THE GRAPES were a little sour at the Emirates Stadium as Arsene Wenger pouted his way through the post-match routine after Chelsea had beaten his title-chasing side.
Chelsea thoroughly deserved their win, completing the “double” over their London rivals. Arsenal were restricted to one shot on target versus at least half a dozen from the visitors and for once, they actually looked something like reigning champions. Wenger tried to devalue the victory, but the truth was Guud Hiddink’s temporary charges were worthy winners.
In a season that has seen a quite pathetic defence of their title, Chelsea rose to the occasion, with Willian and Cesc Fabregas outstanding. Fabregas was jeered throughout, but he clearly looked like he wanted to prove a point – not just to the fans that once worshipped him, but also to Chelsea supporters that had given him a hard time this season.
And Willian. If there is one player who has earned his corn this season at Stamford Bridge, it is the Brazilian. His energy, particularly in the first half, caused Arsenal plenty of concern.
Some Arsenal fans feel that this season’s Premier is there for the taking, but this past weekend has proved that there is still plenty of work to be done before Arsenal can claim their first crown since 2004. Chelsea showed, to some extent, that not a lot has changed.
Of course, the fact that Arsenal lost Per Mertesacker after 18 minutes to a red card – the third Arsenal player to walk against Chelsea this season – meant they were up against it, but the referee’s decision was right – Diego Costa was clear on goal. Wenger said Costa had got Mertesacker sent off, but there were no complaints from the German defender, and that should tell you something.
Wenger made a mistake when taking Olivier Giroud off as it left Arsenal bereft of attacking options. The crowd knew that, Giroud knew that, and Chelsea’s defence must have breathed a sigh of relief.
Five minutes later, Costa scored the winning goal, a good finish at the near post from Branislav Ivanovic’s cross. For the rest of the half, if there was going to be another goal, it was more likely to come from Chelsea, with Petr Cech pulling off a save from Costa and Nacho Monreal clearing off the line from Ivanovic’s header.
Just before the interval, Mathieu Flamini got on the end of an Aaron Ramsey high ball into the area and, in typical Kung Fu fashion, volleyed over the bar.
It could have been worse for Arsenal early in the second half had referee Mark Clattenberg been more generous when Fabregas was felled in the penalty area. It looked a penalty.
Arsenal had plenty of possession and with the introduction of Alexis Sanchez, they acquired a bit more guile and purpose. But still they struggled to seriously trouble John Terry and his team-mates in the Chelsea defence.
Despite the win, Chelsea’s hopes of a top four place are very limited, but they could yet be cast in the role of king-makers. There’s no denying they are Arsenal’s nemesis and I’m sure that as the Gunners’ fans filed out of the Emirates, they must have wondered if this can really be their year. The window is still open – a very good forward would completely transform Arsenal, it is just a question of where Wenger would find such an ace. He looked pretty miserable after the game, and he couldn’t even blame his old sparring partner for anything!