The ‘xG’ – expected goals – for this encounter would have been extraordinary. Five-all? It was entirely possible as there were so many clear-cut chances traded in this capital clash.
There were thrills, spills and, afterwards, inevitable belly-aches with an edgy Arsene Wenger renewing his war on refereeing after an amazing draw that was an incredible advert for the Premier League. It was also an indictment as to why neither of these two teams will win the title this season.
There was controversy, as there always is, with Jack Wilshere claiming his first league goal since May 2015 – a superbly determined strike to open the scoring – after he probably should have been sent off when appearing to dive in attempting to earn a free-kick on the edge of Chelsea’s penalty area, as he anticipated a challenge from Andreas Christensen. He had already been booked for a foul on Cesc Fabregas.
Meanwhile, Arsenal raged at the penalty award that drew Chelsea level, just four minutes after Wilshere’s goal, when Hector Bellerin was judged to have fouled the other No 10 – Eden Hazard – as they vied to reach a loose ball.
Having expressed his anger at the penalty given against Arsenal in the draw away to West Bromwich Albion on New Year’s Eve, Wenger was at it again. The Arsenal manager had a case then, though badly expressed, but not so much here.
Bellerin clearly kicked Hazard’s foot. It was a penalty – maybe the only possible accusation against Hazard is that he exaggerated his fall – and Wenger needs to drop his conspiracy theories.
Arsenal vs Chelsea – player ratings
If sport at the highest level is about fine margins, then it was caught in the 90 minutes of this full-throttle match. Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata could have had a hat-trick, missing three one-on-ones that a forward of his calibre should have finished, and it is hard to imagine Diego Costa, who opened his account for his new club, Atletico Madrid, as this game was being played, spurning them.
Then, after Bellerin’s 92nd-minute equaliser, cancelling out Marcos Alonso’s goal following yet more appalling Arsenal defending, Chelsea should still have won it when Morata erred for the third and final time. Even then the ball broke to substitute Davide Zappacosta, who thumped his half-volley against the crossbar.
The wing-back should have scored but so should many other players. Both goalkeepers were outstanding, making a string of improbable saves, to add to the misses, with maybe the pick of them being a brilliant one-handed stop by Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois to turn away a poked shot by Alexis Sanchez. Even then the ball struck one post and then ran across the goal-line, rebounding off the other before Courtois eagerly grabbed it.
It means that Arsenal remain frustratingly in sixth place while Chelsea, in third, missed the opportunity to leapfrog Manchester United and return to second spot.
Chelsea will – marginally – be the happier, with Arsenal five points adrift of fourth-placed Liverpool. Given the absentees in their back-line it was, evidently, and maybe as ever with Wenger, a case of attack being the best form of defence.
But it meant they were as chronically vulnerable to conceding as they were likely to score. The fact it remained goalless at half-time was the biggest surprise, given how both sides simply went for it. And made mistakes.
Arsenal vs Chelsea shots on goal
Morata missed the easiest of his chances early on, allowed to run onto a hopeful long ball by Victor Moses, which Shkodran Mustafi completely misjudged and Calum Chambers left, both believing it would run through to Petr Cech, only for Morata to collect.
But Morata got his angles horribly wrong as he side-footed the ball wide. It was then end to end and back again. The xG – the new measure used by statisticians to show how many goals should have been scored – went through the roof.
Arsenal claimed a penalty, arguing Moses had clipped the heels of Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Courtois denied Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette, and was relieved to see Mesut Ozil’s shot drift narrowly wide. At the other end, Cech pushed Tiemoue Bakayoko’s shot over the bar and Fabregas side-footed wildly over from Hazard’s clever back-heel.
There was no let-up. If anything it became more intense. Cech denied Hazard, with an outstretched leg, and then turned away Alonso’s header before Courtois was again called into action, thwarting Lacazette from close range.
He was finally beaten. The breakthrough came and the Emirates erupted as Rob Holding’s first-time pass rebounded off the hapless Morata to Wilshere, who had instigated the move, with the midfielder’s powerful, rising first-time effort cannoning off Courtois’s near post and into the net. They pressed on and only another save from Courtois denied Lacazette.
