Arsenal scored a late equaliser to earn a hard-fought draw against Chelsea. The home side had a number of injuries, but that didn’t prevent them from delivering a determined performance against a top-six rival. Although a point doesn’t do a lot for them in terms of the league table, the game will feel like a win as they got the goal in the closing moments to avoid defeat.
Meanwhile, Chelsea will be left ruing a number of good chances as they dropped two points in stoppage time against the Gunners. Alvaro Morata had three great chances in the match, but failed to score any of them. This left a large section of the fan-base questioning whether he is good enough to be the starting striker for the club. Antonio Conte will feel hard done by, but the Blues remain in a good position as they seek a comfortable top four finish. Here are three talking points from the match:
The race for the top four heats up
At the time of writing, Arsenal are in 6th position and the furthest off the pace when it comes to Champions League qualification. However, there are only eight points separating them from Manchester United in 2nd. That seems a big gap, but United have been far from convincing in recent weeks and there is no reason why the Gunners can’t aim to compete with them.
The draw against West Brom was a major blow for Arsenal, especially the manner of the goal scored by the Baggies. It was important that they avoided defeat against Chelsea and they managed to do that. Their last-minute equaliser will allow the players to feel like that was a win and they can take that momentum into their upcoming fixtures.
Manchester City are the outstanding team of the division, but the rest of the top six all have their strengths and weaknesses. The battle for the Champions League is shaping up to be an entertaining one this season and this result could be looked back on as a crucial moment in Arsenal’s season.
Alvaro Morata’s lack of composure in front of goal
The Spanish striker arrived for a big fee in the summer and was brought in to replace the Diego Costa. The departing striker wasn’t perfect and the club did have issues with him, but he was a reliable finisher when the team created chances for him. Morata has yet to convince and has now missed 14 big chances in the Premier League this season. Only Mohamed Salah has missed more.
His contribution this season of ten goals and four assists looks impressive on the surface, with a goal involvement of 102.3 minutes. However, his lack of composure with his feet is a growing issue. He has a shot conversion with his feet of only 8%. This is considerably worse than his shot conversion with his head that stands at 29.17%. Although his aerial ability has impressed this season, he needs to work on his finishing with feet as his misses are becoming costly.
Morata is still in his first season as a Chelsea player and he has not been a regular starter before in his career. It is too soon to be overly critical, as he has been a success overall. However, his lack of composure when one-on-one is an area that has to improve if he is to be considered one of the best strikers in Europe.
Homegrown Arsenal players impress
Arsenal didn’t have their full-strength eleven playing against Chelsea, but two of the players that were on the pitch as a result made the most of their opportunity. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Jack Wilshere have come through the club’s academy, with differing levels of first-team experience. They both started the season on the fringes of the first-team, but they showed their class against one of the Gunners’ top-six rivals.
The former has been given several chances in the first-team during recent weeks. Although he came through as a midfielder, he has found a role at left-back that he could excel in at senior level. Against Chelsea, he was solid at the back and made six tackles. There is an argument that he could have done better for the visitors’ second, but on the whole, he was impressive at the back. In the attacking half, he offered good support down the left and was assured in possession. The 20-year-old has a big future if managed correctly.
There have been doubts about Jack Wilshere, mainly focused on his injury problems, but he has played a lot of football over Christmas and continues to perform to a high level. He was tenacious against Chelsea and worked hard in the centre of the park. The 26-year-old scored a great goal with a powerful strike to give Arsenal a lead in the second half. The more he plays, the greater chance there is that his contract will be renewed.