Football

Misery for Arteta after Chelsea’s Abraham grabs late winner at Arsenal


Mikel Arteta put his hands up to his face and keep them there for a while, before dragging his fingers down. The Arsenal manager could not bear to look; he was a case study in anguish. Arsenal had been 1-0 up, thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 13th-minute header and, although the balance of the game had swung, there was not long left for them to hang on.

Then it happened – one of those individual aberrations that have long blighted Arsenal, driving managers, players and supporters to distraction. Mason Mount’s deep free-kick from the left looked like easy pickings for the goalkeeper, Bernd Leno, only for him to misjudge its flight and miss his punch in darkly comic fashion. Jorginho, the Chelsea substitute, could tap into the empty net at the far post, barely able to believe his luck.

Should Jorginho have been on the pitch? Already on a booking, he flirted with another when he pulled back Matteo Guendouzi. The referee, Craig Pawson, gave him the benefit of the considerable doubt.

Arsenal being Arsenal, they promptly caved in to lose. Chelsea broke from the edge of their own penalty, with the substitute, Callum Hudson-Odoi, winning a vital header against Guendouzi and when Willian crossed, Tammy Abraham, outfoxed another substitute, Shkodran Mustafi, spun and fired low past Leno.

And so the first home game of Arteta’s managerial tenure came to fall apart. Arsenal remain in the bottom half of the table and the broader picture shows they have won only once in 12 Premier League games. The size of the challenge that confronts him remains clear.

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Arteta’s despair was Frank Lampard’s joy. From the jaws of defeat, his Chelsea team snatched what was only a third win in eight league games. It was deserved on the balance of the play, the visitors stabilising after a poor start.

Arteta wanted energy – to him, it is the key to everything; he wanted to rediscover a connection with the Emirates support and Aubameyang’s goal provided the ideal building block. Mesut Özil’s corner was flicked on by Calum Chambers and Aubameyang twisted his body to direct a firm header past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

That told only half of the story because, from the Chelsea point of view, it was a dreadful concession, yet another from a set-piece. Fikayo Tomori was beaten too easily in the air by Chambers and at no point was Emerson aware of the whereabouts of Aubameyang, who celebrated with a trademark front flip.

Arteta set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Özil in the No10 role but the playmaker who, like Aubameyang off the left, wanted to find spaces in between the lines, peeled towards the right to create overloads. It was a ploy at the outset by Arteta to attack the Chelsea left, which was marshalled unconvincingly by Tomori and Emerson.

Özil showed up well, going through his skills and range of passing, and it was a reflection of Arsenal’s control that Lampard made a substitution and a tactical change on 33 minutes, replacing Emerson with Jorginho, moving Tomori to right-back, Cesar Azpilicueta to left-back and reconfiguring from 3-4-3 to 4-3-3. Lampard wanted Jorginho to build up the play; his defenders had previously struggled to do so.

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Arsenal, who lost Chambers after an awkward fall, might have had a second shortly after Aubameyang’s goal. It was a quick break up the inside right channel, targeting that Chelsea soft spot and, when Reiss Nelson crossed, Aubameyang summoned a wonderful lay-off for Alexandre Lacazette. The centre-forward, though, could not get the ball under control quickly enough and he was closed down.

There was needle. Witness how David Luiz, the former Chelsea defender, rushed into a full-blooded clearance and left his boot high around the head of N’Golo Kanté; fortunately, there was no connection with his former teammate. David Luiz would be booked for a leaving a foot in on Willian after the interval. Chelsea picked up three yellow cards in almost as many minutes leading up to Jorginho’s introduction.

Chelsea could reflect on an early Mason Mount effort, following a short free-kick routine with Willian, which Leno beat away and an ugly miscue by Kurt Zouma at the far post after a corner on 38 minutes.

Lampard, who sent on the 19-year-old, Tariq Lamptey, at right-back for his debut in the second-half, saw that his team were better balanced in the 4-3-3; more able to get on to the front foot. Arsenal needed to dig in, with Aubameyang winning applause for some of his tracking back.

Chelsea ratcheted up the pressure as the second-half minutes ticked down, coming to take up residence inside the Arsenal half. It was tight and tense. Lamptey played in Abraham only for David Luiz to make a saving challenge – Azpilicueta looped a header high on the second phase – while Abraham blew a free header from a Willian corner.

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The Arsenal substitute, Chris Willock, flashed a shot wide on 78 minutes which, had it gone in, would have changed everything. How Chelsea made him and Arsenal pay.



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