Would Wilshere grab the headlines? Hazard did not allow it. He won the penalty and dispatched it, steering the ball to Cech’s right as the goalkeeper dived left. The momentum swung.
Morata missed again, lifting the ball over when through on goal before Zappacosta easily beat Maitland-Niles down the right and fired in a cross. Alonso stole in ahead of the dozing Mustafi and turned it home, right-footed.
The mood shifted. Would it be another game of recrimination for Arsenal? To their credit, they responded valiantly. The pressure built and Bellerin latched onto Alonso’s clearing header to steer a crisp half-volley beyond Courtois’s grasp. Honours even? Zappacosta should have won it but did not.
It was a fair result, even if Wenger cried foul, again.
It was non-stop football. We know when we play them it's always a hard game - always entertainment. It was a great reaction towards the end. I haven't scored a goal in a while so it was overdue for me. I'm happy with the goal and happy with the reaction from the team.
I think we both played a good game. Maybe we should score more goals. We missed a lot of chances but a draw is a good result for both teams. Cech is always a really good keeper. It's always hard to score against him.
Hazard was then asked if a draw was a fair result...
No, I think Chelsea should win this game.
Premier League table
Sensational game of football. The Premier League at its pulsating best.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) January 3, 2018
What? Just? Happened?
That ending was insane. Insane. What a finish from Bellerin. What a shocker from Morata. And then so close from Zappacosta.
Arsenal 2 Chelsea 2
Oh my word! Chelsea should score!!!! Morata has had a shocker tonight and fluffs his lines by hitting a one-on-one straight at Cech. Zappacosta is on hand to follow it up and he whacks the rebound past the keeper only to see it thud off the crossbar!
GOAL! Arsenal 2 Chelsea 2
Bellerin with a screamer!!! The cross comes in and Alonso's header falls to Bellerin. The Spaniard has so much work to do but drills his half-volley past Cech, who has no chance.
Arsenal 2 - 2 Chelsea (Héctor Bellerín, 90 + 2 min)
Bellerin leathers a cross at head height from well inside the penalty area on the right and no one is there to get on the end of it.
Sanchez with a snap shot from 12 yards, but the effort is blocked. Still no way through.
Chelsea are not sitting back, which is making things tricky for Arsenal. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played.
Courtois is booked for time-wasting.
What a hit from Mustafi. A high, loopy cross hangs in the air for an age before Mustafi volleys with sublime technique from outside the edge of the Chelsea box, but the shot thuds into Cahill's midriff.
Welbeck is in acres down the right, but his attempted cross in the direction of Sanchez is put out for an Arsenal corner, which Courtois punches clear.
Walcott comes on to replace to Chambers.
Here come Arsenal. Time for all-out attack...
GOAL! Arsenal 1 Chelsea 2
Alonso puts Chelsea ahead! Zappacosta gets a yard ahead of Maitland-Niles down the right flank before drilling a low cross to the edge of the Arsenal six-yard box where Alonso is on hand to pass it past Cech at the near post. Is that the winning goal?
Arsenal 1 - 2 Chelsea (Marcos Alonso, 84 min)
Patient build-up play from Arsenal, but they can't find any way through at the moment. Chelsea are defending resolutely. Now Willian comes on for Hazard, who has been the best player on the pitch.
Here comes Dat Guy Welbz to replace Lacazette.
Chambers has been dross today.
Chambers needs GPS....constantly out of position— Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) January 3, 2018
4 - Arsenal have conceded a joint-high 4 penalty goals in the Premier League this season (level with Watford and West Ham). Spotted. pic.twitter.com/QiBTWEwYwB— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 3, 2018
Chelsea, driven by Hazard, look the most likely to grab a second here but neither side have shut up shop.
Apparently Ozil was booked for appealing that penalty decision so that's three Arsenal players on yellow cards.
It's all action out there. Drinkwater comes on for Fabregas and then Kante sees his shot deflected wide from the edge of the Arsenal penalty area.
