Arsenal's familiar failings as Chelsea inflict more misery on Unai Emery
LONDON -- Three points on Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon.
1. Chaos as Arsenal and Emery suffer
There was chaos on both sides, a rare display of Arsenal tenacity and Chelsea defending like a team that had forgotten how to operate a back four. But in the end, it was the same old story, with Arsenal losing against one of their top six rivals.
Having fallen 2-0 down inside 20 minutes after goals by Pedro and Alvaro Morata, Arsenal raised some fighting spirit for new manager Unai Emery to level the score by half-time through Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi.
But in a game that showed that both teams are still adjusting to life under new management -- Chelsea are also having their teething troubles under Maurizio Sarri -- the home side pulled a victory out of the bag with Marcos Alonso's late winner.
Having lost at home to Manchester City in their opening game last Sunday, Arsenal have suffered their worst start to a season since losing their first two games of the 1992-93 season. On that occasion, they went on to win both domestic cups under George Graham, but Emery has plenty of work to do if he is to achieve any kind of success this season after replacing Arsene Wenger.
Against Chelsea, we saw the familiar Arsenal failings of hopeless defending and an anonymous Mesut Ozil, but Emery has at least injected some fight and bite into the team. It will take time for the Spaniard to eradicate those long-term flaws, but there was enough in this game to suggest that he is making a difference.
Sarri, who has won his first two games in charge, will also know that he has plenty to do at Stamford Bridge, however. Having ditched Antonio Conte's three-man defence, he saw Chelsea hand Arsenal countless scoring chances, and a better team would have would have punished the home side and won the game.
In midfield, N'Golo Kante is still getting used to life alongside the impressive Jorginho, but Sarri has the luxury of working out his new team's problems with a 100 percent winning record under his belt.
Emery is the opposite, but both teams are still a work in progress.
2. Bellerin worth persevering with
There is a player in Hector Bellerin, and this game suggested that it is as a right midfielder rather than a right-back.
The Arsenal defender is still just 23, but having burst on to the scene as a teenager, his progress stalled during the final years of Wenger's reign as manager. Wenger's failure to fully address to team's defensive issues is arguably one factor in Bellerin's inability to become the world class full-back many had tipped him to be.
But the opening 20 minutes of this game highlighted the critical lack of defensive awareness in Bellerin's game -- a consequence of too long without the necessary coaching.
Emery may yet be able to drill that awareness into the Spaniard, but Bellerin's performance in the Chelsea half of the pitch may persuade the new Arsenal manager that his best option is to deploy him further forward and play Stephan Lichtsteiner behind Bellerin at right-back. The experienced Swiss defender would give Arsenal the protection that Bellerin is unable to provide. But by playing Bellerin further forward, the youngster would be free to use his athletic qualities to better use and provide the attacking edge that he offered at Stamford Bridge.
Bellerin is quick, strong and with an eye for a pass and those qualities stood out in this game. As did his defensive shortcomings, with two of Chelsea's goals coming from crosses from their left, so Emery has a simple decision to make.
3. Morata looking focused and hungry again
Alvaro Morata would have left Chelsea this summer had the club received a suitable bid for the Spanish forward.
Having made an impressive start to his first season in the Premier League, his form faded so badly that he scored just once in the league in the second half of the campaign. The former Real Madrid and Juventus man cut a disconsolate figure and he made little secret of his unhappiness in London.
But the arrival of Sarri as Antonio Conte's replacement as manager has given Morata a second chance and, it appears, a new lease of life.
Towards the end of his time in charge, Conte had clearly lost confidence in his record signing, and Olivier Giroud had begun to emerge as a better option from the start up front.
But against Arsenal, Morata was chosen ahead of Giroud by Sarri and he repaid his coach with a goal and a hungry performance. His goal, from Cesar Azpilicueta's long pass, was an impressive finish and he almost scored again in the second-half before being flagged offside.
But with Sarri unlikely to play with two strikers, Morata now knows that the Italian rates him highly enough to start against one of Chelsea's biggest rivals.
And by the time he was replaced by Giroud on 75 minutes, Morata had done more than enough to justify his place in the starting XI.