Following on the back of a highly frustrating defeat away against West Ham United, nobody could have asked for a better way to bounce back to form than by beating Chelsea at the Emirates. However, the fine result and Arsenal performance came at a significant cost.
To maintain any realistic chance of remaining among the Premier League betting contenders to finish in the top four, Arsenal couldn’t afford to drop any more points, especially against one of their main rivals for that objective. Another defeat would have left the Gunners nine points behind Chelsea and overtaken in fifth position by Manchester United, who continue their Solskjaer revival.
Image Source: @Arsenal via Twitter
Nevertheless, the intentions of Unai Emery and Arsenal were clear from the start. They piled on the pressure, ensuring Maurizio Sarri’s side had zero time to settle into the game. Maximum intensity and work-rate, along with a healthy slice of good fortune, did the rest in a pulsating first half: it was certainly a well-earned victory for the efforts of the players.
Alexandre Lacazette fired Arsenal into the lead after 14 minutes, managing to turn what looked to be a fluffed Hector Bellerin cross into a scoring opportunity, as the Frenchman demonstrated exquisite control and crisp finishing, giving Kepa Arrizabalaga no chance. It was no more than the Gunners deserved, having already come close on a couple of occasions.
Shortly before the break, in the 39th minute, captain Laurent Koscielny doubled the Arsenal lead, making the most of slack Chelsea marking, albeit with a slice of luck in the final connection, as the ball looped in off his shoulder following a set-piece move by the home side. Lady Luck continued smiling when, right on the stroke, Chelsea and Marcos Alonso hit the post.
Chelsea showed more purpose in the second half, but their creative fulcrum Jorginho was being kept shackled by none other than Aaron Ramsey, playing in the highest midfield role. The Welshman covered more ground than any Arsenal player, fulfilling the role requested of him to perfection. Eden Hazard was forced to drop deeper as the Gunners defensively kept the Blues safely away from their goal, swift in the challenge and snuffing out chances.
Image Source: @SkySportsPL via Twitter
The only thing that marred a perfect day for Arsenal came around the 70th minute, with the unfortunate sight of Bellerin being stretchered off the pitch. The Spaniard had gone to the ground clutching his knee in agony, without being challenged. In his post-match press conference, Emery lamented that the “first impression” from the club’s medical staff “is not very positive” for the right-back.
Particularly unfortunate is that Bellerin was making his first start since early December, having successfully recovered from a troublesome calf problem. Emery has suggested that he may have enough cover with Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Carl Jenkinson, before considering any need to dip into the transfer market, while at the same time, hoping that Bellerin’s injury won’t keep him out of action for the remainder of the season.