It was a good representation of how far Arsenal have come this year, but still an infuriating result. There’d be no greater pleasure than wiping away the smug faces that represent Chelsea Football Club, but not this season. We’ll be challenging from the start next season. Chelsea knew it too, that’s why they celebrated through the roof. They feared us and respected us. Take positives from that, and our group of ever improving players.
Coquelin yet again shows his immense contribution to a regenerated Arsenal, and I can’t imagine we’re in the market to improve upon him, only support. Ramsey showed his return to his old-self with some majestic flicks and take-downs, all mixed with the never say never attitude that sees him eat up the distance covered. But it’s Nacho Monreal who gets my pick for Player of the Week. In truth, it’s long overdue, and he’s been one of the stand outs of the season.
An unsung hero. Once cursed and shunned in Arsenal colours, he’s taken this season by storm and forced Kieran Gibbs into only a brief supporting role. Now he’s a reliable, and often devilish left back. Although, had Ozil tucked home then he would have maybe been breaching Man of the Match for another accomplished display. He didn’t so it’s only natural to put the spotlight on somebody else. And when was the last time we looked so confident against a Chelsea outfit?
The Spanish fullback has been a fan favourite for much of the season, and he showed nothing less on Saturday. He defended with the reassurance Wenger has so faithfully entrusted upon him and he rarely gives anything away. He’s much better at covering than Gibbs is, despite my loyalty to the English left-back, who on occasions can be just as superb.
But it’s Monreal’s consistency that sets him high and above his competitor. Chelsea came with a negative outset but it’s all Monreal and testament to the Spaniard that the favourite for PFA Player of the Season was kept largely to a whimper for much of the game – the same can be said to fellow Spaniard, and full back, Bellerin. Hazard switched around so I’m not too sure which player saw to him the most. He was quiet. That’s all the evidence needed to praise our fullbacks.
Monreal doesn’t hold back on the attacking side of the game, and it’s no secret that the players frequently look to him for the ball down the wings. He’s often our furthest attacking option forward. The best chance for Arsenal came from the typical Monreal incision into the left channel where he drives into the box and whip the ball across. Ozil missed the cue. T
he game finished 0-0. But it’s that threat and accuracy that Monreal provides so frequently that makes him such an asset. Gibbs is going to struggle to find his way back into the starting eleven, Monreal is simply too solid in all areas of his game. On a technical level he is as assured as he is with reading of the game.
I also want to highlight the Chelsea counter attack in the closing minutes. They were on the break, and a recent Arsenal side would have become flustered and descended into chaos. But this doesn’t factor any more. The players play with more intelligence. Monreal brought the attack to a halt with deliberate foul, a tactical foul. Arsenal never used to do them, but now they do – so they concede less.
They’re harder to beat. They are respectful of their opponents and are more attuned to the dangers around them. Monreal picked up a thankless yellow card and may well have stopped Chelsea scoring. It was a predictable game, but one with a much improved Arsenal on show. If there’s a sign of things to come then the draw signifies the closing gap and Arsenal’s return to the heavy weights.