Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said his side produced a “great response” to their thrashing at Liverpool as they earned a first point at Chelsea in six years. The Gunners had previously kept only one clean sheet in their past 18 league games at Stamford Bridge and, following the 4-0 loss at Anfield in their previous Premier League away game, this was a display which left Wenger satisfied. “It was a solid performance with team discipline,” Wenger told Match of the Day 2. “Everyone wanted to see how we responded to our last away league game and we did that in a positive way. We could have won but overall it was an intense, disciplined and battling game.
The draw was a fully deserved reward for an excellent display that could even have brought victory against the Premier League champions, who finished with 10 men following the late dismissal of David Luiz for a high tackle on Sead Kolasinac. “I don’t like to comment about the referee,” said Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. “We have great respect for officials, but it is strange to finish a third game in a row against Arsenal with 10 men.” The point leaves Chelsea third in the table, three points behind Manchester City and Manchester United. “It was a good, open game with both teams trying to win,” added Conte. “Every game against Arsenal is always very tough. We knew very well what type of game we would face. Both teams are great teams – it’s a good draw.”
Pedro missed Chelsea’s best chance in the first half when he raced clear but was blocked by Arsenal keeper Petr Cech. Arsenal, however, had arguably the better opportunities as Danny Welbeck headed wide from in front of goal and Aaron Ramsey struck a post, Alexandre Lacazette firing the rebound over an open goal. The second period was a tighter affair, the Blues’ frustrations boiling over in the closing minutes when Luiz was shown red for his reckless challenge on Kolasinac.
Wenger insisted the debacle of the loss at Liverpool in August – a performance that provoked fierce criticism of both manager and players – was an “accident”. The words were greeted with cynicism by those who had been at the scene of identical Arsenal ‘accidents’ at Anfield three times in the past four years and wondered whether Wenger was again at odds with the reality of the Gunners’ plight. Arsenal’s display on Sunday, full of steel and discipline as well as attacking intent, gave the Frenchman’s theory plenty of weight as they stood toe-to-toe with the champions and were the better side for spells. The trick now is for Arsenal to provide further evidence that this excellent performance – at a ground which has been a stage of unrelenting misery is recent years – is the rule and the display at Anfield is the exception.
Wenger’s team selection was an improvement on the fiasco of Anfield, where Lacazette and Kolasinac were inexplicably left out when threat and physical presence were essential. Arsenal’s manager cut an agitated figure in his technical area for much of the game, spending time in dialogue with the officials nearby, but there was much for Wenger to be satisfied with as they more than matched Chelsea. Luiz was shown a straight red card for his challenge on Kolasinac near the touchline with only three minutes left. And yet the Brazil international may have feared dismissal earlier in the half when his flying overhead kick caught Laurent Koscielny near the face in the penalty area – before referee Michael Oliver issued a yellow card. The incident revived the debate sparked by Sadio Mane’s dismissal for Liverpool at Manchester City last Saturday, when his high boot injured keeper Ederson.