While this result is unlikely to apply more than temporary balm to Arsenal’s wounds, it could have major implications for Chelsea. The chasing pack will smell blood after this bland performance from Thomas Tuchel’s side. They started with the wrong attitude and couldn’t complain about their punishment, even if Arsenal’s goal was strange.
Tuchel will hope the complacency is gone from his players when they face Leicester in the FA Cup final on Saturday. However, that is far from your only concern. Although Chelsea remain in fourth place with two games remaining, they are still unsure about keeping West Ham and Liverpool at bay.
Chelsea caused her own problems. Nothing summed it up more than Jorginho’s mistake that led to Emile Smith Rowe scoring the winning goal for Arsenal, who endured a victory that lifts them to the round of 16 and keeps their hopes in European football alive.
Maybe Chelsea was already thinking about Wembley. A slow start made Tuchel struggle to contain his emotions. The passing lacked its usual rhythm and Chelsea’s complacency during the early stages was typified by Kai Havertz, who produced an all too casual finish when Arsenal suffered the kind of defensive malfunction they have so often experienced on this ground.
The moment called for a cold-blooded shot as Havertz whipped the ball away from a hesitant Pablo Marí in the 10th minute. However, the closer Havertz got to the goal, the less confident he seemed. The striker became insecure as he advanced on Bernd Leno and produced a strange finish at the end, releasing Marí from the hook as he tossed the ball over the bar, leaving Tuchel enraged on the touchline.
It was such a poor finish from Havertz and the vagueness was repeated at the other end six minutes later. Interrupted by determined pressure from Arsenal, Chelsea were struggling to get out of a tight position when Jorginho made matters worse with a moment of great farce, almost scoring a truly magnificent own goal with a missed back pass.
It was surprisingly lazy on the part of a player who is usually so composed and, although Kepa Arrizabalaga crossed at full speed to push the ball away from the goal, the Chelsea goalkeeper could not prevent Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from picking up possession before hitting Smith Rowe an easy shot.
At this point, it should be noted that none of this was in Arrizabalaga, who would have appreciated a calmer night after having had an unusual start to the league before his likely appearance against Leicester. It was on Jorginho, who didn’t look well before throwing his pass.
It was also a lesson for Arsenal on the value of making things happen with direct commitment. Wounded after their defeat to Villarreal in the Europa League, the visitors felt more steely. Smith Rowe and Martin Ødegaard blinked behind Aubameyang and there was a strong defense from Arsenal as Chelsea began to move, with Marí particularly vocal in the back.
Chelsea, who rested N’Golo Kanté and Antonio Rüdiger, picked up the pace as the half progressed. Inevitably, Mason Mount led the comeback, only to see a shot from a goal saved by Leno and another blocked by Rob Holding. It started to feel sinister for Arsenal, who tied Chelsea’s 3-4-2-1 system, and they had another loophole when Christian Pulisic nodded from close range.
Regardless, Tuchel needed a lot more urgency from his players. It exploded again when Havertz entered the area before shyly fumbled the ball in the 56th minute. Chelsea had control of the ball after moving Mount to midfield and they were pushing Arsenal back, but were struggling to create clear openings.
The hosts continued to collide with traffic at the edge of the area, even though Callum Hudson-Odoi’s introduction to the disappointing Billy Gilmour at half-time gave them another option in attack, and there were times when it was too easy for him. Arsenal. maintain a solid defensive form.
Arsenal were hard at work, with Smith Rowe an insistent presence and Bukayo Saka diligent on the right back before being replaced by Héctor Bellerín.
They restricted Chelsea to few clear starts and were rewarded for their spirit when VAR came to their aid after an hour, ruling Pulisic offside after the winger headed into a corner from close range.
It was turning out to be that kind of night for Chelsea. Bad decisions overwhelmed them. After 67 minutes, with Olivier Giroud introduced to give Arsenal a physical presence to worry about in the penalty area, Kurt Zouma drew some taunting looks from his teammates after coming out of defense and taking a long-range shot.
There were more cries of anguish as Giroud widely cut off an opportunity. The pressure mounted and Arsenal held on a bit at the end, Pulisic and Giroud closing in. In the end, however, Chelsea did not do enough. Arsenal were deserved winners.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism