Arsenal 2 – 0 Chelsea
And so it came to pass…nope, did that one last week and it’s entirely unnecessary. Everything we weren’t against West Ham, Southampton and a host of other teams since Tottenham, we were yesterday. Questions about what Emery wants from his side were answered as we pressed Chelsea into mistakes and errors before overwhelming them.
It was genuinely
Laurent Koscielny added the second off his shoulder and it was a moment of unbridled joy for a man dogged by ill-fortune in the past year. It might have been his second of the game, Kepa denying him from close range. A good save, yes, and perhaps a poor finish; 2 – 0 means it doesn’t matter.
Those are the moments the history books will record in their barest details; the reality of victory escapes their purview. A high-pressing game, the like of which we were promised before the season began has been seen only sporadically.
Yesterday it came back with a vengeance. The tireless pressing was consistently carried out by everyone in unison. There were few occasions where weak links emerged and the players deserve credit for that. Exasperation for not playing that way every week but praise on this occasion.
Unai Emery accommodated the style with a flat back four. No Mustafi, Monreal or Mesut; no M&Ms. The pairing of Bellerin and Kolasinac on either flank provided tremendous energy in denying Chelsea time and space, as well as prompting attacks and counter-thrusts.
Victory Is Sweet
There was a balance to the team not seen since we beat Tottenham and from that emerged the effectiveness in carrying out Emery’s gameplan. The brickbats and questions of the last week got their answer.
If only we could play like that every week. We’ll need to in the coming fortnight with games against United and City.
Chelsea had moments, not least when Pedro broke the offside trap and his lob over Leno span past the post. They came close on the stroke of half-time but the post came to our rescue.
The FA faces a testing few days. Marcos Alonso’s slap around Bellerin’s face was worthy of a red card and retrospective action is surely in order? I don’t hold out hope of this but football is full of surprises.
The half-time interval proved no release for the visitors. Maurizio Sarri launched a blistering attack on the players after the match, claiming in an astonishing outburst that they lacked self-motivation. Mo, we feel your pain; there have been plenty of Arsenal squads in the past about whom the same could be said.
Naturally, there was a price to pay for such a welcome victory. Hector Bellerin departed on a stretcher in such obvious agony that the worst must be feared. It will be some relief if he is seen in an Arsenal shirt again this season, particularly since the alternatives barely offered inspiration:
Lichtsteiner is another player for playing there and I think we have players. I don’t forget Jenkinson because he is with us, he played some matches and if we need [him], he is okay to help us.
Only had Emery remembered that Mustafi started out as a right-back could he have made the situation worse. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is forbidden to get injured…
But the pairing of Sokratis and Koscielny deserve mention as well. Experience tells much in these situations and they delivered that in spades. One moment of celebration in the second half showed how much winning a tackle in this match meant to him; the Warrior pride and a cheap joke about the 300 on these pages, I’m sure.
Alexandre Lacazette won Man of the Match and rightly so. He and Ramsey ran themselves into the ground, before making way for Iwobi and AMN. Bellerin’s injury changed the thoughts once again with Elneny coming on minutes later.
Much like the aftermath of the win over Tottenham, there is a spring in the step this morning and instead of dread at the weekend’s cup-tie, optimism springs forth.
The intensity of the performance must be replicated in these big matches which we face. Is there any reason to believe we won’t? Thought not.