Arsenal impress in Chelsea stalemate as Alvaro Morata shows promise

Arsenal impress in Chelsea stalemate as Alvaro Morata shows promise
From ESPN - September 17, 2017

LONDON -- Three thoughts on Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon.

1. Arsenal show their mettle to deny Chelsea

Arsene Wenger has faced Chelsea 59 times since arriving at Arsenal in 1996 -- more than any other club. The Blues have been responsible for some of his most miserable days, but at Stamford Bridge on Sunday there were further signs the dynamic of this rivalry is shifting slightly.

During the Gunners' FA Cup final win in May, Chelsea's 3-4-3 formation was effectively neutralised by Wenger's decision to match defensive systems. Arsenal did the same here, though it was their physicality that made the bigger impact.

Chelsea bullying Arsenal has long been a theme of these matches -- Marcos Alonso cleaning out Hector Bellerin with a thumping header in last season's corresponding fixture sticks in the mind -- but by half-time it was the Blues who were counting their bruises.

Victor Moses and Pedro both spent time receiving treatment after heavy collisions, while David Luiz made his way gingerly down the tunnel several minutes after his teammates at the interval as a result of being bundled into the advertising hoardings.

Arsenal backed up their intensity with a high press that made Chelsea look as uncertain as at any time since the opening day of the season against Burnley. They also successfully targeted Alonso with the pace of Bellerin, and exploited the spaces around Cesc Fabregas in central midfield.

Within the space of two first-half minutes, Bellerin twice raced to the byline to deliver dangerous crosses. The first was headed wide by Danny Welbeck, the second allowed Alexandre Lacazette to force a low save from Thibaut Courtois.

The high press carried its own risks, underlined in the 21st minute when a brilliant Fabregas through pass set Pedro racing clear behind the Arsenal defence. Petr Cech, embarrassed on this ground last season, stood tall to foil the winger's attempted dink.

Aaron Ramsey went even closer before half-time, hitting the post after a mazy dribble that confounded Cesar Azpilicueta and Luiz. Lacazette blazed the rebound over the bar, and the reaction of the Arsenal bench suggested they feared it might become another one of those days.

Antonio Conte's decision to replace Pedro with Tiemoue Bakayoko at half-time was a mark of respect for the visitors, who continued to push forward as Wenger introduced Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud. Shkodran Mustafi sent the Arsenal fans into raptures when he headed in on 75 minutes, only to be correctly flagged offside. Chelsea were the ones who ended the game on the defensive, forced back by Luiz's senseless red card for a horrible lunge on Sead Kolasinac.

It was a performance that suggested Arsenal's problems in these fixtures are all too often borne out of deficiencies in attitude or application rather than capability, and should give hope to Gunners fans fearing life next season without Alexis Sanchez or Mesut Ozil -- given that neither started this match.

It also begs the question: Why do not they do this more often?

2. Morata a gem, but Blues need Hazard firing


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