Lukaku commanding but Gunners looking as bad as anyone in the EPL
22nd August 2021, Emirates Stadium
Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea
Taking nothing away from Chelsea, I feel compelled to wonder what the odds are on Arsenal being relegated this season. Okay, this defeat was mitigated by being at the hands of the European Champions, and one of the Premier League’s best teams. But still, Arsenal are now in the early relegation zone, and have looked absolutely abject in their first two games. Only Norwich City are beneath them in the Premier League on goal difference, and Norwich can point to the deep misfortune that their first two matches were against the last two title-winners. One of Arsenal’s first two matches, with respect, was against Brentford.
The last time Arsenal were in the relegation zone was way back in 1992, scant weeks after the Premier League began. A crumb of comfort to be taken from that is that in 1992-93, Arsenal eventually won a domestic cup double. No evidence to suggest a repeat is on the cards here though.
But instead of focusing on Arsenal misery, let us instead give credit to Thomas Tuchel and his Chelsea team, who are now the main threat to Manchester City and Liverpool in the title tug-of-war. They were light years ahead of Arsenal, and always looked sure winners. Even though Arsenal, clearly bruised by deserved condemnation for the Brentford shambles, started with great endeavour, Chelsea shepherded their attacks with a calmness that bordered on condescenscion, and settled to their own attacking game without needing do much to earn the right to.
Chelsea’s opener came on fifteen minutes, and it fell to Romelu Lukaku, making his second full debut for the club ten years after the first, to side-foot the ball home after Chelsea’s slick pass-and-move made a mockery of Arsenal’s ‘offside trap.’ If Tony Adams was watching this, he must have baulked at how easily the back line was unlocked. From there, Arsenal surrendered limply.
The second goal, looking inevitable, arrived a little over five minutes before half-time, and it was a rattling good strike from Reece James after being cleverly played in by Mason Mount.
Lukaku, showing a superb deftness of touch throughout that had eluded him in his spells with Everton and Manchester United, should really have added a third, but for a fine save by Bernd Leno, turning the Belgian’s header onto the crossbar. Lukaku was great, absolutely uncontrollable for an Arsenal defence shorn of Ben White due to a Covid scare.
But then, in every position, Chelsea won the individual duels with Arsenal counterparts, and collectively they had much greater cohesion, both in attack and defence. Only Bukayo Saka showed real promise for Arsenal, and even he was snuffed out at the crucial moment every time by an expert Chelsea back line. Although Saka did have reason to feel aggrieved when he was not awarded a penalty for an obvious push by James.
Arsenal can have no real complaint. Their performance was less than the sum of the team’s parts.
Next for Chelsea; fellow hundred-percenters Liverpool at Anfield.
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