Chelsea 2-2 Arsenal: Gunners mount breathless late comeback to take an unlikely point as Leandro Trossard and Declan Rice’s goals cancel out efforts from Cole Palmer and Mykhailo Mudryk
- Arsenal fought back from two goals behind to take a dramatic point against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge
- Cole Palmer slotted the hosts in front from the penalty spot before Mykhailo Mudryk doubled their lead
- But the visitors rallied back in stunning fashion after quickfire goals from Declan Rice and Leandro Trossard
It was the best of games and the worst of games for Chelsea. It seemed as though the wisdom of the new regime was finally coming to fruition and yet the foolishness of youth was eventually exposed. Whether this will be a season of light or darkness remains to be seen, whether they are heading for a winter of despair or a spring of new hope.
At the end of it all, they can take away the positives if they like and tell themselves they have never played better under Mauricio Pochettino or indeed since Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbai took over the club. They can delight in 76 minutes of superb football, Arsenal utterly outplayed.
And yet they will have to explain how, having the game won and Arsenal in their pocket, they contrived to be hanging on for dear life at the end. The answer is to be found in the obvious.
The criticism of their billion pound outlay at this club is that the balance of the squad is wrong, far too weighted towards youths. There’s a reason why Alan Hansen once said you don’t win anything with kids, even if he was wrong. Occasionally the vitality of youth springs into life and you can glimpse a bright future. That was the story until 77 minutes.
And then there are the mistakes that young players make. Chelsea were cruising towards three points when Robert Sanchez passed the ball out from goal. Connor Gallagher had switched off and Declan Rice retrieved the ball 25 yards out and promptly passed it back into the net.
Arsenal mounted a stunning late comeback to take a point against Chelsea despite falling two goals behind in the capital
Leandro Trossard was introduced as a second half substitute and scored the equaliser, tucking home from close range
Declan Rice had kickstarted the comeback after latching onto Robert Sanchez’s poor pass and sweeping home magnificently
Chelsea XI: Sanchez, Gusto, Silva, Colwill, Cucurella, Gallagher, Caicedo, Fernandez, Palmer (James, 84), Sterling (Madueke, 84), Mudryk (Jackson, 66)
Subs not used: Petrovic, Maatsen, Badiashile, Disasi, Ugochukwu, Washington
Goals: Palmer 15, Mudryk 48
Booked: Palmer, Silva, Cucurells
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
Arsenal XI: Raya, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko (Tomiyasu, 46), Rice, Jorginho (Smith Rowe, 68), Odegaard (Havertz, 78), Saka, Martinelli (Trossard, 78), Jesus (Nketiah, 68)
Subs not used: Hein, Kiwior, Partey, Nelson
Goals: Rice 77, Trossard 84
Booked: Zinchenko, White, Nketiah
Manager: Mikel Arteta
Everybody understands the root philosophy of passing out from the back, how it the rewards outweigh the risks. And yet in moments like this it’s impossible to escape the feeling that you’re watching the Under 9s make calamitous errors rather than a group of elite professionals.
Suddenly Arsenal were back in the game. Bukayo Saka, kept quiet by Marc Cucurella until then, was full of life. His cross swung in on 84 minutes and Malo Gusto just stood motionless as Leandro Trossard sprinted past him to connect and finish superbly.
No-one could really believe it, least of all the delirious Arsenal fans who had no doubt resigned themselves to defeat. When Eddie Nketiah burst through minutes later and shot just wide, they believed even greater things possible.
Until that moment this had been Chelsea’s day. And in particular Mykhailo Mudryk. Cross or shot? When it was Ronaldinho, 2002, it was plausible to believe the latter. Mudryk, 2023? His team-mates would have you believe he is capable of the same. And even those who are cynical about that claim should not begrudge him his moment on 48 minutes here.
He’s had a miserable time since landing in the Premier League in January with the ‘potential Ball D’Or winner’ moniker. Ironically, Arsenal wanted him and though they had him until Boehly gazumped them. Since then his form has made him the poster boy for Boehly’s blunders.
