We’ve had three draws this season and for a side who have aspirations on the title, you can look at that after nine games and without knowing any context think “hmm…that’s not exactly the most amazing start”. But, as with all things, context is everything and I don’t think there is an Arsenal fan out there who isn’t thinking “absolutely take that all day long”.

At 75 minutes I was a disappointed Gooner. What I had seen was a performance that I hadn’t seen since…probably…Everton away last season. On that day nothing clicked, we had too many five-out-of-ten performers, we looked completely blunted in attack and to their credit (and this will be the only credit I give them today) Chelsea when a goal up tactically played the right moves. Pochettino is no mug and he knew when ahead to condense the space in the middle of the park, tuck in, then rely on the energy and intensity of his three midfields to expand out the play. When Chelsea had the ball deep they went long and looked for runners given the pace they had in attack and it did certainly cause us problems in that first half.

Take Zinchenko, for example, who was on a yellow and was also being run at again and again against Sterling, so you could totally understand why he was hooked at halftime. Those long balls on a wet day looked to rouble our two central defenders and so in that first half I think we did struggle. But, having said all of that, by halftime what separated both teams was a penalty that, if I’m honest, I still can’t understand why it is a penalty. Well, that’s not true, because by the laws of the game it is a penalty but I think on that basis we have to say that the law is an ass. The cross that comes in from our left hand side is connected with by Mudryk and then deflects on to Saliba’s arm. I’ve heard talk of his arm being in an unnatural position, but I would argue that to jump with your arms by your sides is an unnatural position, because as a defender it is literally impossible to compete without using your arms as leverage. So perhaps the referee has no option but to give it, but that shouldn’t be a penalty. I am now assuming that we will see any deflection from a striker or defender that rebounds off a player from point-blank range in the box will be given as a penalty? I am going to be looking for that in the next few weeks because I tell you right now, it will happen almost every week. But what won’t happen every week is that a penalty is given.

We went in at one down at halftime and it was a bit of a joke call, but let’s face facts here: we did not deserve anything else. The passing was sloppy, we held on to the ball too long, we offered little in attack. I thought Odegaard had his poorest game in a while and he barely featured at all. Saka was back in to the team but he looked a little leggy, although as we’ll come to in a bit a leggy and perhaps not fit Bukayo Saka still delivers end product as he did towards the end of this game. But the whole team didn’t gel and Rice even said at the end of the game that was the case. It was poor from us.

But even so, there were plenty of incidents in which we didn’t get the rub of the green. Like this challenge by Thiago Silva on Martinelli:

It’d be great if somebody could explain to me why going off the ground and two-footing your way in to a challenge is now considered legal. I’ve seen some suggestions that he ‘won the ball’ but that is irrelevant; you can’t do that in today’s game. I’ve seen some say when you slow it down and show stills like that it always looks worse, but isn’t that exactly what they did with the penalty we conceded?

Speaking of penalties, why is it that the world seems to agree that the Onana foul in the box against Wolves was a penalty in the opening weeks (for which an apology has already been made), yet we have heard nothing other than pundits speaking about it so far? Why do these things keep happening? Why is VAR intervening on one contentious decision (Saliba handball) and yet not on another at the other end of the pitch?

Here’s the incident in question again:


Not only is that the same on Gabriel Jesus as Onana, but look at the obvious shirt pull on Tomiyasu. And you’re telling me neither of those are penalties?? Do me a favour.

But before that we’d gone two down and it was another error from David Raya that cost us. He looked shaky at times and I think  – as a former ‘keeper myself – if I’m in Raya’s position I’m not sure I’m that far over when a cross is about to be delivered in. Mudryk completely fluked his shot, but Raya was out of position and I think he’ll be a bit disappointed in himself when he looks at that again. He also made another mistake just a few minutes later and there was a period in which it looked like his head had gone. Thankfully he recovered and that was a relief for us, but there are yet again questions being asked. He’s a good ‘keeper, I like him, but if you are going to have a proper competition amongst the goalies then you need to be using both of them. I know Ramsdale wasn’t in the squad as his wife had just had a baby, but we need to be thinking about how we can give him a shout because that’s the Scum, Lens, City and now Chelsea in which he’s made a couple of errors. We don’t want to kill his confidence but Arteta must be thinking about what to do moving forward.

Again though, let’s not dwell too much on it, because I want to end today’s blog on a high, which was those last 15 minutes. That was the real Arsenal that we’ve seen in the last year-and-a-bit. Ok, we were helped with a poor bit of goalkeeping from Sanchez, but the first time finish from Rice was superb and it was exactly what we needed with 15 minutes plus stoppage time remaining. The whole momentum in the game changed and you could see the belief flooding back in to a team who looked dead and buried before then. Suddenly it was us who were controlling the ball, it was us who had the impetus and as we talked about on the Same Old Arsenal podcast last night, it was us who I think would have gone on to win it if there was another ten minutes of football added on to this game. And so to Bukayo Saka and Leandro Trossard, who combined in the 84th minute to cue pandemonium in the away end to level it up for us. It was a great cross from Saka and such a composed finish from the little Belgian and it is exactly this reason why we can feel more excited in this Arsenal team than the one from a couple of years ago: we have squad depth.

And Arteta used that perfectly yesterday too. Havertz was really good when he came on I thought. Tomiyasu had a much better half than Zinchenko when he came on at halftime. Smith Rowe looked lively and Trossard was a difference maker with his goal and overall play. Credit to Arteta for the subs and for impacting the game at the right time. I think he probably got the selection wrong in Jorginho instead of Partey – unless Partey wasn’t ready to play for whatever reason – but we were able to course-correct and we leave Stamford Bridge with a point. And for those arguing we didn’t deserve it:

  • More possession overall than Chelsea
  • Greater passing accuracy
  • More attempts at goal
  • Had a perfectly good penalty shout turned down
  • Chelsea player should have been sent off for a two-footed tackle
  • Dodgy penalty for Chelsea
  • Fluky second goal.

There are plenty of reasons for us to be happy with the ‘cajones’ of this Arsenal team. We had a bad day at the office but we recovered and we move on. We only played well for one quarter of the match but that was at least enough.

Up the Arsenal.

Catch you all tomorrow.