Arsenal 3 - Chelsea 0 - Premier League
“I am very happy because we needed to change the recent history, I thought we did it with style and steel and that’s what we wanted. I think we were committed with discipline”
Those were the words from a beaming Arsene Wenger at his post match press conference. He looked like a man who was desperately trying to play down his joy when he spoke about a near perfect first half. His joy and pride were understandable given just how good Arsenal were on Saturday afternoon.
We raced out of the traps in the way that I love, Francis Coquelin, Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and company looked like men possessed as they raced after blue shirts, closing down men and passing lanes, but when we got on the ball we zipped it around one and two touch at speed. When we play like that, few in this league can live with us.
When the line up was announced on Twitter, many Gooners were having a fit that Francis Coquelin was starting the game in place of Granit Xhaka. But I think Coquelin was exceptional in the opening stages of the game, he was one of the guys that set the tone, he was part of the reason we imposed ourselves on the West Londoners. His injury, picked up close to the 30 minute mark looks serious and could rule him out for a long time. He looked visibly distraught as he limped off the pitch. Arsene has shown incredible amounts of faith in Coquelin this season when it looked like he may have fallen way down the ladder, we have to hope that the injury is not worst case scenario stuff but it looks bad.
So Xhaka now has a door open for him to show his quality and I am sure he will do just that but he will play a different way to the man he will be replacing.
But hey let’s get back to the match in hand. Arsene has spoken about using Alexis’ energy in the final third where it really matters and that was very much the case when he bared down on Gary Cahill who took a touch but he wasn’t decisive enough and his attempted back pass fell way short of his keeper, Alexis pounced and raced clear towards Courtois who didn’t know whether to come out or stay on his line, the composure from Alexis was unreal as he delicately dinked the ball over Courtois who went down at the right moment. A massive moment, so much time to think and yet he was able to produce the coolest of cool finishes.
The gap between the first and second goals seemed much bigger when watching live but a few minutes later we produced the kind of football that keeps Arsene working in football. The exchange between Ozil and Iwobi just outside the Chelsea penalty area had Cesc Fabregas running in circles and Kante falling over on the floor (watch it again for a chuckle) Iwobi then turned the knife, stepping inside and splitting Chelsea open with another one of his perfectly angled and weighted passes to Bellerin on the right, Theo had been darting around looking for the pass way before he received Bellerin’s excellent centre and he was on hand to finish from close range.
That goal was Arsenal are their slicing and dicing best.
How good is Alex Iwobi so far? He was awarded the man of the match award on Saturday and deservedly so. I read a Tweet that struck a cord with me.
Iwobi is so clever. He turns down passes to big players because he sees something better. He has confidence to do what he knows is right.— Ro-sický (@Brosicky7) September 25, 2016
It’s spot on, the guy has so much intelligence on the pitch and it just seems so instinctive. You can see why he is a first team starter and one of Arsene’s favourites. He has almost everything in his game to be a top class player. Not only does he have the vision, speed of thought and execution of pass but he is powerful and tall. I thought we needed a wide creative player in the summer almost as much as any other position but if Iwobi stays fit and continues to improve then the manager will be fully justified for his decision.
Mesut Ozil has been below his usual very high standards in recent weeks but he was back to his best in this huge game. Chelsea just couldn’t get near him, including N’Golo Kante who was spun and left for dead five minutes before half time. He slipped in Alexis who clipped to the back post and Ozil volleyed into the turf and past Courtois.
So we went into half time 3-0 up and absolutely buzzing. I must admit I was hoping for us to avenge the 6-0 beating of a few years back, maybe if they were reduced to 10 men as we were that day then that may have been achieved.
I said at half time that I hoped we would come out at the second half solid and difficult to break down, we didn’t want to let them have a sniff of a come back and that is exactly what we saw from the group of ‘men’ maturity and organisation. The younger Arsenal sides of the past may have gone flying forward in search of more goals only to be sucker punched. The 4-4 draw with Tottenham at the Emirates springs to mind.
I have spoken a lot about the quality of our attacking players but watching Koscielny and Mustafi working together was such fun. Diego Costa was pounced upon every time he got near the ball, he must have been so frustrated and I’m pretty sure the same player under Jose Mourinho would have left some studs or an elbow into someone late in the game due to being dealt with so convincingly.
I had hoped their display together at PSG was purely down to a lack of familiarity rather than being incompatible. Well hopefully those thoughts have been answered with a sensational display against a player who has caused us many problems in the past.
'Kostafi' vs Diego Costa... pic.twitter.com/iV3vUMrkIg— TerryAFC⭐ (@TerryAFCx) September 24, 2016
Chelsea had one sniff at our goal when Batshuayi managed to wriggle clear and Cech with his only save to make did just that.
What about that Hector Bellerin recovering tackle on Pedro? Gosh that was great! Pedro is a quick player and he had a head start on the young Spaniard but Hector upped the gears and robbed the ball from a tumbling Pedro. The crowd roared in appreciation.
Manchester City and Barcelona can go, run and jump if they think they can take him off us easily.
We had some half chances to increase the lead but our focus was mainly on keeping a clean sheet and I must say, I like that. I liked seeing Walcott and Cazorla sprinting after Hazard to make a tackle on the touch line, it showed that the team wanted to keep Chelsea out and not just the back four.
You know what I find strange? I have watched the game a few times now and yet I seem to miss Santi Cazorla in the game. Usually he is a player who is on my radar more than most because he is on the ball so often and yet he had the most amount of touches in the Arsenal team with 97. That is more than double the amount of times Alex Iwobi (47) got on the ball for example. Walcott is a lot more involved in games these days and that is making a huge difference. He touched the ball once less than Iwobi and that is crazy when you consider the style of the two players and what their roles are in the team.
So we are now unbeaten in the league since the opening day of the season, we are finding our groove and we are still missing some big players in our squad.
Conte is supposed to be a tactical mastermind and yet many say that Arsene Wenger ‘cannot do tactics’ which I find one of the most annoying comments out there at present. Yet and yet my friends, we battered Chelsea all over the lush green pitch, tell me how this is possible?
It’s possible because Arsene has assembled a squad full of quality who hopefully will step up the gears this season. It was a performance we have been building towards and the signs have been there this pre season if you've kept your eyes opened. We've been pressing a lot more, we have been working on the speed of our transitions and our rotational attack has been designed to make us more unpredictable.
It’s too early to be bullish about our aims this season but it’s equally too early to say that Manchester City will win every single game from now until the end without having a bad patch along the way.
But going from what I’ve seen since the start of the season (1st half against Liverpool included) we have plenty to be cheerful about today, lets hope tomorrow brings more of the same.
The podcast is being recorded tonight so if you want to ask any questions, you can do so with the hashtag #ArsenalVPodcast (So many people forget the hashtag)