The Blues ran out 3-2 winners at Stamford Bridge and enjoyed prolonged spells of possession. However, Unai Emery’s side had their moments on top as well.
Ahead of the encounter, we picked out a few key tactics which may come into play.
Here’s a rundown of what the two managers opted for and how things unfolded.
What we anticipated: Eden Hazard came off the bench against Huddersfield and made an instant impact. As such, we expected Maurizio Sarri to start the Belgian in this fixture. His ability to drift inside and make diagonal runs in behind fits perfectly into the Italian’s system and would’ve given the likes of Hector Bellerin and Shkodran Mustafi several problems.
What happened: Sarri surprisingly chose not to start Hazard, something the Chelsea star addressed after the game, imploring the manager to begin including him in the XI. The ploy to get in behind the Arsenal defence was in play and may have been even more devastating with Hazard involved. The 27-year-old was as threatening as we anticipated when he was introduced though, setting up Marcos Alonso for the winning goal.
Kante’s Advanced Role
What we anticipated: N’Golo Kante was handed a more advanced role at Huddersfield. However, we suggested it’s his ball-winning ability rather than his capacity to contribute to the goals for column which earned him that position. With Sarri employing a high-press, the Frenchman’s tenacity and relentless closing down would come into play.
What happened: Kante was effective without the ball as he put the Arsenal defenders in possession under enormous pressure, forcing several loose passes. The midfielder repeatedly found himself in the box when Chelsea were on the front foot but fluffed his lines when goal-scoring opportunities fell his way.
Three Man Central Midfield
What we anticipated: Matteo Guendouzi had some bright moments against Manchester City but was regularly overwhelmed by the high-press in his attempts to receive the ball from the defence. A disappointing Granit Xhaka failed to offer the 19-year-old who ended up surrendering possession frequently. We suggested that a three man central midfield may help Arsenal cope with Chelsea’s version of the high-press.
What happened: Emery stuck with a 4-2-3-1 system with both Guendouzi and Xhaka retaining their places. Arsenal’s attempts to play the ball out from the back often landed them in trouble, just as it did against City’s high-press. Guendouzi was a lot better on the ball though, justifying the manager’s faith in him. Arsenal were regularly outnumbered in midfield though, handing the advantage to the hosts who enjoyed 62 per cent of possession.
Playing It Safe
What we anticipated: The other system we proposed was one more aligned with what Arsenal played against City and ended up using again at Stamford Bridge. The 4-2-3-1 system above retained the defensive structure the double pivot provides but with the more effective Lucas Torreira partnering Guendouzi. Aaron Ramsey’s deployment as the number 10 could see him keep tabs on Jorginho while the inclusion of Alexandre Lacazette along with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang offers a threat in behind.
What happened: Torreira was left on the bench again and Xhaka put in another disappointing performance. Lacazette didn’t start either but to Emery’s credit, he identified Chelsea’s weakness and began exposing their high-line with overloads down the flanks which worked like a charm. Ramsey was named as a substitute and Mesut Ozil wasn’t able – or inclined – to shadow Jorginho. The Italian had complete freedom in midfield to dictate play, making 99 passes with 92 per cent completion rate.
Jurgen Klopp’s team won 2-0 at Selhurst Park on Monday, when James Milner scored from the penalty spot and Sadio Mane secured all three points in stoppage time after Palace had been reduced to 10 men with Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s dismissal.
What had been a competitive affair changed on the stroke of half-time when Salah went down under minimal contact from Mamadou Sakho to earn the penalty which Palace manager Roy Hodgson has also since criticised.
Palace’s pursuit of an equaliser left them vulnerable to the counter-attacks that ended with Wan-Bissaka’s red card and Mane’s late finish, and midfielder Milivojevic said: “I told him ‘Say to the referee it’s not a penalty’. But he said it was. From his point of view it was a penalty.
“It was not a penalty. During the game that was my opinion and after the game when I saw the image, Mama tried to touch the ball, he did not touch the ball and in my opinion he did not touch the man.
“He fell down and for the referee it was a penalty. I did not see the contact on Salah. For me it was clear; it was not a penalty. That is football.
“This is not the first mistake in football. We were angry in the first minute but in football you do not have time to cry, we carried on, we tried in the second half. We had some good chances. Okay we lost, but we have to be proud.”
Milivojevic played for Serbia during the summer’s World Cup, where the use of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology helped influence similar decisions.
