Every great manager’s vision for his team needs to survive those bleak afternoons when the rest of the world cries out for him to change, and perhaps with that in mind Maurizio Sarri decided that after defeat he would go where only a few of his Chelsea predecessors have dared.
The Italian requested post-match that we switch language to his native tongue and proceeded to deliver, via an interpreter who held this brittle club’s future in his hands for 12 gripping minutes, what might be described as the directors’ cut post-match monstering with bonus features. It was delivered in a reflective style but it certainly showed no instinct to hold back on a full-scale demolition of Sarri’s players’ attitude, determination and general mental fortitude.
What had been a very bad Chelsea performance, encompassing a first attempt on the Arsenal goal after a mere 82 minutes played was transformed for the benefit of the press and club officials into one of these periodic crises that strike the club. He said it in his post-match television interviews too and some at the club will fear what comes next, with the team now required to rally in time for Thursday’s League Cup semi-final second leg against Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday.
There were eight players in the 14 used by Sarri over the course of 96 minutes who had won one or more Premier League titles and even under Jose Mourinho’s second spell decline they were not accustomed to this level of feedback in the public sphere. Sarri wondered aloud why his “group of players is extremely difficult to motivate” and why they did not seem to have what he saw as the “ferocity in their mentality”.
It was difficult to know whether he was simply just pushing his luck when he said that he was “aware of the fact this is never going to be a team well known for its battling and fighting qualities” and that “those aren't the characteristics that we have”. This was a man who seemed to be bemoaning the faults of a mediocre child rather than a manager assessing the qualities of a team that included N’Gole Kante, Eden Hazard, Cesar Azpilicueta and a range of other players with big reputations.
It was not hard to see why Sarri was annoyed even if he brushed off the question of his own tactical culpability a little too easily. Both Kante and Hazard were out of position again which is no-one’s choice but the manager who has tried to rewrite the basic principles of the team and made them look much less like the successful Chelsea of the modern era.
Either way, it was part of a match-plan that seemed to be caught in some kind of corrupted file, a loop of possession – Chelsea had much more of the ball than Arsenal – going nowhere and yielding nothing. Still, Sarri seems adamant that the responsibility lies elsewhere and in criticising his own player this hard, this early he is now playing for some very high stakes.
It took a pragmatic, well-organised Arsenal to beat them with two goals that originated from set-pieces and a willingness to be without the ball for long periods of the match, while Chelsea had 64 per cent of the possession. In the meantime, Sarri waits for Gonzalo Higuain to walk into this bleak midwinter for his team with things starting to tighten up around fourth place.
The question for now is not how close Chelsea might stay to the top three places, but whether they should be glancing anxiously behind at the threat to their own Champions League spot and how Sarri’s latest attack might play out in that regard. Chelsea have lost four of their last nine league games now, just three points better off in fourth place than both Arsenal and Manchester United who are divided by goal difference.
This was Unai Emery said, a game that Arsenal could not afford to lose if they were to stay in touch with the top four and they never looked like doing so. An exceptional finish from Alexandre Lacazette on 14 minutes laid the groundwork for a hard-running, well-organised containment of this improvised Chelsea attacking unit. Arsenal looked comfortable with what Emery is asking them to do – playing for the most part without the ball but hitting the opposition on the break.
They took their chances, especially a second from Laurent Koscielny that came off the captain’s shoulder in a good spell before half-time. It was a disciplined Arsenal performance that keeps them in the hunt for the top four after that defeat away to West Ham last week and reflected well on their manager whose decision to substitute Lacazette in the second half was booed nonetheless. It was all done without Mesut Ozil who returned to the bench as an unused substitute in a gameplan that never seemed to require him.
If anything, Chelsea had looked more effective when David Luiz had looked up and struck a ball long to try to pick out the runner in behind the home defence, as he had done after 18 minutes with Pedro. This is Chelsea of 2019, a team committed to passing the ball at all times, but not always passing the ball well.
