LONDON (AFP) – Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta hopes the resilience his side showed in twice coming from behind while a man down to hold Chelsea 2-2 at Stamford Bridge proves a “stepping stone” to a brighter future for the Gunners.
Arteta’s men remain 10th in the Premier League, 10 points behind Chelsea in fourth, but while a point may be too little for their hopes of a return to the Champions League, the manner in which it was achieved gave their new manager cause for optimism.
“Time will tell if this is a stepping stone, but at least I saw a reaction,” said Arteta.
“I demand from the players that they never give up. We have to keep playing with the spirit we showed in every game. I’m proud of the way they reacted.”
David Luiz endured a nightmare evening on his return to Stamford Bridge as the Brazilian was sent off after 26 minutes for hauling down Tammy Abraham. Jorginho converted the resulting penalty.
However, Chelsea’s struggles at home continued as they offered another lifeline to those challenging for a top-four finish.
Frank Lampard’s men are now six points clear in fourth, but Manchester United can cut that gap to three with victory over Burnley on Wednesday.
“We’re in fourth position, but I know and we know there should be another 10 points on the board,” said a frustrated Lampard.
“We shouldn’t dwell too much on results that have gone, but a lot of them look the same.
“The initiative is on us to be ruthless, to take the chances when they came along.”
Lampard had already spoken of his desire for Chelsea to be more clinical after losing 1-0 at Newcastle on Saturday with Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time top goalscorer Edison Cavani a target.
And a move for the Uruguayan could be even more of a priority after top scorer Abraham had to be helped from the field at full-time after injuring his ankle in colliding with the advertising boards late on.
Abraham had a big role to play on what should have been the decisive moment in the match when he pounced on a gift from Shkodran Mustafi to race clear on goal and round Bernd Leno.
Luiz got back in time to make a challenge, but barged Abraham to the ground and in the opinion of the referee did not make an attempt to play the ball as he saw red.
Jorginho produced a characteristically cool finish from the penalty spot and Chelsea should have been on course for a comfortable three points.
But the Blues have now won just four of their last 12 league games and were guilty of the same lack of creativity at one end, and defensive lapses at the other, that characterised the home defeats to West Ham, Bournemouth and Southampton.
Fortune also favoured Arsenal for their first equaliser midway through the second half as a slip from N’Golo Kante allowed Gabriel Martinelli to run from the edge of his own box unopposed before slotting home the 10th goal of an impressive debut season in England.
Chelsea were lacking the guile to unlock the 10 men in their search for a winner, but Arsenal’s good work was undone six minutes from time when they were caught cold by a quickly taken corner and Cesar Azpilicueta swept home Hudson-Odoi’s cross.
Arsenal were not to be denied as Hector Bellerin produced a magnificent finish on his weaker left foot from outside the area three minutes later.