Arsenal beat Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, to climb back to the top of the Premier League table and leave their London rivals seventh. Gabriel scored the only goal after Bukayo Saka’s corner was missed by a host of Chelsea players.
Here are the main talking points, broken down by our editors…
Arteta and Arsenal show title is possible
It was Mikel Arteta’s 150th game in charge of Arsenal, equaling the number of appearances he has made for them as a player, but the most striking statistic is that it was his 87th victory – more than any of his predecessors, including Herbert Chapman, Bertie Mee, George Graham and Arsène Wenger, over the same period.
Such numbers can be misleading; Graham won the Premier League title in his third season in charge and Wenger in his second. It was another time; When Wenger led Arsenal to the title in 1998 it was with a total of 78 points, while the last six titles have been won with totals of 93, 100, 98, 99, 86 and 93. To put that into context , legendary Arsenal The Invincibles won it with 90.
Arsenal have gone off at an extraordinary pace – they have a point more than the Invincibles at the same stage in 2003-04 – and, if they are to overtake Manchester City, they are going to have to maintain it.
It was the type of assured, authoritative performance that tells you it’s possible. Arsenal went to Stamford Bridge with a game plan and, despite a lack of incisiveness in the first half, it’s hard to imagine they could have followed that plan much better. Whatever happens during the rest of this season, their progress under Arteta since the start of 2021 has been hugely impressive.
Aubameyang fails to prove a point to his former club
Chelsea have fond memories of what Didier Drogba and Diego Costa did to Arsenal defenders.
Both men were instrumental when Chelsea dominated their opponents and this was the first opportunity for Pierre-Emerick Aubamemyang to do the same in a blue shirt.
He didn’t come into the game in the best goalscoring form. Bought from Barcelona for £12m ($13.7m) on deadline day in September, Aubameyang had just three goals to his name. This run came early last month and only one of them was in the Premier League.
It didn’t take long for Arsenal fans to tell the 33-year-old, who left on a free transfer in January after falling victim to manager Mikel Arteta, what they think of him now. His first touch was booed loudly and after being booked for a late tackle on Ben White he was the target of a rather unflattering chant. The 92 goals in 163 appearances for the north London club are clearly long forgotten.
Chelsea were unable to get Aubameyang into the game in the first half, in which he had just four touches on the ball – and none of them was a shot. There were a few occasions where Kai Havertz had the chance to cross the ball to him but got it wrong.
It said a lot about Chelsea as an attacking threat that their first two interventions after the break were clearances from their own area.
There was an unconvincing shot that was blocked soon after, but it was no surprise when he was replaced by Armando Broja just after Arsenal took the lead.
Jesus draws again in white
It’s nothing new this season, but today was a repeat of Gabriel Jesus’ lack of clinical advantage in front of goal.
In the first half, Arsenal built thirds beautifully to dissect Chelsea, the ball finding Gabriel Martinelli whose cross found Jesus for a header. The result? Just wide. The verdict? Had to score.
As Athleticism have previously reported, this is representative of Jesus’ career when considering his goals scored versus his goals expected.
In fact, looking at a 900 minute moving average since 2019-20, there have been very few occasions where Jesus makes the most of the opportunity he takes, regularly underperforming his goal production compared to its expected goals.
Of course, the good thing is that Jesus always enters these lucrative positions to score. Throughout his time in the Premier League, Jesus’ expected goals average being close to 0.5 per 90 minutes means he has a chance of scoring a goal in two games.
This does not forget the all-encompassing contribution that Jesus offers – falling into pockets of space, drifting wide to create for others, and being an out-of-possession pest to keep the adversary from building from behind.
As Arsenal win games and fly to the top of the table, Jesus’ underperformance in front of goal can be forgiven. If titles are on the line and the margins are even thinner towards the end of the season, Jesus might get less sympathy for his lack of clinical advantage.
The pressure on Potter will mount
Graham Potter has a tougher job than Thomas Tuchel to win over Chelsea fans
Replacing a popular coach will never be easy, especially when the season is already underway and you don’t have a pre-season to work with the players.