The first goal was created by Hector Bellerin, later carried off after falling awkwardly. He drove a pass in from the right on 14 minutes and Lacazette stilled the ball with the softest of feet. He turned on his right foot and was past Alonso and Pedro before they could react, his shot stabbed quickly past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Arsenal were counter-attacking well on all the Chelsea possession and the second came on 37 minutes when a corner was half-cleared to Sokratis on the edge of the area. His sliced cross dropped perfectly for Koscielny who mistimed his flick of the head but found that his shoulder worked just as well, steering the ball well beyond the reach of Arrizabalaga.
“Today we didn't play our own football,” Sarri lamented later. “Our defending ended up with us running backwards rather than pressing further up the pitch. We should be playing one or two touches, not seven or eight. We don't want that to happen.” Reluctantly he changed in the second half, with Hazard moved wide when Olivier Giroud came on but none of it worked, and for that reason perhaps Sarri decided to take on a group of players who have in the past seen off bigger managerial names than him.
BT Sport pundits on N'Golo Kante
It's the discussion that just won't die. Why does Sarri keep playing Kante as an attacking midfielder?
Sarri's system has to be a 4-3-3
Sarri cannot drop Kante - he's one of Chelsea's best/favourite players
Kante isn't great as an 8
Sarri won't change his system because his system is what got him where he is
Unai Emery post-match words
Yes the atmosphere is very big with our supporters here and yes we want to do here a special match with Chelsea one derby with the difference in the table, this victory can help us to be optimistic, with this victory we can be do game by game are like today.
We need to find a balance at home and away. At home we are very strong and we can show every supporter our strength here. But I want to say to everybody we are going to continue working for to find this balance.
Arsenal players post-match
Laurent Koscielny is so happy to have that Man of the Match award �� pic.twitter.com/kMepY2CdB9
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 19, 2019
Battle of the xG
Arsenal-Chelsea was a game of two halves, but not in the usual way. First half was all Arsenal, second half they were like a bully holding off a smaller kid by the forehead while he flails at the air between them pic.twitter.com/Zagjh7C8Pu
— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) January 19, 2019
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These are totally free and excellent reading.
Arsenal have won consecutive home games against Chelsea in all competitions for the first time since February 2004.
Chelsea have only won one of their last seven away London derbies in the Premier League (D2 L4), winning 1-0 at Crystal Palace in December.
Arsenal are unbeaten in 13 Premier League London derby matches at home (W10 D3), winning the last six in a row.
Arsenal have won more points in seven games against ‘big six’ sides this season (8) than they did in the whole of the 2017-18 campaign (6).
Chelsea’s first shot on target didn’t come until the 82nd minute, from Marcos Alonso.
63% of Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette’s Premier League goals this season have come in London derbies (5/8).
Only Arsenal teammate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (6) has scored more Premier League London derby goals this season than Alexandre Lacazette.
Laurent Koscielny became the first Arsenal defender to score 20 Premier League goals. The Frenchman has scored in each of his nine campaigns in the competition – only Dennis Bergkamp (11), Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott (10 each) have scored in more for the Gunners.
Four defeats in nine Premier League games now for Chelsea. Higuain is going to have to hit the ground running and Sarri needs to come up with some fresh ideas. Big game on Thurs v Tottenham in the Carabao Cup.
— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) January 19, 2019
It cannot be ignored that Sarri-ball really does seem to have been found out by... everyone. The players don't quite suit it - will Sarri really be given the time to build the squad in his image? Is the missing ingredient just a striker?
Toothless Chelsea are well beaten! Arsenal win a big three points.
90 mins+6 - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Barkley catches Guendouzi with a slide tackle and gets a yellow card. It's not a nice challenge but it doesn't look he's trying to destroy him or anything. Chelsea still passing it around with absolutely no bite. This is like a snake without teeth. Which is basically a draft stopper.
