Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea
Arsenal produced a wonderful display on Saturday to completely dominate Chelsea from start to finish and register a first league victory over their West London rivals since October 2011.
The Gunners were absolutely outstanding, particularly in the first half, as they pressed their opponents high up the pitch and made them look pedestrian at best. There wasn’t one player in red and white that didn’t perform to their very best on Saturday as the team showed just what they are capable of when they put their minds to it.
Petr Cech in the Arsenal goal had very little to do against his former side, but when called upon to make his one and only save of the game, Cech stood up well and made sure his side kept the clean sheet their performance so richly deserved.
In front of Cech the Arsenal defence were simply magnificent. In the week building up to this game a number of journalists heralded the talents of Diego Costa, warning Arsenal that he would once again get the better of them, both by bullying them and with his infamous underhand tactics. Chief amongst these doomsayers was former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, but the display from Koscielny and Mustafi showed just why Redknapp is now writing a newspaper column rather than sitting in a dug out. The Arsenal centre backs were outstanding. Each and every time Costa got hold of the ball, they swarmed all over him until he relinquished possession. If he managed to evade the clutches of one, the other would be right there to help out his defensive partner. Costa was therefore nullified and his presence became insignificant as the game wore on. If Koscielny and Mustafi can maintain this form, then Arsenal have the makings of one of the finest centre back partnerships in the league.
The full backs, Monreal and Bellerin were excellent too, helping to provide cover on the few occasions Chelsea managed to get beyond the centre backs, one occasion in particular brought a great cheer from the home crowd as Bellerin raced towards Pedro before timing his tackle perfectly to dispossess his fellow Spaniard as he threatened to bear down on goal.
In front of the defence Coquelin performed his shielding role excellently until he was unfortunately forced off with injury. Xhaka, who replaced him, and Cazorla helped to maintain Arsenal’s dominance in midfield with their slick and accurate passing while the attacking players exerted great pressure on the Chelsea defence.
Alexis Sanchez, starting up front once again, ran his heart out for the side, closing down the Chelsea defenders throughout and getting his just reward in the eleventh minute as he capitalised on Gary Cahill’s horrendous mistake. The Englishman’s attempted back pass was woefully under hit, allowing Sanchez to race through on goal, before showing great composure to dink the ball over the advancing Courtois and into the empty net.
The home crowd were ecstatic but things were about to get a whole lot better only three minutes later as Arsenal scored the perfect goal with which to mark Arsene Wenger’s 20th anniversary at the club. The manager has long been an advocate of flowing passing and movement and this was a goal which encapsulated that beautifully. Slick interchange between the brilliant Ozil and Iwobi, saw the Nigerian pick out the run of Bellerin perfectly and with the Spaniard having got in behind the Chelsea defence, he was able to square the ball to Walcott for the Englishman to tap the ball home.
It was a wonderful goal and one richly deserved for Walcott who put in a tremendous performance. Much maligned throughout his time in North London, this was a display which had the home crowd on their feet applauding him and chanting his name at every opportunity. Walcott’s work rate has improved dramatically this season, but in this game it was phenomenal. He was up and down his flank throughout the game, offering support and width to the attack, but just as importantly, also helping his full back, Bellerin with the defensive side to the game. The number of times he came back to win the ball or help to close down an opponent and restrict the space for them was a joy to behold. In a game in which Arsenal produced one of their best displays since moving to the Emirates Stadium, it says a lot that the man of match was Theo Walcott. The hunger, passion, desire and commitment displayed by Walcott epitomised the attitude of the whole team. Arsenal supporters will hope he can maintain this form because if he can, then he will be a huge asset to the team.
While the second goal showcased great passing and movement in the final third, Arsenal’s final goal of the game was a great counter attacking move. As a Chelsea attack broke down, the ball fell to Mesut Ozil, just outside the Arsenal box. The German international showed great skill as he evaded Kante with an exceptional turn which left the former Leicester man challenging fresh air. Ozil and Sanchez were now both bearing down on goal with only Cahill and David Luiz standing in their way. The ball was played into the path of Sanchez before Ozil made a run to the back post to collect the return ball. Sanchez duly unleashed a cross towards Ozil and the German’s volleyed effort bounced off the ground, over Courtois and in off the post. It was a beautiful move to seal a wonderful victory by halftime.Arsene Wenger revelled in the victory, beaming from ear to ear and rightly so. He had just seen his side demolish Chelsea with as near a perfect performance as possible. However it was a nice sign to see the players on the pitch keeping their celebrations muted. Far too often big victories have been undermined by over celebration and failure to produce in the next game. This time it needs to be different, this cannot be allowed to be a flash in the pan performance, it has to be built upon with consistency. If this can be achieved then Arsenal can go a long way this year, because when they produce performances like that, they are a match for anyone.