Arsenal toyed with Chelsea and pulled them apart at will
There were moments out there, as Arsenal toyed with Chelsea and pulled them apart at will, when it felt like this was their moment of revenge for years of humiliation, and that they were revelling it. Arsenal destroyed Chelsea at the Emirates this afternoon, shredding their defence but also any suggestion that they might have an inferiority complex or a psychological block when it comes to this particular team. This was as close to a reversal of the 6-0 in 2014 as Arsenal will get. Even if they scored half as many goals, they were just as dominant.
This was the best Arsenal performance for years, the expressive expansive display they had often threatened since signing Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez but never quite delivered. The football was fast, imaginative and witty, the high standards the Arsene Wenger has always set his teams. There have been times recently when Wenger’s approach has looked outmoded but here, as his team improvised their way to chance after chance, he looked as relevant as ever.
This was exciting attacking football of the highest quality. Arsenal controlled possession when they needed to but also had the incisive edge they often lack. Sanchez is not everyone’s idea of a centre forward but he was indispensable to their game here, making and scoring the first, setting up the brilliant third, terrifying Chelsea with his movement at speed. Sanchez has started six of Arsenal’s eight games up front this season and this is why. Olivier Giroud is good against some opposition but has never scored against Chelsea. Here Arsenal posed them problems they did not know how to solve.
ARSENAL 3 – 0 CHELSEA
Five things we learnt from Arsenal vs Chelsea
And yet as brilliant as Arsenal were, this still felt like a game that said more about the losing side. Arsenal have always had the potential to play like this, even if they never quite clicked. But Chelsea produced a display that was so bad, so desperately lacking in everything that Antonio Conte demands from a team, that is genuinely shocking to see. Chelsea were bad enough at times last season, but at least they had the excuse of the Jose Mourinho psychodrama and the ‘palpable discord’ with the squad. This was not that.
Every characteristic of a Conte team – organisation, hard work and concentration – was utterly lacking here. This was the eighth game of the Conte era at Stamford Bridge but they looked further away than ever from being the team he wants them to be. The defensive mess that saw them draw 2-2 with Swansea City and lose 2-1 to Liverpool was far more obvious and far more damaging. They were fortunate to get away without conceding twice as many as they did.
For Chelsea this was a terrifying insight into what life will be like without John Terry. The 35-year-old had been bullish about his chances of recovering from a foot injury in order to play but it did not happen in time. This left Gary Cahill and David Luiz together at centre-back, each man looking like he would far rather have been playing alongside Terry instead. The first goal came from Cahill’s struggle to play the high line Conte demands. The second from Chelsea sitting too deep and not pressuring Arsenal. The third from a well-executed counter-attack, with Cahill and Luiz chasing the same way.