90 mins+4 - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Same story. Chelsea forced out wide, Arsenal block the cross or clear it, repeat.
90 mins+2 - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Positive news for Chelsea fans - we've got six minutes of injury time! The bad news is that Chelsea could play this game for another six hours and still wouldn't find a way to score.
90 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Day 85. The Kante Quandary is being discussed again.
89 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Chelsea fast running out of ideas here. They're switching play well but there haven't been any real big chances for Chelsea at all in this half.
86 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Iwobi runs at Azpilicueta, Elneny tries a shot from 20 yards. Chelsea keep playing out from the back but Arsenal have them penned in... and Kepa's passing hasn't been great today. Hudson-Odoi gets his first touch of the ball but runs straight into Elneny.
83 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Rudiger can pass a ball too! He switches play with a lovely cross field switched pass! The cross comes in from wide left, Hudson-Odoi doesn't contest it and Kolasinac can easily head it back to his goalkeeper.
82 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Pedro off, Hudson-Odoi on. This is his fifth ever Premier League appearance. Arsenal win a free-kick high up the pitch, patiently work the ball around the final third and Kolasinac tries a wonder volley from 20 yards which does't quite come off. He's so close to being a very good player but just isn't quite there.
80 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Hazard runs at Koscielny, moves inside and shoots on his left foot. Way over the bar.
Maitland-Niles works extra hard to win the ball at right-back but does a little too much and accidentally gives away a corner. Arsenal players go nuts at the referee because Alonso has stuck his thumb towards Maitland-Niles' eyes, or something like that.
78 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Hudson-Odoi getting ready to come on...full house
— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) January 19, 2019
77 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
In between writing hate letters on his notepad while sat on the bench, this has been Sarri's default pose this evening. He's really not been impressed with the performance of his players. Giroud has helped Hazard drop deeper into space where he can influence the game more.
75 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Chelsea are pushed right up the pitch now and Hazard is able to get in behind the defence on the left. He fires a low ball across the box but I can't tell if it's a shot or pass.
73 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Maitland-Niles is on for Arsenal and has slotted in at right back. It's the same shape but Elneny is dropping a bit deeper than Ramsey was as a 10.
71 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
The Emirates goes ghostly quiet as Elneny gets ready to come on and replace Bellerin. Poor lad. If that's knee ligaments he'll be out for quite a while. Bellerin leaves the pitch on a stretcher.
69 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Koscielny blocks a powerful Barkley shot with his genitalia. I'm no doctor, but that's probably not the best idea. Barkley's shot doesn't reach the goal, Koscielny has to take a moment to catch his breath.
Olivier Giroud is on for Chelsea now. And Bellerin has gone down howling in pain... his knee has just buckled. Hopefully he's OK but he's getting treatment and is clearly in a lot of distress.
66 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Kepa's put his teammates in a heap of trouble here! He's handed possession back to Arsenal with a hospital pass as Chelsea try to play out from the back. Kolasinac takes advantage, runs onto the loose ball and finds Lacazette. He then plays a reverse pass out to the left wing, Kolasinac overlaps... and he's one vs one! Instead of shooting he cuts a low pass into the area but Chelsea scramble the thing away.
Shortly after Bellerin gets away with being offside to attack the right wing. Lacazette is in perfect position to hit a cross but Bellerin takes a step too many and the cross can be blocked. Big chance gone!
63 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Arsenal play some nice one touch football to get into the final third, Jorginho brings down Lacazette 25 yards out and should be booked for it.
Kovacic is replaced by Barkley. Sarri wants some dynamism and forward thinking in his midfield.
61 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Arsenal playing out from the back now but Chelsea have pushed up and are pressing them right up the pitch. Willian has the ball wide left but again nobody makes a run into the area for a cross or pass so he has to go backwards. Arsenal are trapped in their defensive third at the moment - this is more like Sarri-ball.
And Willian's tried a shot from 20 yards which was always going to be blocked. That's so frustrating, Sarri must be raging.
