The Blues put out a relatively strong starting eleven today comprised of players that hadn't played together much of late, and both the strength of the squad and the inexperience together were clearly on display. The Blues dominated the ball for most of the opening 20 minutes, but didn't do a whole lot to threaten the Arsenal goal in that span.
Cesar Azpilicueta's goal from a terribly headed backpass changed all of that, as Arsenal were forced to crank up the pressure a bit after conceding. The game opened up and Arsenal began to look threatening, but it went to the break with Chelsea up 1-0.
The second half kicked off with no changes to either side, though Arsenal's big guns on the bench were beginning to get active. Arsenal were applying heavy pressure, and were pushing very hard in the Chelsea end. As Chelsea weathered that storm and began to take over the game again, Arsene Wenger responded by bringing on Mesut Ozil.
Chelsea doubled the lead just moments later, as a brilliant strike from Juan Mata was always destined for the back of the net. Arsenal brought on Olivier Giroud for the woeful Nicklas Bendtner, now needing a pair just to force extra time.
Ramires came on for Kevin De Bruyne, as Jose Mourinho looked to make the Blues a little more sound defensively. Demba Ba came on for Samuel Eto'o in a like for like substitution, although one that likely made the Blues a bit more solid defending set pieces. Wenger responded by pulling Aaron Ramsey for the Arsenal equivalent of Bebe, the last of the Frenchman's substitutions.
Mourinho ran some more time off the clock, bringing Tomas Kalas on for his Chelsea debut while taking Juan Mata off the pitch. The whistle blew, Arsenal were defeated, and Chelsea now await their next opponent in the League Cup. Here are my initial thoughts after this one:
- I was a little disappointed that Tomas Kalas didn't get a start in this one, although I'm not sure he was ready for 90 minutes after a long layoff anyway.
- While disappointed that Kalas didn't start, I was thrilled to see Arsenal give themselves a self imposed red card by starting Nicklas Bendtner. It amazes me that as he approaches what should be the prime of his career, he continues to regress into a guy that probably shouldn't be on any Premier League roster.
- I'd take the occasional David Luiz moment of insanity over the far too frequent Gary Cahill playing the opposition onside anyday. Hopefully the solid showing from Luiz this evening has ensured he'll be partnering John Terry on the weekend.
- The defensive workrate on display from Willian was absolutely fantastic. I've got a feeling we'll gradually see more of him as the season wears on.
- Speaking of excellent players today, how good was Ryan Bertrand?
- Remember this? It's just too funny not to warrant a mention today.
- I love that the media won't be shutting up about how Wenger is now 0-9 against Mourinho, largely because it will enrage an Arsenal fanbase that's been having far too good a time this season. That said, games against United, Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Everton, Southampton, Dortmund, and Napoli (as well as Hull, Cardiff, and Marseille) before December 23 could do a pretty solid job of ending that anyway.