Ruthless Arsenal restate title credentials with Chelsea in crisis
It may only be for 24 hours, but Arsenal are back top of the Premier League and this win over Chelsea was just what they needed after a turbulent few weeks.
Before tonight, the Gunners had gone four games without a victory and Manchester City had knocked them off the summit.
Arsenal wrestled first place back by beating Chelsea 3-1, although the title is still very much in City’s hands. Pep Guardiola’s side are two points behind Arsenal, with two games in hand, and host struggling West Ham on Wednesday night.
Nonetheless, Arteta will be pleased his side have responded after a dip in form. He said in the build-up to this game that they would fight until the bitter end to win the title, but in all honesty they barely had to throw any punches to knock Chelsea out.
The game was won in the space of 16 first-half minutes, when the Blues were all at sea and Arsenal scored three goals. It was far too easy - and genuinely less work than when bottom-of-the-table Southampton came to Emirates Stadium and drew 3-3. At least the Saints carried a threat.
Chelsea in the first half were toothless, as summed up by the fact that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had nine touches in 45 minutes. Four of them were from kick-offs.
It was a miserable night for Aubameyang on his return to Arsenal, with the attack he left behind putting the game to bed before the break - when the Gabon international was duly subbed off.
For the opener, Granit Xhaka rolled the ball across the box to Martin Odegaard, who fired it home off the crossbar. 13 minutes later, Arsenal essentially scored the exact same goal, although this time Odegaard was slightly closer.
Chelsea were in disarray at this stage, arguing among themselves, and yet more poor defending saw Gabriel Jesus add a third. The Brazilian was allowed to bring down a cross from Ben White inside the six-yard box, setting it to Xhaka. The Swiss’ shot was saved, but Jesus scored the rebound.
It felt like a question of how many Arsenal would score after that and Chelsea survived the start of the second half thanks to Thiago Silva’s goal-line clearance keeping out Gabriel’s header. Kepa made two good saves to deny Bukayo Saka and Xhaka.
Noni Madueke looked like he had given Chelsea a lifeline with 25 minutes to go and this time it was Arsenal who were guilty of poor defending. Oleksandr Zinchenko was caught napping and Madueke ran in behind him, latching onto Mateo Kovacic’s pass to score.
The goal underlined how Arsenal had dipped after the break, perhaps in part because the first half had been so easy. Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher likened it to watching Arsenal train.
Chelsea had a few moments of hope after Madueke’s goal, but the comeback never really looked on. Arsenal will be hoping it is a different story in the title race.