G-Nev is still uncertain whether that was a penalty. It was soft, but there did appear to be some contact from Bellerin's rash kick. Most people on Twitter seem agree with the decision given.
Stop worrying about what he is holding...he got kicked after the ball had gone...I’d want my players to go down every time they get kicked in the box— Jody Morris (@morriskid) January 3, 2018
Hazard went down easily, but there was clear contact. The Belgian steps up himself and buries it. Game on!— Chelsea HQ 🏆 (@Chelsea_HQ) January 3, 2018
Chelsea almost take the lead! It's Morata versus Chambers in a straight shoulder-to-shoulder as the Chelsea man breaks clear to advance on the Arsenal goal. Chambers probably does just enough to push him wide, but Morata really should do better as he sticks his effort wide. Conte cannot believe that wasn't a goal.
Was that a penalty? The crowd don't think so. Wenger certainly doesn't think so. Hazard made a meal of the contact (he went down clutching his shin) despite it being minimal at best. This one will rage for a while after the match. It's not clear cut either way.
GOAL! Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
Hazard turns this way and that before his cross is blocked. The ball comes straight back to the Belgian, who goes down incredibly softly under a challenge from Bellerin and the referee points to the spot. PENALTY TO CHELSEA!!! Hazard steps up and sends Cech the wrong way. Game on.
Lots of chatter from G-Nev about whether Wilshere should have been on the pitch after that supposed dive.
It was coming. Terrific goal from @JackWilshere. Great to see him back to full fitness. Never been lacking in ability.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) January 3, 2018
And so close to an immediate second! This time Courtois comes to the rescue once again as Lacazette's powerful shot is palmed round the post.
GOAL! Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0
Wilshere breaks the deadlock! It's a fortunate deflection that sees the ball roll into Wilshere's path as he sprints into the penalty area. Wilshere drills it first time with his left peg and overpowers Courtois at the near post to put the hosts into the lead.
Arsenal 1 - 0 Chelsea (Jack Wilshere, 63 min)
Ozil to Lacazette, Lacazette to Ozil... the German is just six yards out and he tries to square to Sanchez, but somehow the ball is squirmed away.
A sustained period of pressure sees Arsenal camped inside the final third, which ends with Ozil putting the ball in the net. Unfortunately for the few home fans who cheered it in, the whistle had long gone for an Arsenal foul committed in the build-up.
Lovely stuff from Ozil, sliding through spaces that aren't visible to anyone but him and earning Arsenal a corner that comes to nothing.
A first change for Chelsea with Zappacosta replacing Moses.
Boos ring out around the Emirates as Wilshere goes down on the edge of the Chelsea penalty area and his appeals for a foul are waved away. G-Nev suggests it was either a foul or a dive but the referee gave nothing. Having watched the replay, G-Nev then suggests it was the latter.
Two superb goalkeeper performances on display so far.
Another brilliant save - this time from Courtois. Arsenal get fortunate as the ball bounces off Cahill and straight to Lacazette on the edge of the Chelsea penalty area. The Frenchman turns to shoot, but Courtois has hared off his line and smothers the shot in a flash.
Holding is then booked for a late challenge.
Chelsea have started the brightest of the two teams and Arsenal have Cech to thank for this match remaining 0-0. First Hazard has a crack from just inside the penalty area that Cech saves with his left foot. The rebound is crossed in to Alonso and the ball looks to be arrowing into the far corner, but Cech dives full stretch to palm it wide.
At Arsenal having a close look at Jack Wilshere. He's made good progress but lack of speed against top sides an issue. Fabregas played round him in 1st half.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) January 3, 2018
Second half is go. Moses is offside.
Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
A very entertaining half of football to have produced no goals. Morata will wonder how on earth he didn't put Chelsea ahead, while Sanchez may well think the same thing after that save from Courtois saw his shot hit both posts. This game is wide open.
Average touch positions (half time)
Arsenal vs Chelsea shots on goal
Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
Lovely set-up from Hazard. So good. Kante wins the ball with a great tackle in the middle of the pitch, Hazard runs directly across the edge of the penalty area and drops the ball off for Fabregas to shoot. He tries to curl it into the top corner, but his effort is both high and wide.