59 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
The BT Sport commentators are now doing the 'OMG WHY ISN'T KANTE PLAYING LIKE MAKELELE' routine. Drives me nuts. Here's why Kante plays as an eight in Sarri's system:
Again, it's a Premium article. £1 a week with a 30 day trial. Here's a snippet:
Moving the pivot from near the centre-backs to behind the striker alters the passing lanes available and means build-up play often has to be more direct, or sent wide.
The key thing to consider is that if Kante is deep next to Jorginho, Chelsea have six players in forward positions as compared to seven in Sarri's 4-3-3 - something essential for both Sarri's attacking strategy and for winning the ball back in advanced positions.
It can leave Chelsea vulnerable defensively, certainly to counter-attacks, but this is Sarri's style of football. Furthermore, Kante's ability to win the ball so well means he is able to force turnovers in the opposition half and catch players by surprise.
56 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Arsenal still doing that narrow shape to ensure they can snap and tackle the ball with plenty of players around the Chelsea player in possession.
54 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Hazard's trying to force things to happen with the ball at his feet. It must be difficult being Hazard. He's the best player on the Chelsea team and in attack, the most likely - by far - to make something happen. So when he carries the ball into the final third and lays it off, he knows that he needs to get back on the ball in order for something good to happen. It's like if you're a decent salesman, a Dwight Schrute say, and get a good opening conversation going with your customer, then hand him over to a colleague, an Andy Bernard for example, who ends up putting them off the sale and leaving the shop.
51 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Luiz's passing is legit. He's just placed another 70 yard ball onto Pedro from wide left to right, opening up the pitch. Pedro involved quite a lot early on in this half, I wonder if Sarri gave him a good talking to during the break.
Ramsey is caught ball watching rather than moving towards the ball and it takes Lacazette dropping back into defence to deal with the danger.
48 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Rudiger starts the second half by punting a chipped pass out for a throw. Pedro runs forward with the ball but doesn't have options ahead or wide to keep the attack going and the whole thing slows down. Chelsea aren't able to pass vertically quickly enough - Arsenal easily able to cut out their counter-attacks.
KICK OFF 2
Chelsea have never won in the Premier League when two goals down apparently. That can't be right... but Jake Humphrey's just said it. Either way, Chelsea start the second half having come back out onto the pitch earlier than Arsenal.
Martin Keown impressed with Arsenal's defensive work
That's not down to work rate, it's tactical understanding. That is unrecognisable from the performance at West Ham seven days ago. That manager is worth his weight in gold.
20 - Laurent Koscielny has scored in each of his nine seasons in the Premier League and is the first Arsenal defender to net 20 goals in the competition. Stalwart. pic.twitter.com/HfixpFAvh9
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 19, 2019
Chelsea's worst first halves in the PL this season (xG conceded)
Arsenal H: 2.26
Tottenham A: 1.97
Arsenal A: 1.36
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) January 19, 2019
— Lewis (@LGAmbrose) January 19, 2019
Watch that second goal
I love the internet.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 19, 2019
It's a feisty old game this! Arsenal in total control but it feels like just one Chelsea goal would change the mood massively. Can Arsenal keep up that level of intensity in the second half?
45 mins+2 - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Hazard lifts the free-kick in, it's easily headed away by Koscielny and Chelsea are forced to pass back to the goalkeeper.
45 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Chelsea shift the ball from side to side but without a striker making a run in the box there's no point of crossing it in. Alonso's getting annoyed now. Arsenal put up a block of midfielders ahead of the defence to stop Chelsea running through them and Hazard is dispossessed just outside the box.
Hazard gets on the ball on the left wing now, gets behind the defence and hits a low cross into the box. Koscielny takes no chances and heads the ball behind before Leno can catch it. Corner.
It's curled out the way into the box and ALONSO HEADS AT GOOOOAAAAAAAA - off the post! Arsenal survive! But now there's a free-kick just on the left of the box.
