As so often appears to be the case with Arsenal, there best laid plans are ruined by Chelsea. Even this incarnation of Chelsea, who started the day 19 points below the Gunners in the league.
Amid their utterly miserable season, the Blues still managed to beat their growing ever bitter London rivals 2-0 Stamford Bridge by really getting under their collar. They have Jose Mourinho and Diego Costa to thank for that.
Now without their controversial former boss, perhaps a case could be made for Arsenal going into the clash as favourites. After all they have been leading the Premier League for large parts of the season.
In any normal game, 1st vs 14th usually sounds like a sure fire be for the former. However, these are not normal circumstances for the latter, as they proved with aplomb.
The visitors looked as if they were champions of England. Diego Costa was back to his best, constantly a threat to the Arsenal defence and deserved his goal. The Spaniard’s clever movement was the key factor in getting Per Mertesacker sent off.
Though the hosts huffed and puffed, their good football proved fruitless in the end and never really looked in control of proceedings.
Here are FIVE things we learned from Chelsea’s win over Arsenal.
Per Mertesacker might be a World Cup winning defender, but the towering German is one of the major weaknesses in the Arsenal defence. Clearly lacking pace, he is constantly a target for forwards as they look to isolate him.
Costa did just that. Playing off his shoulder, the Spanish striker was left one on one with the Arsenal man and ran him ragged. Drawing the foul, that personal battle changed the entire complexity of the game following the German international’s dismissal.
He may have his up sides, though the vastly experienced is simply a liability against dynamic forwards such as Costa. Lauren Koscielny simply needs a better partner if he’s going to marshal the rearguard to a convincing title win.
It’s easy to forget that Cesc Fabregas really is one of the best midfielders in the world. For whatever reason, the Spanish international is not universally adored by any set of fans, but the 28-year old is supremely talented.
His performance today was sure a sight to behold. Rather than the deep-lying playmaker he operated as last term, the former Arsenal man pushed forward and was able to pull the strings from more dangerous areas.
Ironically enough, it was the first time we’ve really seen the style of play he showed while playing with the Gunners since he moved to Stamford Bridge.
Fabregas is truly majestic when at his best and can turn big games with ease when firing on all cylinders.
Amid the love in surrounding Theo Walcott this week due to the fact this week marks his ten-year anniversary as an Arsenal player. The England international has been a good player for the side over that time, scoring some crucial goals.
However, the same doubts remain over the 26-year old as they always have done. More often than not, the former Southampton man was caught offside due to the poor timing of his runs. Not only that, but he’s barely the most gifted of footballers so finds it hard to impose himself on tight games like today.
Other than some fast running and the occasional good finish, Walcott doesn’t offer a whole lot in this Arsenal side. Good qualities they may be, but he far too often makes poor decisions.
When anchor man Francis Coquelin was ruled out with an injury almost three months ago, they Gunners lost one their most influential players. The Frenchman is crucial to this side, breaking up play and shielding his backline.
While it’s easy to criticise Mertesacker and lament his lack of pace, the hosts without their tenacious screening presence.
Mathieu Flamini is not in the same class as his countryman. He lacks the discipline to effectively be relied upon, finding himself in areas he has no right to be in, while still managing to look innocently bewildered.
Due to Flamini’s marauding, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil were then forced to work backwards in order to stifle the likes of Fabregas and Oscar.
As soon as Coquelin returns, Arsenal will no doubt improve.
Branislav Ivanovic simply looked awful under Jose Mourinho this term, with question marks surrounding his ability to continue at the top level. However, since the change in management, the Serb has returned to his formidable best.
Having recently agreed a new deal to remain at Stamford Bridge another season, when it appeared as if he would soon depart, the Blues stalwart repaid the club’s faith in him.
He is rediscovering some of the stout defending that made him one the best right-backs in the Premier League for seven season. Aside from his imposing defending, he even showed us what he can do in an attacking sense by crossing for Costa to finish.