Analysis of the action in 10 key points…
- In his 1992 book Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby wrote, “life isn’t, and never has been, a 2-0 home victory against the league leaders after a fish and chip lunch.” This time his beloved Arsenal were the away side, yet his sentiment rang true – they were abject and off-colour. The ease with which Chelsea picked off their opponents on the counter-attack was as embarrassing as it was predictable. The 3-1 score line flattered the Gunners, it could and should have been more.
- Arsenal enjoyed some early possession, probing and delving without ever really landing a punch. As John Kavanagh would say to reassure Conor McGregor in between difficult rounds, ‘don’t worry, they’re slaps. That’s all’. Marcus Alonso provided the hammer blow, out-jumping Hector Bellerin to end both the Spaniard’s afternoon and Arsenal’s early domination.
- Xhaka’s silly red card against Burnley meant he was a big miss. This time, Matic and Kante bossed a deep midfield containing, inexplicably, Oxlade-Chamberlain. The fact that it was Fabregas who came off the bench to inflict further damage on his former side made for poetic justice – he’s the man the Arsenal midfield needed.
- So often Chelsea’s final ball went astray, Costa and Pedro being the worst culprits. Kante and Matic’s foundation allows the triumvirate of Pedro, Costa and Hazard to break at will. Wenger sat in the stands, no doubt thankful his view of the action was obscured.
- The sharp counter-attacks shown by Conte’s men were embodied by Hazard’s dazzling solo goal early in the second half. The Belgian showed core strength in nudging Coquelin off the ball, sending him pirouetting to the floor and making a mockery of his so-called ‘destroyer’ role in protecting the back-line. Hazard finished clinically, sending Cech tumbling to the floor and taking Arsenal’s unlikely hopes of a comeback along with it.
- Eden Hazard is yet again the most fouled player in the Premier League, a situation caused by his speed of thought and movement. He suffered a blip in form last season, and for the football purist, it’s good to have him back.
- Ozil was typically languid, hands on hips. And Sanchez, although recently imperious, looked flustered, none of his tricks landing. The pair sit 5th and 9th respectively in the Premier League’s all-time most expensive transfers – in the chase for the title, this is exactly the type of game in which they need to shine. Neither of them did.
- Costa provided the key focal point for Chelsea’s attacks, although he was greedy in front of goal in key moments. His presence, strength and goalscoring are at the top of the game, yet his decision-making continues to be his undoing. The selflessness of Barcelona’s MSN should provide key lessons for the rest of Europe – shared goals.
- Arsenal’s consolation goal came from a likely source: the head of Olivier Giroud. While the heat map of Sanchez shows him too often dropping towards the left-hand side of play where he feels more comfortable, Giroud provided an aerial threat which Chelsea struggled to contain. His recent performances really do warrant a place in the starting line-up.
- Gary Neville rightly derided an Arsenal fan for displaying a banner which read, ‘enough is enough’ in protest of Wenger’s reign. It seemed harsh on such a long servant of the club, although the predictable nature of such a limp defeat cannot have been an easy swallow. Indeed, it was Hornby himself who wrote, “the natural state of a football fan is bitter disappointment, no matter what the score.” Either way, Arsenal now sit 12 points behind Chelsea in fourth place. It feels all too familiar.
Chris Henderson – follow me on Twitter here