Arsenal finally ended their dismal run of results against Chelsea with a resounding 3-0 win at the Emirates yesterday. The hosts dismantled Chelsea with a slick and pacey first-half display, with Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Mesut Özil on the score-sheet. The match bears comparison with the Gunners’ 3-0 victory over Manchester United last October; an emphatic result that ended a long spell without a Premier League win over United. That result was secured by a devastating first 15 minutes, and Arsene Wenger’s side flew out of the blocks again yesterday.
Sanchez fully capitalised on a gift from Gary Cahill to put Arsenal ahead, but the second goal was a ‘typical Arsenal goal’ in the best sense of that term. Özil wrapped the game up with a slightly scuffed volley into the ground, but the German earned his good fortune after starting the move with a delicious spin away from N’Golo Kante.
Jose Mourinho was the manager under pressure last week, but the media’s gaze will now turn to Antonio Conte after back to back league defeats. In Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Willian and Eden Hazard, the Blues still have an abundance of attacking talent that will prove too good for most teams. However, it is the defensive side of their game that will worry the former Juventus manager. The Blues look especially fragile without John Terry, with the form of Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill particularly worrying. We chose our three best and worst performers from a one-sided London Derby.
Arsenal’s vibrant attacking football will get plenty of headlines, and rightly so, but their work rate without the ball was impressive. Wenger’s men pressed and harried Chelsea all over the pitch, with even Özil and Walcott making tackles and interceptions. Their new centre-back Shkodran Mustafi was at the heart of a strong defensive performance and his display will win plenty of trust from the Arsenal fans as well as his teammates.
A £35 million signing from Valencia, there were some doubts as to whether Mustafi was the right partner for Koscielny; both are mainly front-foot, aggressive defenders and this hasn’t always worked well at the Emirates. However, they stuck to Costa like glue yesterday with the German making six interceptions and five clearances. Far more mobile than his compatriot Per Mertesacker, Mustafi’s arrival has enabled Arsenal to press from the front and play a higher line.
Awarded the man of the match award by host broadcaster BT Sport, Iwobi produced a performance of astonishing maturity and technical assurance. Except, for Arsenal fans who have watched him in recent weeks, his display really wasn’t that much of a surprise. The Nigerian youngster has quickly established himself as a first team regular, and only injury will see him drop out of the team now.
Wenger’s side have two direct, speed merchants in Walcott and Sanchez at the top end of the pitch and Iwobi’s subtlety and silky touch perfectly contrasts their styles, giving Arsenal’s front three the ideal balance. Completing 86% of his passes, Iwobi’s link up play was superb but also incisive and provocative. Arsenal have had plenty of neat technicians down the years, but he brings added pace and goal threat from a wide starting position.
It’s a tired old cliché that you need your ‘big players to perform in the big games’ but Özil and Sanchez were both close to their magnificent best yesterday, and either would have been a justifiable choice. When the German playmaker track back into his own half and made an interception during the first 45 minutes, you sensed this would be a good day for Arsenal.
Özil has been a little subdued in recent weeks, with some suggestions that Sanchez’s presence as a ‘false nine’ was encroaching on his space between the lines. When Özil joined Arsenal, there was a difficult transition from being the facilitator of talents such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema at Real Madrid (‘the Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ as the German press labelled him) to being Arsenal’s best player by some distance. It took him some time to get his head around this, and now he takes the responsibility that comes with being a team’s technical leader.
His talents with the ball do not need stressing, but it is Özil’s movement and appreciation of space that sets him apart.