Well, that was a doozy of a derby. For long, long stretches, it looked like we’d stumble to our first defeat of this campaign and give Chelsea a boost in their bid to become relevant once again. A dodgy penalty awarded just fifteen minutes for a handball against Saliba felt like it set the tone for the afternoon, and when Mudryk chipped in, accidentally or otherwise, to make it 2-0, it started to feel like it would be one of those days. That’s when we came roaring back to life through Rice and Trossard. Let’s delve into the nitty-gritty, shall we?
There’s something wrong with Raya
For the third consecutive match, Raya’s looked shaky and short on confidence. Maybe he’s feeling the pressure after making the leap from Brentford and supplanting Ramsdale. Were it not for Ramsdale’s inconsiderate decision to become a father, we might have seen Raya unceremonously yanked. After having conceded to Mudryk’s cross-cum-shot, he conceded sloppily to Cole Palmer only for Palmer to waste the chance. He did redeem himself somewhat late on, but this is three matches now in which he’s been nervy and inconsistent. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ramsdale start against Sevilla on Tuesday. This is what it looks like to have depth, after all.
Rice is worth every penny, every pound
I’m not just talking about his opportunistic goal. Pouncing on Sanchez’s lazy pass in order to score is one thing; the fact that RIce will garner a whopping 73% in our post-match MOTM vote tells you that his performance went above and beyond that one gifted moment. In a match in which Ødegaard and Jorginho went missing, Rice stepped into the void—again—and asserted himself when it seemed that no one else would. In a match in which there were numerous subplots—Mudryk, Caicedo, Havertz, to name a few—one minor subplot was Rice’s return to his boyhood club, and boy, did he deliver.
Havertz should start at CF
Look, I know we’re still waiting (and some of us have stopped waiting) to see when or if Havertz will prove his critics wrong. One might have hoped that scoring from the spot against Bournemouth would have unshackled him. Others might have hoped that assisting the winner against City would further fuel his confidence. Both, apparently, would be wrong. Havertz didn’t even start. Maybe Arteta deemed the return to Stamford Bridge as too fraught for the fragile German. In the end, Havertz came on late, played it to Saka who crossed to Trossard for the equaliser, and won more duels in 12 minutes (3) than any other Gunner. Give him a chance through the middle. It can’t be all that different from the misfiring Jesus or the inadequate Nketiah, can it?
Arteta’s substitutions are on fleek…but are they too late?
For the second consecutive match, Arteta’s substitutions have made a definite difference. While not quite as dramatic as Partey to Tomiyasu to Havertz to Martinelli for the winner against City, it was quite telling that Havertz and Trossard played key roles in the equaliser against Chelsea, Havertz finding Saka wide and then making a dragging run through the middle of the area and Trossard nipping in to score, à la Monreal, at the far post. There have and will be pertinent questions about Arteta’s ability to manage a squad with actual depth. On these returns, we might have to admit that he’s onto something. Now, if he could just make these substitutions sooner…
Four points taken from six available? I’ll take that in a heartbeat!
Defeating Man CIty, even with the asterisks that were the absences of De Bruyne and Rodri, was massive. Three points? Check. First time beating the monolith since 2015? Check. Psychological hurdle vaulted? Check. That we stumbled somewhat at Stamford Bridge might suggest that we squandered the momentum and the confidence earned from taking all three from City, but that would underestimate Chelsea. For as cartoonish as their spending has been, Pochettino is a good manager, and he has nothing but time to focus on shaping this squad. They’ll be in the hunt for a top-six spot before season’s end. By the same token, it wasn’t all that surprising to see them fold faster than Superman on laundry day once they conceded. This one was always a point to hope for and never two dropped, especially after going behind the way we did.
Winning ugly is the stuff of champions…
We did not deserve this point. Hell, the game should have been over by halftime with Chelsea up 3-0. That it was only 2-0 in the 75th minute shows just how much Chelsea have to grow before fulfilling their potential. That it was 2-2 just ten minutes later shows how much fight there is in this squad. Previous iterations of this squad—even as recently as last season—would have wilted. There’s a different spirit in the squad, something steelier after last season’s ostensible “bottle job”. We didn’t win, obviously (although Nketiah veryt nearly added another dramatic 2-3 scoreline to his resum), but the fightback we showed suggests that we’ll have the resources and resolve for the run-in.
For those keeping track, we’ve kept alive our chances at matching the Invincibles for another week, not that we’ve set that as a goal. That said, it’s a result we didn’t deserve—but how many times have we seen our rivals get the same? At least we fought for ours rather than having VAR, that deus ex machina, magically gift it to them.