Arsene Wenger managed to finally silence critics and fans with the right combination to halt Arsenal’s dreadful record at Stamford Bridge.
Sky Pundit, Paul Merson, must have been regretting his recent comments about the Gunners lack of quality players with this fine display. Inventive, committed and driven, the Emirates club looked like a side that could finally deliver against the top six sides in the Premier League.
At the heart of this spirited performance were Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka both of whom provided sound cover for the back three but it was Mustafi who caught the eye with a towering performance.
The German was a delight and obviously had something to prove, especially after being linked with a move away. His positional awareness, willingness to get involved and to combine well with others to snuff out any threat was the perfect answer to the doubters that his career at the Emirates was all but over.
He even bagged a goal which was ruled offside but if it had stood, Mustafi would have thoroughly deserved the only goal of the game.
It wasn’t a classic game but it gave an insight to life without Ozil, who was injured and even Sanchez, who came off the bench to replace Lacazette. Iwobi had an endless supply of neat and tidy passes and his ability to jig around a scrambling defence to find others was pleasing.
He may not be able to hold on to his place when Ozil shrugs off his latest complaint but he is more than able to hold his own on the big stage. Ramsey and Xhaka seem to have clicked and found an understanding in their roles and were never more than ten yards apart and were occasionally in danger of holding hands.
Each seemed aware of the others presence and they dutifully interchanged by sliding back and forth as the other went on the attack. They were able to defend in tandem when needed and swept forward purposefully in support, with Ramsey clipping the post.
The Welshman managed to dance through a row of defenders with the ball attached to his foot in the style of Trevor Brooking. That non goal would have reward for his personal endeavour and outstanding contribution.
Yet again the Blues finished the game a man light. This time, David Luiz got the benefit of an empty changing room and avoided a shower backlog.
His brutal Two footed challenge on Kolsasinac was the result of being harassed on the ball by Sanchez and was certainly the correct decision, however, his yellow card was more debatable for an overhead kick that made contact with Koscielny’s fringe.
That decision set a dangerous precedence for players attempting to inject flare and creativity into a game and the FA need to work out their watery guidelines to avoid a catalogue of unnecessary suspensions and one irritated Italian Manager.
Conte was quietly seething at the dismissal but perhaps he should be concentrating on why he has lost three players in as many games to their fellow Londoners.
Big matches always tend to be a fiery affair, especially derby games but it appears that when Chelsea are not in control and romping to a handsome win, some of their personnel totally lose control.
It’s a worry for the Chelsea manager, who can’t afford to be without key players during a long campaign and with a side that has large holes in various departments.
Arsenal by contrast, have shown that they are able to perform with guts against one of the contenders. It wasn’t the win Wenger craved and there are sterner and bigger challenges ahead in the form of Manchester City, who are blowing teams apart for fun at present.
Wenger needs a settled side and one that works as hard as this one did at the Bridge. He needs players to be consistent for his squad to be considered a serious threat and that includes the upcoming big games against both the Manchester teams.
Even this early in the season, the outcome of those matches against the top six clubs is crucial and any loses would not only dent confidence but put them in the also ran enclosure for another year.
Arsenal have had their issues but on the evidence of this performance, Wenger may yet be right to say that they can put up a fight for the title.
We will see. The only disappointment was the removal of Danny Welbeck with a groin injury, which requires further investigation before dispatching him to his usual seat in the treatment room.
Since his return, he has been sharp, adaptable and fiercely competitive, contributing Three goals in the process. The last thing the Gunners need is a list of absentees just as they hit the accelerator but it’s almost inevitable with such a full programme and a host of bruising confrontations ahead.
The club may still regret not adding to the squad in the transfer window, although it appears the Lemar saga is far from over and is likely to be open to negotiation again in January. Wenger may of course go elsewhere, he tends to avoid a player when it becomes common knowledge like a spurned lover.
Any such purchase on this evidence may unsettle a team on the verge of finding its feet and prove to be a kick in the teeth to those that performed so well in this match.
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