42 mins - Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
Chelsea players keep losing the ball. Arsenal are hunting them down in packs, getting tight and aggressively hustling them out of possession.
KOSCIELNY MAKES IT TWO!
The free-kick is launched to the far post, Sokratis just hits a volleyed pass into the area and Koscielny throws his head at the ball. It comes off his shoulder and drops into the goal with Kepa stood rooted to the spot.
Luiz just a step too deep there, playing Koscielny onside.
Chelsea's defence is a shambles
— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) January 19, 2019
38 mins - Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0
Arsenal shift the ball up the park, run at the defence, Kolasinac gets to the goal line and clips a cross in towards Aubameyang in the area... he goes for the overhead kick! So close! The ball lands just wide of the far post - that would have been awesome.
Luiz is booked for clattering Ramsey with a strong slide tackle.
36 mins - Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0
Arsenal still working really hard to break up Chelsea's passing, Ramsey still following Jorginho everywhere, Kante's gone on a run through the defence but Kovacic can't bring the bouncing ball down.
33 mins - Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0
A Chelsea corner is punched away by Leno, Alonso doesn't have an option to cross the ball into so stays patient and Chelsea try to move the ball with passes in the final third. Kante is given a little nudge, falls and catches Koscielny for an Arsenal free-kick. Kepa punches that away.
30 mins - Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0
Sarri's getting increasingly wound up on the sidelines. Arsenal are an intensity level above Chelsea at the moment. McManaman is still convinced it's because Chelsea can't hit long balls to a striker.
27 mins - Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0
Chelsea attack, Jorginho shoots over the bar, the Emirates crowd roars on Arsenal and they get up the other end. Ramsey tries a reverse pass into the channel but his teammates don't read it. Goal kick.
25 mins - Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0
Look how narrow Arsenal are here - eight players are in that shape. They're bunching up in a really narrow formation with another player higher up the pitch standing in space out wide - Lacazette here. This exact scenario plays out as the ball is sent to Lacazette, Chelsea are stretched because everyone's tight to the compact Arsenal shape, leaving space for Lacazette. He runs to the box, then apologises after hitting a shot/cross thing with far too much power and punting it over the bar.
22 mins - Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0
McManaman is now moaning that Chelsea don't have a tall striker to hit high balls towards. The thing is, they don't want to lump it to a target man to knock down, they want to play clever passes over the top for a runner. Or, they want to hit low crosses from wide, which doesn't need a big man in the box. Hazard can do it very well.
Koscielny's had to cut out a couple of low crosses from the right.
19 mins - Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0
And now Pedro is in behind the defence! What a ball from David Luiz!
He chips it over the top from halfway for the run of Pedro. He controls, Leno comes off his line and Pedro lifts the volley lob over the goalie's head. It lands the wrong side of an empty goal! So close. Great game!
18 mins - Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0
Arsenal are pressing really high up the pitch with real energy... and Aubameyang has stolen the ball off Azpilicueta! He's been robbed... Aubameyang runs in at goal, turns Rudiger inside out, gets a shot at the near post and Kepa makes another crucial save!
Wowowowowow! That's brilliant from Lacazette! He controls the ball under pressure inside the Chelsea box, turns, dribbles round two tackles and clips the ball into the goal by tucking it inside the near post!
That's come from a corner, Chelsea really not at the races here.
13 mins - Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
WHAT A SAVE! Kepa has just denied Koscielny from point blank range as a free-kick comes off his head and fires at the goal.
12 mins - Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
That's Ramsey tracking Jorginho everywhere he goes.
10 mins - Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
Chelsea try to shift passes around the Arsenal half. Ramsey is staying tight to Jorginho, a tactical move which makes perfect sense since he's made more passes than any player in the league this season. Stopping him disrupts Chelsea's passing which means they can't attack very well. But Hazard's found space now! Sokratis plays him onside, the ball comes in from right and Hazard attacks it like a striker... just wide,
8 mins - Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
Ramsey's doing a lot of running off the ball, working the channels from a central starting position. He's won a corner... but that only results in another corner.