Potter’s honeymoon spell at Chelsea ended against his former club Brighton in humiliating fashion last week after a 4-1 loss, but that sweet surrender to their London rivals at Stamford Bridge will have done much more than that. damage.
For much of the match, the Chelsea players appeared hesitant on the ball and none of their plays were instinctive, unlike their opponents.
It’s understandable. Potter tries to change the rather rigid style of football employed by Tuchel. Chelsea players are trying to get used to him and him.
Tuchel was beloved by Chelsea supporters for the remarkable Champions League win last year. But let’s not forget that he took over from a fan favorite in Frank Lampard, but when he tried things there were no fans to moan and moan in the stands because of COVID-19 protocols . The German’s scrutiny in the first few weeks wasn’t that intense. By the time the fans were back in the ground, Tuchel had already justified the decision to replace Lampard.
Saying that, getting two points in the last four Premier League games should be in question and there will be pressure on Potter to put in a much better performance in the two away games before the match. World Cup, against Manchester City (League Cup) and Newcastle.
Zinchenko’s Traveling Return
Arteta has kept changes to a minimum this season, understandably reluctant to change what has generally been a winning side, but it was an easy decision to recall Oleksandr Zinchenko to the starting line-up after a calf injury.
It was the Ukrainian’s first appearance in five weeks and only his second in two months, which tells you how well they’ve done without a player whose arrival was felt in the early weeks of the campaign as having been transformative.
Kieran Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu have provided very different qualities at left-back in recent weeks, but Zinchenko brings a different dimension to Arsenal in possession. For much of the first half he drifted into the type of deep midfield role that Pep Guardiola asked Philipp Lahm at Bayern Munich and Joao Cancelo at Manchester City or that Jurgen Klopp tried out with Trent Alexander -Arnold to Liverpool.
Once again, the advantages of such a deployment of Zinchenko were obvious. From the third minute, Zinchenko found space to receive the ball from Aaron Ramsdale in central position, playing a pass that released Martin Odegaard and eventually gave Bukayo Saka the chance to run over an isolated Marc Cucurella.
As with Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool, the approach carries some risk. Arguably Chelsea’s two most promising attacks in the first half came from exploiting the space Zinchenko had left behind. Opposition managers will take note. But when a team controls games like Arsenal do now, that’s easier said than done.
Xhaka embodies Arsenal’s calm and control
Man of the match? The candidates in red were not lacking.
BT Sport opted for William Saliba and it was very easy to see why. He and Gabriel were exceptional in central defense, as were Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey in front of them.
The front four – Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli and Jesus – all impressed in different ways, as did Ben White and Zinchenko with their contrasting takes on the back game.
In short, it was an exceptional collective performance. But it’s hard to avoid returning to the backbone of the team. Saliba and Gabriel excelled in every aspect, with the latter scoring the decisive goal, and Xhaka and Partey controlling the game brilliantly.
Even when it came to that push-and-shove with Trevoh Chalobah in stoppage time, Xhaka appeared in control, unlike the hothead of the past.
Think of all those times over the years when Arsenal have shown a soft center, especially at Stamford Bridge. It was the exact opposite.
Chelsea left behind
With Graham Potter still looking to find his best system and personal best at Chelsea, today’s display saw a real lack of threat on their left flank.
With Aubameyang and Havertz drifting down the front line – particularly in the first half – there were very few options for Cucurella to choose from when Chelsea were building up on their left flank, meaning Arsenal could close that flank. with ease and force Chelsea to attack down the right.
Looking at the numbers, 44% of Chelsea’s attacking touches were on their right flank – the highest share on that flank throughout their Premier League campaign. Raheem Sterling’s wide natural threat – coupled with Zinchenko’s forward positions from left-back – also lent itself to greater activity on that flank, but Chelsea’s attack was almost non-existent down the left.
A long-term injury to striker Ben Chilwell hasn’t helped, but more broadly it’s clear Potter still hasn’t found the best balance in his squad at present.
(Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images)