Coming into today, I had written that I was feeling nervous for the match. In yesterday’s prematch blog I wrote that my uncertainty was rooted in what Arsenal would show up, and almost unbelieving of Chelsea’s horrible play.
It seemed plausible that Arsenal could trot out the same lineup that makes the same mistakes and that Chelsea are a team possessing enough talent to catch this Arsenal team in a depression and keep them down.
Arteta said, “It is not about the mood, it is about keeping that fire in the belly for tomorrow.”
To Arsenal’s credit, they looked much more like the Arsenal team that put itself in first place and has collected 24 wins this season. They controlled, fought, and dominated the space and duels.
From a fan perspective, it was a really great watch to see Arsenal win 3-1 over Chelsea and I am convinced it could have been more. It’s always great to confirm London is red and get one over on them. But the reading of the performance is skewed to a degree by just how bad Chelsea were which makes it tough to judge what this means going forward for Arsenal with Newcastle ahead.
Mikel said post-match, “The team is back to its best. There was a lot of energy, determination, quality, movement, and we were really going for it.”
And usually, Arteta knows this team best.
But I can’t get over how bad Chelsea’s performance was, especially on a defensive front. The three goals that Arsenal score are smooth, but if I watched Arsenal concede those goals on the other end, I would be fuming level of unhinged.
Ødegaard scores two, both assisted by Xhaka, and both near-carbon copies of one another. Xhaka drifts wide left while Jesus occupies the inside half-space. He then plays a splitting, low cross through the entire Chelsea defense to find Ødegaard with ease. The finishes from Martin are really clean.
This photo, just moments before Ødegaard strikes home is just about Chelsea’s structure for both.
Arsenal’s third goals comes after some really fantastic composure from Jesus inside the six-yard-box but some beyond atrocious defending from Chelsea once again. How they let Jesus bring that ball down, pass to Xhaka, then let Jesus collect the blocked Xhaka shot and thump it home… beyond me. Just atrocious work.
This picture says a thousand words and they all spell out Chelsea’s embarrassment. But I could not care less.
Arsenal had 16 shots on the day, and I’m not sure I have seen such a concentration and quantity of shots less than 10 yards out. On one hand it is a credit to Arsenal working great shooting opportunities for themselves as they cut through Chelsea’s defense. On the other hand, it’s an additional testament to how easy Chelsea were to split open.
I mean, they were awful and, my word, how it continues to amaze me that people are hiring Frank Lampard for jobs. He is simply a horrible tactician and manager. Fired for a reason earlier this year, split open by Arsenal in preseason with Everton, and swept aside with ease managing Chelsea. The jig is up, the guy is not good.
Changes to the lineup
After many — myself included — thought we would see Arteta make a chance versus City and he didn’t, we were left wondering if we would see changes the rest of the way. When the lineup was announced, I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
The introduction of Kiwior, while potentially risky, felt like a risk Arteta needed to take to raise the level of ball control, while the reintroduction of Trossard felt bold but entirely earned. Taking off our season’s lead goal-scorer is never easy but Trossard paid back the deed. I thought he was fantastic in the tight spaces to link play and help create opportunities.
It was a little difficult to judge his performance in terms of future translation, much like Arsenals, because Chelsea’s tested and challenged him so little, but it was great to see him handle the moment like that and offer us additional technical quality from the right. Gabriel left the game limping and is questionable for Newcastle, which means Kiwior is likely to play, form the right OR left.
Finally, Jorginho came in for Thomas Partey which almost confirms the suspicion that Partey’s health in recent weeks has been less than 100%. Perhaps there was an element of being enticed by Jorginho playing his old side, considering Partey still made the bench, but he didn’t look fit versus City so, it wouldn’t surprise me.
On the whole
Overall, you can’t be displeased about seeing Arsenal put away Chelsea emphatically. Whether this result was a full return of Arsenal’s levels of quality or a further exposing of Arsenal’s, Arsenal looked full of fight. Assessing whether this quality is here until the end of the season will be born out against, frankly, better opponents in the coming weeks.
But this result gave Arsenal a lot of the things they needed most at this moment:
- A win
- A performance
- 3 points
- A breaking of their recent dip
- Confidence moving forward
Arsenal return to the top of the table, for now, but that’s the most they can do for themselves at the moment. As I have continued to state, taking this title fight the distance — win or lose — matters. For the young side to take a title challenge to the end and demand that a side like City win their matches is an emotional stake and leaping point to build from. The title is ideal, but if the demands for perfection are a little too much this season, taking this to week 38 is a major step in the right direction.
Next up, Newcastle.
- Martin Ødegaard
- Granit Xhaka
- Leandro Trossard
- Gabriel Jesus