The Gunners were reduced to 10 men after David Luiz’s dismissal but Double recovered from going a goal down to claim the unlikeliest of points
For many years Arsenal have been tagged as pushovers, possibly this was the night they began to brush off that label.
Arsenal have suffered at Stamford Bridge over time, but they stood tall against all the odds to return to north London with a stage.
The writing appeared to be on the wall when Luiz had been given a straight red for bringing down Tammy Abraham after only 28 minutes, particularly since Jorginho rolled home the resulting penalty.
They remained in the match, rode their luck occasionally, and then levelled through Gabriel Martinelli midway through the second half.
It’s a goal that will be replayed over and over again. Martinelli was inside his own box when Shkodran Mustafi climbed highest to head away a Chelsea corner. Ten seconds later, he had been observing in front of 3,000 delirious Arsenal fans at the opposite end of the pitch.
It might have needed a slide from N’Golo Kante for the Brazilian sensation to race clear, but how he wrote himself before slotting the conclusion past Kepa told you what that you needed to know about a teenager who only a matter of months ago was enjoying state soccer in Brazil.
“Gabi’s gonna be a celebrity” called Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang following his fellow forwards scored against Sheffield United on Saturday. In a way, you can say he is.
Martinelli has scored 10 times this year. He is the first teenager to hit this landmark for Arsenal because Nicolas Anelka in the 1998-99 season.
The goal was a reward for the Gunners’ immunity, also, but it was also rewarding for Arteta’s adventurous approach. In the wake of Luiz’s dismissal, he was going to replace the centre-back with another centre-back, Rob Holding. But at the last minute, Arteta changed his mind. Holding was sent back to the seat and Martinelli stayed on.
“I had been thinking about that, but I do not need to send this message to the group,” Arsenal’s head coach admitted after the match.
The visitors’ joy was short-lived, but with Chelsea restoring their lead when Cesar Azpilicueta prodded home at the near post with six minutes remaining.
Previously perhaps, but this night was different.
The 10 men reacted superbly and after a spell of sustained pressure, Bellerin cut in from the right and bent a superb shot beyond Kepa to the far corner to level the match once more.
The goal — Bellerin’s first since January 2018 — came almost exactly a year to the day the right-back endured the cruciate ligament knee injury which ruled him out of action for 2 months. It’s not surprising that in the party that followed he knelt down and kissed the Stamford Bridge turf.
“I’m [, proud of the players],” beamed Arteta at full time. “The spirit they showed, the character, the struggle, and the leadership also.”
The Arsenal players made a beeline for their fans after the match. The relation between the team and the fans have been ruined during the last few decades, but results and performances such as this will go a long way to fixing that bond.
Arsenal could be 10th in the league and only seven points above the relegation zone, but there’s a real sense that the staff are now going in the right direction under Arteta.
After Luiz was shipped off, Arteta’s side played the vast majority of the last hour with a back four which comprised an 18-year-old winger at Bukayo Saka, a central midfielder at Granit Xhaka plus a confidence-shot Shkodran Mustafi. They were also, of course, with no suspended Aubameyang.
At Stamford Bridge, they revealed they can play their back to the walls.
The beginning of a new age?