Arsene Wenger couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate his 20 years at the helm of Arsenal, after his side produced one of the best performances of attacking football seen at the Emirates in recent times.
Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil all had their scoring boots on the night as Arsenal ripped apart Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side in a dominant first half display. Arsenal dominated from start to finish and Chelsea never looked like they had a hope. Here are 4 talking points from the Gunners’ masterclass that fans aren’t going to forget any time soon.
1. Arsenal are genuine contenders, for now
After the Gunners succumbed to a 3-4 defeat at the hands of Liverpool on the opening day of season, many fans and critics were expecting it to be another typical Arsenal season, where they would pick up their form as the season progressed and would end up only just finishing in the top 4, to secure a Champions League spot for another season.
However, if last night’s display was anything to go by, this is not the same Arsenal side that Premier League fans have grown to accustomed to in the past few seasons.
There was an unfamiliar desire, one that is rarely seen in bigger games and ties of such magnitude. Arsenal dominated from start to finish and Chelsea never looked like they even had a hope after they conceded the first goal. It was the perfect example of attacking football and not one Arsenal player who played last night could have been accused of not doing their jobs properly.
After losing to Liverpool on the first day, they have since remained unbeaten and have smashed 4 past Hull City and Nottingham Forest prior to this fixture. They weren’t expected to repeat those heroics against Chelsea, but they very nearly did.
Victories like these so early in the season ought to give this still young Gunners side the confidence and swagger that they need to weather through tougher times as the season progresses.
2. Sanchez MUST be retained
The Chilean put in a splendid shift last night against the Blues. The 27-year-old almost single-handedly made life hell for the likes of Ivanovic and Cahill and they just weren’t able to handle the speed and tenacity of the former Barcelona man.
His goal, which began with him charging down on Cahill on the right wing and putting pressure on him, forcing him to make the error, sprinting 30 yards with the ball before dinking it beautifully over a helpless Courtois typified what the Chilean is made of.
Rumours of contract talks between Arsenal and Alexis being stalled have been doing the rounds off late and they won’t do the general morale the training ground any good. Arsenal have a good thing going here and last night’s performance proved why he’s worth every penny they paid for him in 2014, and now some more.
Sanchez’s recent exploits playing upfront as a striker for Arsenal show that he can be just as clinical and effective from more than one position. It isn’t always that Arsenal are able to lure big names to the club so keeping the ones they have at whatever cost is absolutely crucial to any title ambitions they may have.
3. The Gunners’ Defence
Arsene Wenger has seemingly found a good combination for Arsenal’s defence. Monreal is in good form, Bellerin is back after a loss in form and that tackle on Pedro proved it. But it is the center back combination of Laurent Koscielny and summer acquisition Shkodran Mustafi that has truly impressed so far.
The German international arrived at the Emirates a day before the transfer window closed and made his Premier League debut against Southampton 11 days later. There seems to be some kind of solidity in the back four now and him and Koscielny have formed a good understanding.
Costa, Hazard, Willian are still one of the most talented attacking trios in world and keeping them in your back pocket for the entire night is a commendable task, even if they seemed as if they didn’t want to play. This defence will face much harder tests as the season progresses and it will be interesting to see how they grow as a unit over the course of the campaign.
4. Coquelin’s Injury
Early on in the game just after the half-hour mark, Francis Coquelin succumbed to injury and had to be taken off the pitch and he was replaced with Granit Xhaka alongside Santi Cazorla in the middle of the park. Wenger later confirmed that the injury suffered by the 25-year-old was similar to the one he suffered last season.
This would definitely be a blow to his squad as the Frenchman has been one of Arsenal’s most consistent performers over the course of the past two seasons.
Prior to his injury Coquelin virtually owned the midfield. A was a typically energetic display from the former Charlton Athletic loanee and a seemed to cover nearly every inch of the pitch across the Emirates. It was a difficult time for the likes of Fabregas, Matic, Hazard and Kante with Coquelin breathing down their necks at every opportunity they got.
However, the arrival of Granit Xhaka didn’t affect Chelsea’s play. The Swiss proved that he could perform in the big Premier League games and the Arsenal midfield was just as solid as it was before. He brings a strong physical presence to the Arsenal midfield and despite his youth, he’s headstrong and can show that he can lead when called upon.
Besides his obvious defensive qualities, he’s not stranger to scoring stunners. In his last two games, he’s scored 30-yard screamers which have flown into the top corner past helpless keepers, and this makes him even more lethal from afar. Though Coquelin’s injury is a loss to Arsenal, it’s not one that they should be affected by too much as long as Xhaka is around.