Another corner for Chelsea - their sixth of the half - is headed clear.
The Arsenal fans cheer a yellow card shown to Fabregas for a supposed foul on Wilshere. The Spaniard cannot believe it and I would have to agree. That was a brilliant tackle. Never a foul, let alone a yellow card.
Fabregas yellow!!! Wasn’t even a freekick— Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) January 3, 2018
Now it is Chelsea's turn to cause more problems as Hazard ventures into the Arsenal 18-yard box, but his cross is cut out at the near post.
Entertaining game this. Both sides look dangerous in attack.
...Alonso is the man to take with his left peg. But he opts for too much power and his shot flies over the bar.
Down the other end come Arsenal and Ozil tries his luck from range. Courtois dives at full-stretch but the ball goes wide of the far post.
I'm not sure that was a free-kick. "It looked soft," says Gary Neville as Xhaka nicks the ball off Bakayoko on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area and a free-kick is given. In fact, the replays show the referee was spot on. I stand corrected. This is dangerous...
A stunning cross-field ball from Fabregas takes out the entire Arsenal defence and should be controlled by Bakayoko inside the penalty area, but the Frenchman makes a total hash of whether to take it down with his chest of thigh and ends up doing neither.
Maitland-Niles is receiving plenty of praise from G-Nev on commentary. The young wing-back has certainly been busy so far this evening, popping up all over the place.
A first yellow card of the night goes the way of Wilshere for a late challenge on Fabregas in the middle of the pitch. Not a good tackle that, but Arsenal fans will not care one jot.
Yellow for Jack who tackles Fabregas. He gets a kiss from me for that.— Daily Cannon (@DailyCannon) January 3, 2018
Another mistake from Chambers gifts Chelsea the ball inside the Arsenal half. Hazard can't quite work his way through a wall of Arsenal defenders with his shot blocked almost immediately and Moses then strays offside. Chambers has so far been... poor. And that's being generous.
Just seen a replay of that Courtois save off Sanchez - brilliant. Such a strong hand from such close range, which was then followed by an enormous slice of luck as the ball ran along the goal line.
Another fine save from Courtois. This time Lacazette gets the ball with back to goal 12 yards out. He turns and fires low to Courtois' left, but the big Belgian dives at full stretch to palm it behind.
Ohhhhh maaaan so close from Laca damn Curtois is too tall— Daily Cannon (@DailyCannon) January 3, 2018
Right: a replay of that penalty appeal suggests Maitland-Niles may have tripped himself up. Or did Moses make contact with his back leg? Not for me and not for Gary Neville on commentary. Correct decision (I think).
The ball has not gone out of play for four minutes so I haven't seen a replay of either the penalty appeal or the Courtois save. That save looked incredible at first viewing.
WHAT HAS JUST HAPPENED??? Maitland-Niles is convinced he should have been awarded a penalty as he goes down inside the box. Looked a decent shout but not given. The ball falls to Sanchez though and the Chilean powers his shot from 10 yards out only for Courtois to get his fingertips to the ball and deflect it onto the post. The ball then rolls all the way across the line, hits the other post and Courtois gathers.
WHAT A MISS! Oh wow. Chambers has a nightmare, allowing the ball to sail way over his head while chatting to Wilshere on the halfway line. Morata ghosts in behind and has all the time in the world to pick his spot as he bears down on Cech... only to sidefoot his effort metres wide of the far post. A terrible, terrible effort and an almighty let-off for Chambers.
Fairly sure the only way Morata scores that is if Azpilcueta provides the through-ball and then he gets down and heads it in.— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) January 3, 2018
A dearth of chances so far as Hazard goes on a winding run that ultimately leads nowhere.
Having weathered that brief period of pressure, here come Arsenal on the counter-attack. Sanchez spots Ozil haring through the middle of the park and attempts a lofted throughball in the direction of the German but his delivery is slightly over-hit and bounces out of play for a goal kick.
