Arsenal and Chelsea play out a thriller, but one point does little for either side
LONDON -- Three thoughts on Arsenal and Chelsea's 2-2 draw in the Premier League.
1. A thriller at the Emirates
Hector Bellerin struck a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser in a frantic end to a pulsating clash at the Emirates, which then saw Davide Zappacosta hit the crossbar seconds later as the Premier League champions almost snatched a winner.
Marcos Alonso's 84th-minute effort had looked set to lift Chelsea back into second spot after Eden Hazard's penalty had cancelled out Jack Wilshere's 63rd-minute opener. But Bellerin's late strike denied Chelsea their 11th win in 14 league games and earned Arsenal a deserved point.
But, although this was a 90 minutes of high entertainment, with both teams creating enough chances to win handsomely, the draw does little for the respective ambitions of the two clubs.
Chelsea's failure to hold on for the win denied Antonio Conte's men the chance to climb above Manchester United.
Meanwhile, Arsenal's inability to capitalise on Wilshere's opener saw them end the game five points adrift of the top four and Champions League places.
With Swedish outfit Ostersund awaiting in the last 32 of the Europa League, that competition may now offer Arsene Wenger's team their best hope of a return to European football's premier competition next season.
And Chelsea, who face Arsenal in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal at Stamford Bridge next Wednesday, will fear that their title defence is as good as over, meaning the cup competitions offer them their best chance of success this season.
2. Lacazette and Morata miss their chances
Watching Alexandre Lacazette and Alvaro Morata toil away during this game highlighted the crucial commodity that both strikers are currently lacking: confidence. Both had clear chances to score, but both fluffed their lines.
Both men are six months into their careers at Arsenal and Chelsea, respectively, but the burden of being charged with scoring the majority of their clubs' goals is beginning to tell.
French international striker Lacazette, a club-record £46.5 million summer buy from Lyon, went into this match having failed to score in his previous six outings for Arsenal.
Morata, meanwhile, had hit just two in his previous six games, but the Spaniard faced Arsenal having scored just once against a top-six rival since his £60m summer arrival from Real Madrid.
Lacazette did well to create a chance in the second half, but his shot was straight at goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and summed up his night.
The Arsenal man struggled to win his personal battle against the Chelsea defence and gave off the body language of a player who needs a break.
Morata, meanwhile, squandered several golden chances and had Conte beating the turf in frustration after one miss late in the game.
Replacing Diego Costa was also going to be tough, but, on the night his predecessor was marking his second Atletico Madrid debut with a goal, the Chelsea new No. 9 failed to deliver again.
3. Sanchez impresses but will his form continue?
There have been times this season when Alexis Sanchez's motivation at Arsenal has been questioned, and rightly so.
But against Chelsea, just as against Crystal Palace and Liverpool over the Christmas period, the unsettled Chilean was 100 percent committed and determined to make an impact for Arsene Wenger's team.
A cynical perspective would be to suggest that Sanchez's newly rediscovered desire is down to an acceptance that he is approaching the exit door at the Emirates Stadium, either during this month's transfer window, or at the end of the season when his contract expires.
Alternatively, the former Barcelona forward may just have decided to go out on a high, potentially helping Arsenal win a trophy or qualify for the Champions League before he leaves.
It seems inevitable that Sanchez will go, with Manchester City his preferred destination. The 29-year-old took months to shrug off the disappointment of the collapse of a summer move to the Etihad, and Arsenal's gamble to keep him and wave goodbye to a £60m fee appeared to have backfired.
But Sanchez is now playing like a man who wants to be where he is; he scored three goals over Christmas and, in this game, caused Chelsea countless problems and created chances from which Lacazette and Mesut Ozil should have scored.
How long Sanchez maintains his form and contribution remains to be seen, but it is better for him and Arsenal if he keeps going as he is, rather than taking his foot off the pedal.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_