, but that is about as far as it goes. The truth is that they never really looked like getting anything until Chelsea invited them back into the game in the second period. Early on, Chelsea were better by a distance and could have taken the lead when Mateo Kovacic’s shot struck Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi rather than the back of the net.
Then Tammy Abraham headed straight at Leno rather than the two metres of empty goal either side of him. But before long, Chelsea were given the help they evidently needed. Mustafi’s back pass to Leno was horribly under-hit and when Abraham skipped past the keeper, Luiz — formerly of this parish — felled him on the six-yard line. As Luiz was walking down the tunnel, Jorginho was stroking the penalty into the net. Arsenal looked done already. Unable to keep the ball when they had 11 men, it was almost beyond them once they had 10.
Had Chelsea scored again while they dominated, Arsenal would have rolled over, but only Hudson-Odoi came close, driving in a strong shot after N’Golo Kante had flicked the ball cleverly to him on the edge of the area. And this, over time, was Chelsea’s failing. For all their comfortable, controlled possession, they did not really create anything. Three times in the first 10 minutes of the second half, Chelsea fans appealed rather desperately for penalty-box handballs. That summed up the mood. And then came calamity.
Arsenal cleared a corner to the edge of their own area in the 64th minute and their 18-year-old forward Gabriel Martinelli picked up possession. As he moved forwards, the best thing he did was apply an inadvertently heavy touch. That invited Kante to intercept in the centre circle, but when the France midfielder slipped and fell, Martinelli was clear on goal. He advanced to the 18-yard line and beat Kepa calmly.
It was a horror moment for Kante but a sweet one for Martinelli, who became the first teenager since Nicolas Anelka in 1998-99 to score 10 goals in a season for the Gunners. Nice work. Predictably, Chelsea pushed back. Leno saved from Barkley, but when Abraham won a corner cleverly off Rob Holding, Hudson-Odoi crossed low to find every Arsenal player had moved up apart from Granit Xhaka. Cesar Azpilicueta accepted the gift with a side-footed shot from six yards. With only six minutes left, it seemed Chelsea had won the game for the second time.
But there was a chaotic edge to affairs by now and when Hector Bellerin swung a low, left-foot shot across Kepa and into the far corner from the angle of the area, a strangely compelling evening was complete. Could Kepa have saved it? Possibly. On the back of recent evidence, he was never likely to.
**Culled from DailyMail