Last year Chelsea went through the entire campaign without drawing a single red card on the way to the Premier League title. This year Antonio Conte’s side is taking a decidedly different approach. Chelsea has raced to an early lead in the race for most red cards in the Premier League.
David Luiz earned a straight red for lunging out of control at Arsenal’s Sead Kolasinac in the 87th minute of their scoreless draw Sunday. The red was Chelsea’s third of the Premier League campaign, fourth of the season and fifth in the last eight competitive matches.
On Sunday, Luiz managed to go from in control of the ball to shoving Alexis Sanchez and decleating Kolasinac within about a second late in the match at Stamford Bridge. Despite being on a yellow, Luiz was shown a straight red, ruling him out for the next three matches right as Gary Cahill returned from his own three-match suspension.
Chelsea failed to beat Arsenal for the third straight match, picking up red cards each time. Victor Moses was sent off in the FA Cup final, a 2-1 Arsenal win, while the Gunners claimed the Community Shield on penalties after Pedro was shown red.
Cahill was sent off in the season opener against Burnley. The Blues lost that game 3-2 to Burnley, with Cesc Fabregas also seeing red.
Perhaps Chelsea was desperate to try something new when, unlike in recent years, the Blues couldn’t find a way past Arsenal’s rearguard at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Arsenal had its own bold strategy going for it: playing defense — not something Arsene Wenger is typically known for, particularly when his sides visit other Top 6 clubs.
0 - Chelsea failed to score in a competitive home match under Antonio Conte for the first time (27 games). Stalemate. pic.twitter.com/fH8dDubjNK— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 17, 2017
Arsenal was on top in the first half and could have led in the 41st minute when Alexandre Lacazette did his best Chris Wondolowski impression by firing a rebound off the post well over the bar from about six yards out. Alexis Sanchez, left on the bench to start the match, had an interesting reaction to the miss.
Pedro had an early one-on-one opportunity saved by Arsenal goalie Petr Cech in the first half. Cech’s toughest save came when teammate Nacho Monreal rifled a volley from 35 yards out at Cech, who had to use his chest well to make the stop. Arsenal did find the back of the net, but only after the offside flag had gone up. Even after the red card, neither team could break the deadlock.
Chelsea has won every match this season when keeping 11 men on the pitch, taking down Tottenham, Everton, Leicester City and, in the Champions League, Qarabag. Perhaps the Blues are trying to even the playing field by picking up red cards or maybe they’re just bored. Either way, it’s a bold strategy and we can’t wait to see how it plays out the rest of the year.