ARSENAL VS CHELSEA: 4 THINGS WE LEARNED
ARNAV KHANNA | 23rd August 2021
When Romelu Lukaku tapped Chelsea’s opener into a gaping net, one couldn’t help but be confused whether to laugh or simply feel bad for Arsenal at this point. Such was the extent of Chelsea’s domination and the Gunners’ ineptness that the game had started providing comedic relief instead of being a tactical match-up.
Chelsea never got out of second gear yesterday. Well, they didn’t have to. Arsenal coupled a weak lineup with even weaker tactics, allowing Tuchel’s men to essentially coast through what seemed like a training match.
What we learnt from this game is basically what everyone else would have learnt but here we go anyway.
Big Rom Is Back
If you’re a fan of “proper No. 9” performances, then you must have been smiling ear-to-ear yesterday. Romelu Lukaku put in a textbook display as the focal point of his team’s attack – scoring a tap-in after displaying excellent movement, pinning the backline with his runs, bullying the center-halves and holding the ball up to link play – he ticked every single box.
And speaking of bullying centre-halves, a penny for Pablo Mari’s thoughts because his obliteration will be used as example for years to teach the phrase, “men against boys” in schools.
Going back to the main man, more than just his feet, it was the Scudetto champion’s demeanor and mentality that have risen from the grave. A shell of a man during his final days at United, you could feel the hunger and intent oozing from him as he went about his business yesterday.
This isn’t a man with something to prove, this is a man who is showing the Premier League what they have missed.
1.41 – Romelu Lukaku posted a non-penalty expected goals figure of 1.41 against Arsenal, the highest return of any player in the Premier League so far this season. He has put up a higher figure only eight times in 325 games in Europe's top five leagues. Feast. pic.twitter.com/MB5FODjr2c
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 22, 2021
By going past Ian Wright’s goal tally of 113 goals, Lukaku was more than happy to add to the Emirates’ blues.
Add to that Tuchel’s system where bombarding fullbacks and constant runners into the channel is a signature and you begin to understand why Chelsea and Lukaku is a match made in heaven.
Arteta looks like he’s run out of ideas
I would try to go gentle on Mikel Arteta if he had left any scope of salvation for himself. Hint: he hasn’t.
20 – Mikel Arteta suffered his 20th defeat as Arsenal manager in the Premier League, in what was his 60th game – while Arsène Wenger didn’t register his 20th defeat with the Gunners in the competition until his 116th game. Gulf. pic.twitter.com/NRgTaGKFSW
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 22, 2021
His comedy of errors started off with him not setting up with a 3-4-3 formation to match Chelsea’s shape, an essentiality considering a host of reasons.
Firstly, just personnel wise, it’s unfair to even consider the tie a contest. Secondly, you add the COVID outbreak that has hamstrung Arsenal as well as the injury to Thomas Partey and it’s a shambles. Thirdly, a concoction of a rigid low-block and Aubameyang’s brilliance bagged them the FA Cup, against all odds.
Unsurprisingly, it was a constant 5v4 in the Arsenal final third as Reece James had the game of his life, with a goal and an assist apiece.
With Kieran Tierney being pulled inside by Mason Mount’s clever movement and James doing his best impression of roadrunner down the right flank, the Scotsman had one of his worst games in an Arsenal shirt.
And that’s due to a numerical disadvantage, Mari being taken to the cleaners and a clearly unfit Saka not fulfilling his tracking back duties.
As the Gunners played hosts to their fans after a COVID-stricken season, the Arsenal fans in attendance did not deserve to witness tactical suicide from their gaffer.
How to be a wing-back: The Reece James Blueprint
I cannot recall seeing a wing-back turn another team inside out the way Reece James did in that first-half mand he was rewarded handsomely for his graft, with a goal and an assist.
The assist was a perfectly weighted ball to Romelu Lukaku and the goal was a thunderous finish that Chelsea’s No.9 would have been proud of.
He was arguably the most well-rounded fullback in the league last season and if he keeps bossing it and especially in big games like these, there won’t be a single argument against him after a point.
Reece James’ game by numbers vs. Arsenal:
93% pass accuracy
6 duels won
4 chances created
4 ball recoveries
2 fouls won
Flying forward at every opportunity. 🏃♂️ pic.twitter.com/taOpjzA4hf
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 22, 2021
A physical specimen who can go toe-to-toe against any winger you put him against, he has transformed into an absolute demon in transition.
An added 93% pass accuracy in the game shows the England international isn’t just all action and knows when less is more, keeping things simple. Not a surprise considering the Cobham lad won Wigan’s Player of The Season as a defensive midfielder.
It’s against the big boys where Tuchel unleases the rampant Reece, be it the Champions League final or Mission Annihilate Arsenal and the 21-year old goes full beast mode.
Wing-backs, this is how you do it.
Arsenal’s over-reliance on the youngsters is alarmingly embarrassing
As a general rule, seasoned veterans carry the club’s burden on their backs while allowing the youngsters to grow into their best selves, considering the weight of expectations on their inexperienced shoulders. At Arsenal, the opposite seems to be the case.
If one of Saka or Smith-Rowe do not produce a moment of magic, then you can be assured that the Emirates faithful will probably have nothing to cheer about.
While the likes of Xhaka and Mari dawdle about in the defensive third, the teenagers in attack look exasperated as they struggle to string three passes together.
Saka was clearly unfit, considering he played the most gruelling season of his life and add to that his penalty miss in the final of the Euros- the 19-year old needs a mental break more than a physical one.
Albert Sambi Lokonga, by the looks of it was supposed to be a “project signing” like Gabriel Martinelli but as things stand, it’s impossible to imagine a Gunners midfield without the Belgian.
If it wasn’t on Flo Balogun to turn into Kylian Mbappe out of nowhere, this time it was on Gabriel Martinelli to become R9
This lopsided dynamic isn’t just hurting Arsenal on the pitch, but there couldn’t be a worse environment to develop under for their young bucks.
When Mason Mount needs someone to lean on, he’s only got seasoned vets in N’Golo Kante and Jorginho. When Mason Greenwood isn’t firing, top dogs like Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford have their bullets ready. When Phil Foden has an off day, Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez turn it on.
At Arsenal, the less said, the better.