Having been used to bullying, dominating and most important, beating Arsenal at home for what seems like years; Chelsea supporters were faced with something quite different on Sunday.
Arsene Wenger totally against type, actually set Arsenal up to defend with discipline and not wander around the pitch leaving holes for Chelsea to exploit.
Furthermore, the bullies found themselves being bullied as Arsenal’s midfield chased down the likes of Willian, Pedro, Kante and Fabregas in packs. They were not shy of the odd physical challenge either with even Aaron Ramsey putting his foot in.
Arsene Wenger’s conversion to tactical management proved something of a surprise for his opposite number Antonio Conte, who expecting the expected, selected Fabregas, Willian and Pedro in his starting eleven. With 20:20 hindsight it would be easy to criticise him and make the point that perhaps the more powerful Bakayoko should have started to add ballast to the midfield and the mercurial Eden Hazard could have been brought on earlier to prize open the stubborn Arsenal defence.
The reality is that both Bakayoko and Hazard had enough time on the pitch but were still unable to affect the outcome of the game.
It was one of those days for Chelsea, praise for Arsenal notwithstanding, and the frustration could be felt all around Stamford Bridge.
This frustration seemed to get to the players as well through Michael Oliver’s handling of the game. Not for the first time Chelsea supporters witnessed what appeared to be ‘one rule for us and another for them’ style refereeing as Oliver appeared to penalise Chelsea players whilst being more lenient on Arsenal players infractions.
Michael Oliver will not be the first referee seen at Stamford Bridge exhibiting inconsistency and he will not be the last. Rather than let this get to them, it might be a good idea for Chelsea players to just get on with it.
Morata had a particularly frustrating afternoon, deprived of service by Arsenal’s midfield and fouled when any opportunity did arise; he spent much of the match on his rear end. His frustration boiled over when pointing out this rough treatment to the referee who promptly booked him.
There can be no complaints with the red card issued to David Luiz for a reckless challenge on Sead Kolasinac and he may have been lucky not to receive one for an attempted overhead kick which connected with Laurent Koscielny’s head rather than the ball. An easy mistake to make to be fair and perhaps for once Chelsea’s supporters might be grateful for inconsistent refereeing judging by the sending off of Sadio Mane last weekend.
Thankfully, Michael Oliver (or the Assistant Referee) did get one major decision absolutely right when flagging Shkodran Mustafi’s headed goal off-side. It gave Chelsea supporters a rare moment to cheer, especially when one Arsenal supporter ran on to celebrate the goal that wasn’t and was swiftly ejected.
Perhaps the disappointment and frustration of the Chelsea supporters has more to do with the fact that we have grown so used to dishing out humiliating defeats to Arsenal. We didn’t expect them to hold firm. Let’s face it they rarely do.
Ultimately neither side really did enough to win the game or deserve to lose it. It might seem like two points dropped at the moment but in reality, at the end of the season, this might be an important point gained.
What might be worthy of consideration is the fact that Arsenal came to the Bridge determined not to lose and gave Chelsea due respect. Knowing that they have a team capable of tearing most opponents apart, I wonder what Arsenal fans think of their team coming to Stamford Bridge and defending like Stoke…or worse, like a Mourinho Chelsea team.