A spell of Chelsea possession ends with Alonso driving in a low cross from the left, which is blocked on its way towards Cech's goal.
Sanchez will take the free-kick... it hits the Chelsea wall and loops towards Courtois' unguarded side of the net but sails over the bar for a corner that is cleared.
Chelsea are noticeably dropping very deep to collect the ball, with the home side content to allow that to happen. Oh what have we here? Lacazette goes down somewhat extravagantly under Konte's challenge and Arsenal have a free-kick in the perfect position 20 yards out and slightly to the left.
Plenty of scrappy middle-of-the-pitch play in these opening few minutes.
A few nervous moments for Arsenal as Chambers is harshly ruled to have committed a foul on the edge of the home side's penalty area. Chelsea take the free-kick quickly and earn a corner, but the threat soon dissipates.
Arsenal get the match under way, working the ball from front to back and then front again as a loopy cross is taken by Courtois.
The players are out. Kick off is moments away.
Walk of shame?
Alexis Sanchez looks like a man who has endured a tough day at the office and is late for his evening five-a-side kickabout.
Wenger on Ozil:
Ozil has been declared fit. He trained yesterday and declared himself fit so I think he is 100 per cent. He gives us fluidity in our game and final balls in the final third. He is the kind of guy who can keep the game simple and creative.
Wenger on the general mood in the camp:
We are determined. We felt after the [West Brom] game that it wasn't fair, but life is not always fair so you have to deal with it. It's a good moment to show how you respond.
Conte on the match:
It's a London derby between two big teams. It's normal in this type of game that it is a special game for the clubs.
Conte on the dynamic between Azpilicueta and Morata:
There is a good link between these two players. Don't forget that Azpilicueta has a great right foot and quality. For this reason we try to exploit the situation.
Youth or experience?
Four of the Arsenal back five are 22 years old or under, which is not usually ideal in a defence.
Arsenal have dropped just four points at the Emirates this campaign - a 3-1 defeat against Manchester United and a 3-3 draw against Liverpool. They have also scored more goals (25) at home than any side other than Manchester City.
Runners and riders
So, what do you think of those teams?
Three changes for Arsenal from their 1-1 draw the other day against West Brom, with Holding and Maitland-Niles coming in for Koscielny and Kolasinac. The biggest news for the home side is that Ozil has passed a fitness test and replaces Iwobi.
Chelsea make four changes from the side that beat Stoke 5-0 with Christensen, Fabregas, Bakayoko and Hazard all returning to the starting XI. Rudiger, Drinkwater, Willian and Pedro are the men to make way.
Here it is - our team to face @ChelseaFC #AFCvCFC pic.twitter.com/06MQX1QWPG— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 3, 2018
Here's your Chelsea team! 👊
Courtois, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill (c), Moses, Kante, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso, Hazard, Morata. #ARSCHE pic.twitter.com/fyp3R1X7vN
You're looking at about eight degrees Celsius and pretty windy tonight.
It is Wednesday night, which - like every other day of the week for the past fortnight - means it is Premier League football time. Tonight's fixture is the Petr Cech/Cesc Fabregas derby between Arsenal and Chelsea.
This match has the propensity to provoke rash behaviour. Six red cards have been shown in the past seven meetings between these two sides, with David Luiz the most recent culprit when he was sent off in the 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge in September.
This time around the match comes at the end of a gruelling Premier League Christmas and New Year schedule that has seen both teams go unbeaten. Chelsea could moved above Manchester United into second place with victory tonight, while a win for Arsenal would see them leapfrog Spurs into fifth.
Just to an another element of intrigue, this match is the first of three quickfire meetings between Arsenal and Chelsea, with the sides scheduled to meet in a two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final later this month.
So, what about tonight? Well here are two (possibly) relevant stats:
- Arsenal's 3-0 win at the Emirates last season is their only victory in the last 12 Premier League meetings against Chelsea.
- Arsenal have failed to score in seven of the last nine Premier League matches against Chelsea.
Which of course means: a 6-0 Arsenal win.