That was well overdue.
What a performance from Arsenal. We had some antsy moments during the game but make no mistake, we thoroughly deserved the three points because we had bested the much higher-placed Blues in the majority of the park.
Arteta had made some bold decisions before the game. Selecting Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith-Rowe in the starting eleven, allied with the threat of young Bukayo Saka gave our team a youthful feel and some real fire. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on the bench, deemed fit enough for a cameo if needed after his calf strain.
Pablo Mari was in the backline alongside Rob Holding – David Luiz out with illness and Gabriel self-isolating after coming into contact with someone with Covid-19.
And from the off, we pressed high and were winning balls back in Chelsea’s third. This is always a good indicator as to how our motivation is for the game and we appeared to be well up for this one.
But Chelsea were looking to bare their teeth on the break and only decent defending from Rob Holding denied Chelsea. We pushed back and created a decent opportunity through Bellerin, who found Smith-Rowe in the box but the youngster couldn’t apply the finish.
A second chance was then created by our other full-back, Tierney. The Scot broke into the box and Reece James was on the wrong side. The England man slid in and replays showed there wasn’t a lot of contact, but it was foolish to go for the tackle. The penalty was awarded and Lacazette stepped up to send Mendy the wrong way.
We continued to keep the effort up, but Chelsea seemed content to sit back and hit us on the break. But on 44 minutes, we earned a free kick about 25 yards out and fairly central. Xhaka stepped up and put a curler over the wall and into the corner, leaving Mendy grasping at thin air.
Half time whistle – 2-0 up? Not bad at all.
But given our recent woes, most of us could be forgiven for worrying about the second half.
Could we keep this level up? The last time we had seen a performance like this was about eight games ago against Man Utd.
The second half began with two Chelsea subs as Lampard looked to change things – Jorginho came on for Kovacic and Hudson-Odoi was on for Timo Werner, the Blues wanted to recover this situation but they would need to score the next goal.
Unfortunately for them and good for us that Bukayo Saka intervened.
We built up play on the corner of their area and Saka picked it up and clipped a cross-cum-shot over Mendy who was well off his line and into the far corner. Watch it twenty times and you will still be left wondering if he meant it but I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Arsenal were dealing with the threat of Chelsea on the counter really well and still looking dangerous. Smith-Rowe, who had done well, came off for Willock as Arteta sought a little more insurance for his three goal lead , and Chelsea reminded us all of the threat they possess, but they couldn’t find the target. Time was ticking for Lampards’ men, but with less than five minutes left, Tammy Abraham gave them a small lifeline, chesting in Hudson-Odoi’s centre. After a VAR review for offside, it was given.
They were then given a real chance of dragging a point from oblivion as they were awarded a 90th minute penalty. Jorginho stepped up but Leno denied him the second goal for the Blues. Mo Elneny had rattled the bar with a fierce effort beforehand to put the game to bed, we were still creating chances even when ahead, but the Blues really did rally in the last ten – and we were holding on.
But we did just that and we had our first win in ten matches. And we had worked hard for it and deserved it.
Youthful zeal the way forward
Smith-Rowe, Martinelli and Saka were key here. They pushed Chelsea back as they had attacking intent, they took the ball and instead of pedestrian passing, we finally had the threat and the link we had been crying out for.
Laca back in form
The last two games, Laca has played well. Form is temporary, so keep him in while he’s playing well. Led the line well, good connections, well done Alex.
Pablo Mari calm presence
The Spanish defender handled Werner great, and the German was reduced to mainly potshots at goal. Good in the air and no slouch with marking and pace, Mari looks to be an assured presence just when we need one in Gabriel’s absence.
Recovery starts here
A win, a decent performance, we can build on this. Maintain this level and the only way is up.
Next up is a trip to The Amex as we take on Brighton on Tuesday.
Rate the players here. Who was your MOTM?