Mykhailo Mudryk had doubled the home side’s lead after lofting an attempted cross over the head of stopper David Raya
Cole Palmer coolly opened the scoring in the first half from the penalty spot following William Saliba’s handball
The forward stepped up to convert with aplomb from 12 yards, sending Raya the wrong way and sparking scenes of jubilation
This is a player whose own manager was regularly beating in the cross bar challenge they play after training, who has looked lost in a new environment. It would be surprising if his own nation’s trials were not a factor in that bewilderment.
But it all finally came together on 48 minutes. Perhaps the greater significance will be just how sloppily Arsenal conceded the ball in midfield through Ben White. It had been an uncharacteristic off day for them as Cucurella drove the ball on, rolled in to Mudryk.
But the emotional significance was undoubtedly embodied in Mudryk. He looked up and curled the ball goal-wards, you suspect hoping that Cole Palmer or Raheem Sterling could connect. Instead, with David Raya scrambling back on to his goal-line, the ball swirled and bent its wat into the far top corner.
It was for moments like this Chelsea paid £88m. His joy was unconfined. Perhaps his confidence will now follow. When he left he field on 65 minutes, it was to a standing ovation and an Argentine embrace for Maurico Pochettino. You hope he is starting to feel the love.
He had already contributed his part to what had been the best half of football Chelsea have played under Pochettino. They looked a coherent unit, solid at the back, dogged in midfield, rapacious down the wings, Raheem Sterling especially vigorous.
Palmer wasn’t brought here to play centre forward but the energy he brought to the position, the runs he made and the calm way he scored his penalty made him a more than able stand in. Cucurella has had a dreadful year but the manner in which he started this game, physical and robust with Saka, demonstrated an intent not to be dominated.
Trossard was mobbed by his team-mates after his leveller hauled the visitors level and secured them an invaluable point
Saliba looked to crash away a cross with his head but instead made contact with the ball with his lofted left arm (pictured)
Referee Chris Kavanagh was advised to check his pitchside monitor by VAR and after watching replays, pointed to the spot
Arsenal haven’t often look bewildered this season, Lens apart. Yet here they struggled. When they had the ball, the couldn’t break Chelsea’s defensive lines. When Chelsea had it, they were exposed, Zinchenko’s midfield stint leaving Sterling full of space to run into. The Ukrainian was relieved of his duties at half time, Takehiro Tomiyasu coming on to spare him more pain.
That said, penalty by which they took the lead had even John Terry somewhat aghast at how the rules are interpreted these days. Sterling’s cross was met by Mykhailo Mudryk’s header. Saliba, arm outstretched high – ‘un-natural position’ the regulations would say – jumped with him and the ball struck his hand from extreme close range. What once we would all have agreed was accidental, now we have the tyranny of clarity.
That said, the teams played on for a good two minutes before a break, at which point VAR Jarred Gillett told ref Chris Kavanagh to check the screen and the penalty was duly awarded, as it always now is. Cole Palmer assumed the responsibility, sent David Raya the wrong way and celebrated in the corner.
Gallagher enjoyed breaking through midfield, and played in Palmer on 30 minutes, his shot pulled juts wide. Another counter saw Mal Gusto find space on 44 minutes yet lift his shot over.
Then there was Palmer harrying Raya into a mistake on 57 minutes, Nicolas Jackson not making the most of Sterling’s through ball a few minutes later. Throughout, there was intensity from Chelsea, a speed of thought.
Indeed it seemed an afternoon when elements of the Boehly-Eghbali project came into view. In the end, the brittleness and callow nature of their squad was laid bare.
Palmer and Raheem Sterling was seen in conversation as they both staked their claim to take Chelsea’s first-half penalty
Palmer delivered a scintillating individual performance and came close to notching a brace when he pulled a shot just wide
Mikel Arteta was cautioned after the final whistle after walking to the centre circle to remonstrate with the match officials
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