Does the Chelsea win over Arsenal depict a gulf in class between the two?
Chelsea won a pulsating encounter with Arsenal 3-2 to take all three points as well as the bragging rights that come with it. In the opening 25 minutes of that game, Arsenal were at sixes and sevens, being torn to shreds by the ruthless and relentless attacks Chelsea launched.
They were however able to recover and claw themselves back from 2-0 down to 2-2 at half time. Arsenal have themselves to blame for losing that game. They had glorious opportunities that would have seen them score five or more goals, but squandered them. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrik Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi all missing chances when it really mattered.
In the second half, Chelsea looked the more dominant and their sustained pressure resulted in their winning goal scored in the 81st minute. Despite a barrage of attacks from the Blues, Unai Emery had rung a few changes that had seen his team stand their ground in a more controlled manner.
The Spanish coach must be applauded for his bravery in snubbing Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman is a key midfielder for the Gunners, but he was only named on the bench, for reasons known to his boss. Another piece of bravery was hooking the disappointing Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka, with the latter hauled off at half time. It was a game marred by more flaws than strokes of genius, but to Chelsea's credit, they triumphed.
In the winner-takes-all fashion however, so many people came out to scorn Arsenal for their display. As I pointed out in my earlier submission, Arsenal players are partly to blame for their predicament. They are taking a lot longer than expected to come to terms with what Unai Emery wants them to do.
Chelsea, who themselves are undergoing transition, looked a little more at home with thier pressing, despite having started it a little later than their counterparts. They were therefore the better side and deserved their victory.
However, for some pundits to go as far as claiming that none of the Arsenal players can make it into the Maurizio Sarri's XI is ludicrous! Speaking to the Daily Mail, former Liverpool star and now Sky Sports TV pundit said:
"Arsenal may have shown fight to battle back against Chelsea but their 3-2 loss only papers over the cracks. Looking at the Arsenal team, not one of their players would get in Maurizio Sarri’s best XI. At the heart of defence, Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis don’t look a partnership.
At full back, Cesar Azpilicueta is both more solid defensively and more creative in attack than Hector Bellerin while Marcos Alonso has been impressive since his debut in 2016.
Kepa could have done better with Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s first goal but I would rather have a young goalkeeper who is confident playing out from the back than Petr Cech, who is struggling."
Redknapp added: "There was no contest between the two midfield enforcers. Jorginho looks every bit the midfield general, pulling the strings and dictating play. Granit Xhaka’s booking summed him up. He always gets to the tackle just too late and does not possess the quality of past Arsenal midfielders.
Mkhitaryan was the only player Chelsea found it difficult to keep the lid on, but he would not play in Sarri's side ahead of Eden Hazard. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the player who would get closest to this team. He will be a star but when given two big chances on Saturday, he froze."
It's true that Chelsea has excellent players in different positions on the pitch, but so do Arsenal. Comparing Kepa with Petr Cech in the Premier League, with the young Spaniard not tested as much yet, is absurd.
Cech is a Premier League legend and despite struggling with the new style of play, has made many excellent saves this season to suggest he is still a top keeper, one many would pick ahead of the former Bilbao man.
As far as the Chelsea defense is concerned, there was enough evidence on Saturday to suggest that Sarri has a lot to do to get his rear-guard to defend better. Arsenal carved them open so many times and if it wasn't for their profligacy, Arsenal would surely have run away with the three points.
Redknapp sang praises of Marcos Alonso, but I think he has been more known for his attacking instincts than his defensive capabilities. Hector Bellerin and Henrikh Mkhitaryan found acres of space on the right when Alonso was out of position to create chances for their teammates. If Arsenal had gone on to win the game, the Spaniard would have come under serious criticism for being positionally negligent.
The statement "Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the player who would get closest to this team" is laughable in itself because the Gabonese would surely walk straight into that Chelsea team, so would Arsenal substitute Alexandre Lacazette.
Sarri doesn't have a striker of the quality of the Arsenal duo. It was naive of Redknapp to judge Aubameyang on the bad misses he had in that game. He remains one of the deadliest forwards in the game and Chelsea would be happy to have him in their ranks
Aaron Ramsey would play in that Chelsea team ahead of Ross Barkley, Cesc Fabregas (who does not fit into Sarri's pressing game) and Mateo Kovacic. He is more all-action, scores more goals and is creative too!
It's true that Chelsea were the better team and deservedly won the derby game against Arsenal, but in terms of the players the two teams have, there's very little to choose between them. Claiming that no Arsenal player can get into the Chelsea team was a careless statement.
Does the outcome of this game really means that there is a seperation of class between the players of the two teams, is still to be seen. The season has just begun, and Unai would be raring to prove his doubters, wrong.