EPL

Mikel Arteta hails Arsenal’s ‘phenomenal’ response in Chelsea comeback draw

By Sports Desk October 21, 2023

Mikel Arteta praised a “phenomenal” response from Arsenal after they fought back from two goals down in the final 13 minutes to earn a 2-2 draw at Chelsea and move level on points at the top of the Premier League.

Chelsea looked to be sending Arsenal to a first league defeat of the season when Mykhailo Mudryk’s cross-shot put them into a 2-0 lead minutes after half-time, the Ukrainian’s effort drifting over goalkeeper David Raya who was unable to recover from a poor starting position as the ball dropped into the goal.

That added to the lead given to them by a first-half penalty from Cole Palmer, increasingly influential in Pochettino’s revitalised attack following his move from Manchester City, who slotted home after William Saliba was adjudged to have handled from Mudryk’s header.

It was a commanding and deserved advantage for the hosts, who were seeking a third straight league win, but as so often during Chelsea’s turbulent last 18 months it was an individual error that turned the game and cost them points.

Goalkeeper Roert Sanchez rolled the ball straight to the feet of Declan Rice who cut the arrears from 30 yards, before Leandro Trossard got a lunging right leg to Bukayo Saka’s cross six minutes from time to salvage an unlikely draw.

And afterwards Arteta praised his team’s powers of recovery as they extended their unbeaten start to the league season to nine matches to go level at the top with Manchester City.

“I think what went wrong was the start of the game,” said the manager. “We didn’t play with enough purpose and clarity. We were just moving the ball without the intention to threaten them. That’s a really dangerous thing to do against teams like Chelsea.

“Then we didn’t win enough duels, and in tight areas when we had them, they escaped from that and they attacked open spaces, and they are really dangerous things to do.

“When we changed that and we changed the level after 20, 25 minutes, especially in the second half then it’s a different game. We became a much better team, even though we conceded the second goal and it’s a disappointment.

“The way the team reacted to the second goal is phenomenal from the players on the pitch and the players on the bench thinking ‘how the hell am I going to change this game?’ I loved that.

“I really liked as well going into the dressing room and it’s really quiet, after drawing 2-2 with Chelsea and coming back from 2-0 down, because I know that they wanted more. That’s the positive.”

Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino reflected on perhaps Chelsea’s best performance since he took over in the summer, and refused to lay the blame at the feet of Sanchez for allowing Arsenal back into the match.

“Too many games that we’re watching every week, always mistakes,” he said. “Football is about mistakes. If you want to score, you want the opponent to make a mistake. Ninety per cent of goals are because the opponent made a mistake. Football is about mistakes.

“The only thing we can criticise a little bit is to read better the situation, the tempo and the timing. After 77 minutes, we’re trying to take some risks. OK, we can because it’s our philosophy. But maybe (we need) better decisions. So we can criticise a bit, but also this is football.

“It’s not to blame someone. It’s only that in this type of situation you need to read better, but that will arrive with time. Teams need to manage and drive games. You need to read the game, when to be calm, when to play, when to take risks.”

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