Arsenal earned their first Premier League win against Chelsea since October 2011 thanks to a clinical first half performance that exposed Chelsea’s current pitfalls.
Arsenal were unchanged from their win at Hull the previous week. Chelsea, meanwhile, reverted to a 4-1-4-1 instead of a 4-2-3-1 and made one change from their defeat to Liverpool with Fabregas replacing Oscar.
Cahill and Ivanovic
The right-side of Chelsea’s defence has rightly come in for some criticism in recent weeks. Branislav Ivanovic is showing clear signs of ageing and his lack of pace is now often targeted by opponents.
Alongside the Serbian is Gary Cahill who’s struggling in the absence of John Terry. The England centre-half was dispossessed by Leroy Fer at Swansea where Chelsea ended up drawing and losing their captain to injury. Whilst the challenge from Fer should have resulted in a free-kick, it was Cahill’s poor touch that enticed the Dutchman in the first place.
During the Liverpool game, Cahill scuffed a clearance that Jordan Henderson controlled before curling beyond Thibaut Courtois with what turned out to be the winner.
And against Arsenal at the weekend, Cahill was robbed of the ball, fairly, by the ever-running Alexis Sanchez who went on to open the scoring with a deft and composed finish.
Sanchez and Walcott
The Chilean has been moved into a centre forward position, particularly now Theo Walcott has reverted back to establishing himself as a winger, and it seems to offer Arsenal the kind of fluency that is harder to come by with Olivier Giroud through the middle.
Arsenal’s last game against Hull was a dominant display with both Sanchez and Walcott excelling. Saturday’s match was much the same as they blitzed into a two-goal lead with Walcott capping off a fine team move just minutes after Sanchez had broken the deadlock.
The England international also managed three successful tackles from four attempts, a total only bettered by Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante (four from five).
Ozil and Hazard
Chelsea’s issues in defence were amplified by Arsenal’s attacking line-up performing so well. In addition to Sanchez and Walcott, Mesut Ozil was instrumental as he played a one-two with Sanchez to all but seal victory before half-time. The former Real Madrid playmaker also created three opportunities – the joint most in the game – and had the best pass completion of any player who attempted 50 or more passes (90.3%).
Eden Hazard on the other hand had a quiet game and was unable to influence proceedings with just one chance created and a couple of failed efforts at goal. He only succeeded with one of his four attempted take-ons which was in stark contrast to Ozil who achieved three from three. Playing on the left of a front three saw the Belgian leave Azpilicueta exposed for the second goal as Hector Bellerin found the space to provide an assist for Walcott’s goal.
The speedy Spanish right-back also produced a fantastic recovery challenge in the second half when half-time substitute, Pedro, thought he was through on goal.
It was a tackle in keeping with the solid Arsenal defence that kept usual nuisance Diego Costa quiet and frustrated throughout. That was largely due to the performances on Laurent Kosicelny and Shkodran Mustafi who showed promising signs of forming the sort of defensive partnership Wenger and Arsenal have been lacking for some time.
Koscielny won all four of his defensive aerial duels while between the duo, they managed ten clearances from 12 attempts. Arsenal’s backline makes up the top four in terms of interceptions with Nacho Monreal, Mustafi and Koscielny all on four and Bellerin with two.
Chelsea’s use of Matic and Kante restricts their attacking prowess, especially when Cesc Fabregas was so ineffective that he was replaced by recently recruited left-back, Marcos Alonso. This left Costa isolated and frustrated while Arsenal’s attacking quartet enjoyed playing on the front foot as they emphatically did so during the first half.
Antonio Conte has to solve his side’s defensive frailties and you expect that with more time that will happen. Their season started well but was far from spectacular when you consider they needed late winners against West Ham and Watford. And since their opening three victories, they’ve only managed to draw at Swansea and lose to two of their rivals for the top four. Conte will need to get points on the board with their next match away to Hull followed by home ties against reigning Champions Leicester and Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge with Man Utd.
Arsenal meanwhile are enjoying a run of four straight victories after losing their opening game to Liverpool and drawing at Leicester. The front three with Ozil behind is an intimidating prospect for any side at the moment and Wenger still has options like Giroud, Lucas Perez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the bench as well as Aaron Ramsey to return from injury. Arsenal’s season will depend on their new players settling in and the club avoiding a packed out treatment room, but the signs based on this game are particularly good.
EPL Results (Gameweek 6):
Man Utd 4-1 Leicester
Bournemouth 1-0 Everton
Liverpool 5-1 Hull
Middlesbrough 1-2 Tottenham
Stoke 1-1 West Brom
Sunderland 2-3 Crystal Palace
Swansea 1-3 Man City
Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea
West Ham 0-3 Southampton
Burnley 2-0 Watford