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Arsenal and Chelsea suffer differing fortunes

WHEN TWO TRIBES GO TO WAR: Left to right - Alexandre Lacazette and Antonio Conte

ARSENAL AND Chelsea have been seeing a lot of each other of late. The FA Cup win in May was pure drama as the Gunners saw off the Premier League Champions to ruin Antonio Conte’s dream of the double in his first season in England.

Then the two sides then met in Beijing in a pre-season friendly in which Chelsea comfortably saw off the Gunners 3-0 in the humid conditions of the Birds Nest stadium. The Community Shield saw Arsene Wenger triumph again, his ninth consecutive victory at the home of football, the 1-1 full time scoreline meant the ABBA penalty shoot out which Arsenal won 4-1.

It was a different kind of blues who came to the Emirates stadium last Friday for the first Premier League game of the 2017-18 season. Leicester City quickly found themselves a goal down in all of 94 seconds as Alexandre Lacazette announced himself to his new audience.

No slouches and champions themselves only two years ago, the Foxes struck back, levelling and then taking the lead through Shinji Okazaki and Jamie Vardy. Almost an Arsenal player himself once, Vardy loved his celebrations and when Danny Welbeck restored parity just before the break, Vardy headed home to shock the majority of the Emirates crowd soon after the re-start

FIRING BACK

However, the Gunners were always capable of firing back. Wenger sent on Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud and both would score to give Arsenal a 4-3 win which will have been more palatable to Wenger than another seven goal thriller, the 4-3 loss to Liverpool on the opening day of the season twelve months ago. Wenger was beaming and for once the talk wasn’t whether watching Alexis Sanchez will say in N5 - he suffered an abdominal injury on Sunday we had been informed, but the talk was of the resilience his side showed against a very spirited Leicester.

"At some stage it didn’t look like that, no. Overall I must say we kept going and the spirit of the team was absolutely outstanding and overall you could say as well we were punished on every single mistake tonight by a Leicester team who was very efficient going forward.

"And you could see that this team has quality and is used to playing together, but [we had] 70 per cent possession with 27 shots on goal. Leicester had three shots on target and scored three goals, so that shows you how efficient they were, but overall I must say if you look at that from a neutral point of view, for the first game it was a top-quality match. You want the Premier League to be the best league in the world and I think it has to produce this kind of game to produce interest and quality. Even people will say we conceded three goals, yes, but we scored four as well and the game was of quality,” said Wenger.

DEFENSIVE

With Laurent Koscielny suspended, Per Mertersacker injured and Shkodran Mustafa still recovering from Germany’s Confederation Cup win - but on the bench here, Wenger batted back any defensive concerns which the Foxes were able to exploit.

"Well if you were a manager and you would be on the bench when you’re 3-2 down with 20 minutes to go, and you win 4-3, you’re more happy than concerned. I feel as well that the goals we conceded, we can work together to get rid of that because one was a corner, one was a ball we lost in the build up and the third goal was on a corner again, so we conceded two goals on corners. We were quite good last year on corners and overall I believe that with a bit of work we can get that out of the system,” continued Wenger.

Twenty four hours later and across town, Chelsea hosted Burnley in what felt would be a gentle opener to the defence of the Blues' title. Except that nobody had mentioned that to Burnley who were 3-0 ahead inside 39 dramatic minutes at Stamford Bridge. Reduced to ten men when Gary Cahill was shown a straight red card for a studs up challenge on Stephen Defour, Burnley were full value for the 3-0 as Stephen Ward and a double from Sam Vokes sent the Clarets into dreamland.

Alvaro Morata swept low to head in to reduce the arrears soon after coming off the bench. The striker has now netted on his debut in Spain, Italy and now in England. Chelsea further pushed the self destruct button when Cesc Fabregas was shown a second yellow card, but nine-man Chelsea made it 3-2 to the visitors when David Luiz thumped home from close in. Where were Diego Costa and Eden Hazard we wondered. Burnley didn’t care, they held on for the win which was as welcome as it was unexpected.

"The sending off of Cahill was a key moment, because to play the rest of the game with 10 and then nine men is not easy. I don't want to comment on the referee, absolutely not.

"We tried until the end to reach a good result against Burnley - it was a pity because our fight in the second half was very good. But in our first half, we kept losing our heads. After the red card we lost our heads, conceded three goals and then it's very difficult to change the final result,” bemoaned Conte.

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