Central to Arsenal’s commendable performance against reigning Premier League champions Chelsea, which helped them to secure a goalless draw, was Aaron Ramsey. The Wales international turned in an uncharacteristically disciplined display at Stamford Bridge that earned him the Man of the Match award.
Ramsey’s game statistics make for impressive reading. He had 73 touches of the ball and completed 42 of his 51 passes, while one of his two shots hit a post. Underlining his tireless work was the fact that he covered 12.34km over the 90 minutes – more than any other player on the pitch.
Heading into the contest, many observers expected Arsenal to crumble like they did so embarrassingly at Liverpool two weeks earlier. This time though, the Gunners displayed a resilience seldom seen in recent seasons under manager Arsene Wenger. Ramsey and Granit Xhaka, playing as deep-lying midfielders in front of a three-man central defence, stuck to their task admirably to frustrate Chelsea’s attacking stars.
Ramsey has received criticism in the past for leaving his defenders exposed, but here he was happy to sacrifice his attacking instincts for the good of the team. Of course, an early goal for Chelsea would have prompted Wenger to revise his tactics, but the longer the game remained at 0-0, the more it suited Arsenal’s game-plan.
Despite having been asked to fulfil a more defensive role than usual, Ramsey came tantalisingly close to breaking the deadlock in the first half. After a marauding run in which he saw off the attention of a clutch of Chelsea players, the 26-year-old managed to poke the ball towards goal, only to see it cannon off the base of a post. Alexandre Lacazette should have buried the rebound, but he seemed to be taken by surprise and could not direct his shot on target.
Arsenal’s 4-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool earlier this month appears to have been a wake-up call for Wenger. Certainly, his approach against Chelsea suggests he is finally willing to compromise on his expansive brand of football, when the situation demands.
The Gunners’ record against the top clubs in the Premier League is dreadful, mainly because they leave themselves too open. On Sunday though, Arsenal were much more compact. It proves they are capable of a rearguard effort that so many thought was beyond them.