Chelsea began this match by partnering their £57 million club record-signing with a 17-year-old who had never previously started a senior competitive game, but there was no doubting which of the two left Dublin with their reputation most enhanced
Playing off the left in Eden Hazard’s usual role, Hudson-Odoi’s pace and willingness to run directly would have surprised nobody who has worked with him through Chelsea’s academy but it certainly left Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin reeling. And yet, as confident and impressive as Hudson-Odoi was, the form of striker Alvaro Morata remains a serious concern to Chelsea.
He became a father to twins on Sunday and, with Sarri saying before the match that it was the sort of life-changing event that would only help his on-field performance, he wasted a series of excellent chances, including a first-half penalty.
Such misses in pre-season could normally be dismissed as an irrelevance - and he should get a further chance to make amends in Sunday’s Community Shield against Manchester City - but the worrying context is how Morata ended last season.
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Having scored 12 goals up to and including Boxing Day last year, he managed only one in the Premier League thereafter and still looks worryingly short of confidence.
The rotation of the Arsenal captaincy continued with Petr Cech taking the armband ahead of Aaron Ramsey, even before the Wales midfielder ultimately withdrew from the match after hurting his calf during the warm-up. It meant a start for 18-year-old midfielder Emile Smith-Rowe and, if we are being generous to Arsenal, we could suspect that the late change had a direct impact on Chelsea’s fifth-minute goal.
Hudson-Odoi had helped win a corner and, after receiving some predictable pantomime boos from Arsenal’s fans, Cesc Fabregas aimed a cross into the centre of the penalty area that was headed beyond Cech by an unmarked Antonio Rudiger. Smith-Rowe had been closest to Rudiger when the corner initially came in but was almost stationary as the Chelsea centre-back surged into space.
Chelsea, with Jorginho, Fabregas and Ross Barkley again starting in a 4-3-3 formation, were soon dominant and causing Arsenal huge problems by simply releasing Hudson-Odoi one-on-one down the left wing with Bellerin.
New signing Stephan Lichtsteiner joins up shortly with Arsenal and, on the basis both of his World Cup performances with Switzerland, and all his trophy-winning success at Juventus, will seriously pressurise Bellerin’s starting place.
Bellerin was being badly unsettled by Hudson-Odoi and, having been turned by the Chelsea winger, dived in with a tackle that resulted in an immediate penalty. Chelsea’s big hope was clearly that Morata would boost his confidence by taking the spot-kick but his low effort was well saved by Cech.
A pattern then followed
Hudson-Odoi himself did almost extend Chelsea’s lead but Cech, who had been Arsenal’s outstanding first-half performer, got just enough on the ball to parry the attempted finish and give Shkodran Mustafi time to clear the ball off the line. Jorginho, who was again pulling the strings in central midfield for Chelsea, had brilliantly dissected Arsenal’s defence to release Hudson-Odoi.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan also teed up Aubameyang for what looked like a certain goal but Cesar Azpilicueta, who was captaining Chelsea, just did enough to distract Arsenal’s record signing.
Hudson-Odio continued pressurising Bellerin at the start of the
A corner from Pedro then almost produced an identical goal for Rudiger who, having again evaded the Arsenal defence, headed just narrowly wide.
With both teams then making numerous changes, the game did open up considerably in the closing minutes and Arsenal repeatedly almost salvaged a late equaliser.
First Ozil released substitute Alexandre Lacazette who turned inside Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen before shooting narrowly wide. Iwobi then made a late run into the penalty area to force a quite brilliant save off Chelsea goalkeeper Marci Bulka. Arsenal did finally force a shoot-out when Lacazette converted Reiss Nelson’s 93rd-minute cross.