The Premier League remains the only major, top-flight division in European football in which VAR will not contribute to the refereeing of matches, but despite his sense of injustice Milivojevic said: “I do not want VAR in this league. In this country you have the best referees in the world.
“I do not think VAR will help. They are human beings, and they make mistakes sometimes. In his opinion he (Oliver) did the right thing. As players, we have to respect the referee. We are not a team who will cry over that penalty, we just carry on.”
Liverpool’s new-look central defensive partnership of Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk had been significant in them resisting another of the comebacks Palace have engineered under Roy Hodgson, and Van Dijk told the Reds’ official website: “It was very important to win here. We know how difficult it is to come here, so to win and keep a clean sheet as well, I’m a very happy man.
“We had very good moments but also moments that need to be better, especially in ball possession, but overall we need to be very happy that we won here.
“It was going to be very tough, we knew before it was going to be a big fight, but we prepared very well, everyone was up for it and you could see that as well.”
The second match-week of the Premier League season was typically filled with comical defending, free-flowing attacking and questionable refereeing, with Manchester City claiming top spot by thrashing Huddersfield.
Liverpool, Chelsea, Watford, Tottenham and Bournemouth make up the remaining sides with a 100%-win record to start the season, whilst Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United fell to a shock defeat at the hands of Brighton.
Leicester and Everton picked up their first wins of the season, whilst Champions League hopefuls Arsenal are still yet to pick up a Premier League point.
In what was another brilliant round of fixtures, we take a closer look at the winners and losers from an action-packed weekend.
1) Sergio Aguero – Manchester City
The Argentine certainly had his goal scoring boots on as he netted a superb hat-trick to give City a commanding 6-1 victory in their first match at the Etihad Stadium this season.
In truth, Aguero could have scored five or six, but he showcased once again why he is one of the deadliest forwards in the world.
His treble earned him a standing ovation from the City faithful and a kiss from manager Pep Guardiola.
No doubt, the City hero was the standout performer this weekend.
2) Neil Etheridge – Cardiff City
The goalkeeper was in fine form to help newly-promoted Cardiff City earn their first points of the season. Etheridge capped off his assured performance with a crucial penalty save deep into stoppage time at the end of the second half.
That takes his tally of penalty saves to two already this season after saving a spot kick in the opening fixture against Bournemouth.
Neil Etheridge is the first goalkeeper from the Philippines to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 18, 2018
Last-minute penalty save to seal it. 🇵🇭 pic.twitter.com/tQlDcb1uBj
3) Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur
England’s World Cup hero Kane must have breathed a huge sigh of relief after scoring his first ever Premier League goal in the month of August.
Kane was a danger to the Fulham defence throughout the match and linked impressively with Lucas Moura and Dele Alli as Spurs sealed a 3-1 victory.
The forward can put his barren August run firmly behind him and he will now be looking to push on in the race for the Golden Boot.
1) Kenedy – Newcastle United
The on-loan Chelsea man has cemented his position for the Magpies under Rafa Benitez, but he had an afternoon to forget against Cardiff.
The left-winger failed to complete a single pass in the entire first-half of the match and when he was afforded the chance to snatch all three points for the Toon with a penalty in added time at the end of the match, he fluffed his lines.
The winger was also involved in an off the ball encounter which saw him kick out at an opponent which should have seen him sent off. He’ll be hoping to forget this match in a hurry.
2) Jamie Vardy – Leicester City
The Englishman went into the match against Wolves hoping to score his second goal of the season, but it went terribly wrong for him.
Vardy lunged in and made a reckless tackle on Matt Doherty which saw him given a straight red card just after the hour mark as the Foxes held on for a 2-0 victory.
The club confirmed that they will not be appealing the red card, meaning the 31-year-old will miss two Premier League matches against Southampton and Liverpool and a Carabao Cup fixture against Fleetwood Town.
3 - Since 2015/16, no player has picked up more red cards in the Premier League than Jamie Vardy (3, also Miguel Britos, Simon Francis, Sadio Mané and Victor Wanyama). Mist.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 18, 2018
3) Manchester United
The Red Devils were well below par and were deservedly beaten 3-2 by a well-organised Brighton side.
United’s defence was nervous, shaky and wide open as the Seagulls smashed in three first-half goals to stun Jose Mourinho’s men.
They looked disjointed and were uncharacteristically sloppy in possession, with midfield duo Paul Pogba and Fred drawing plenty of criticism. But, they’ll be looking to get back to winning ways against Tottenham next Monday.