The second corner is taken short, whipped in to the box at pace and SOKRATIS IS THERE! He's headed wide from 12 yards! Another big chance gone!
5 mins - Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
Arsenal win a free-kick wide right of the box, Kepa punches, some head tennis ensues and then Xhaka passes the ball out for a goal kick.
Xhaka makes a tactical foul by grabbing N'Golo Kante to stop him running beyond and into the Arsenal half. That's surely a yellow card... but the referee's been swayed by the watch. You don't give bookings in the first five minutes.
Arsenal have the ball, shift it forwards and Lacazette has Aubameyang free in the middle! The cross is good... but he's missed!!! Huge chance! Arsenal piling on the pressure!
2 mins - Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
We're 35 second in and Steve McManaman has already started slagging off David Luiz for daring not to clear the ball away when it's near him in defence. Arsenal have started well though and nearly carve open a couple of opportunities by pressing high up the pitch! Luiz has made a loose pass to Rudiger but gets away with it this time.
Here we go! Arsenal get the game started.
Watch out for Kolasinac
I'm expecting Chelsea to focus a lot of attacks down that right wing, looking to exploit space left by Kolasinac. He's a decent player but there are mistakes to be found and Arsenal's shape depends on the full-backs getting up the pitch to provide width - he'll have to be out of his defensive position during this game when Arsenal have the ball.
Here come the players!
The Emirates is full, they're playing that horrible Premier League theme tune - it's time for hot soccer action!
Hudson-Odoi on the bench
I spent a lot of time researching this article on why Callum Hudson-Odoi needs to be playing first team football. You often hear pundits say it, but there's actual data to prove this is exactly the case.
Elite level players are almost always playing at that level by the time they turn 19.5 - Hudson-Odoi is 18. Will he get the ~20 league starts that these sorts of players always get before the age of 19 by staying at Chelsea?
How the teams will lineup
Chelsea are clearly a 4-3-3 and Arsenal have changed from the 3-4-3 of recent matches to an exciting looking 4-4-2 diamond! I don't want to show off or anything, but I'm going to. I predicted exactly this team shape for this game in my tactical preview of it:
You can read all about that in the article right here. It's Premium, which costs £1 a week to subscribe to. If you subscribe it means you can read absolutely everything on Telegraph Sport - all the columns from writers like Paul Hayward and Jamie Carragher - as well as the tactical analysis I do every week. There's a 30 day free trial too if you're not sure! If you like reading about football here's some more info for you:
Maurizio Sarri on whether he likes Hazard as a false nine
I think so. I hope so! It's a difficult game but I prefer to start with this solution because we are more solid.
It's very important for us that player be OK after can help us in 90 minutes and it's very important today to be in squad.
I'm not actually sure what this means but I think it's in reference to Mesut Ozil being ready to do his bit for the team should Emery need him.
Mesut just can't get a game
Ozil on the bench for #AFC, which means he has now started only half of Arsenal's league matches since he signed his new contract in January.
36 matches in the league since. Three goals, two assists.
— Sam Dean (@SamJDean) January 19, 2019
Team news: Mesut Ozil is on the bench for Arsenal
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 19, 2019
Meanwhile, Eden Hazard starts as a false nine for Chelsea.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 19, 2019
Hello there! What a game we have for you here. Sarri-ball vs Emery... ball. It's very hard to predict the outcome of this game but one thing is sure - Chelsea will be a 4-3-3, will pass the ball A LOT and probably won't score many goals. Arsenal are great at scoring goals but they seem to like conceding them too... and most of their recent matches have been notable for a lack of midfield. The 3-4-3 shape Emery has used recently doesn't work for me, Clive, and halftime switches to 4-2-3-1 have made the team look a whole let better balanced.
What's going to happen? Nobody knows! Stay with us for all the build up, action and analysis of the game.