Sunday 22 April 2018

Five things we learned from Arsenal's thumping win over Chelsea

Theo Walcott of Arsenal celebrates scoring his sides second goal. Photo: Getty
Theo Walcott of Arsenal celebrates scoring his sides second goal. Photo: Getty

Jack de Menezes

Chelsea have no leaders without John Terry and can Arsenal build on September form?

Chelsea absent of leaders without Terry

It took until the hour mark before David Luiz spoke to Gary Cahill to offer him some sort of advice. Both are Champions League winners, both are Premier League winners and, together, they were both awful at the Emirates on Saturday. It was Cahill’s sloppy, under-hit backpass that gifted Alexis Sanchez the chance to run through an open the scoring.

But the lack of leadership was not consigned to just the defence. Every one of Chelsea’s starting line-up has a league winners’ medal to their name, and only N’Golo Kante and Luiz have not won the Premier League with Chelsea. Yet without their captain, John Terry, there wasn’t a single Chelsea player who stood up to grab the game by the scruff of the neck.

Terry’s absence with an ankle injury has seen Chelsea put in two terrible performances, first against Liverpool last Friday and today against Arsenal, a team they have enjoyed incredible success against over the years. But the confidence Chelsea always have against Arsenal was missing this time around, and that may well be down to the 35-year-old’s absence entirely.

Wenger was right to stick with Coquelin

Arsenal fans have taken quickly to Granit Xhaka, though two long-range goals in as many games certainly helps build a relationship with your new club. So there was certainly a sense of disappointment when his name was included on the substitutes’ bench given that both Francis Coquelin and Santo Cazorla continued their partnership in the heart of the Arsenal midfield.

Wenger has never been one to change things without reason though, and his desire to stick with the Coquelin-Cazorla axis has paid dividends over the last week. Coquelin set the tone for Arsenal early, flying into a challenge on Diego Costa to the home fans’ delight. Both Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi followed suit with the type of physically committed tackles that Arsenal often lack in their armoury. Coquelin put in another 100 per cent effort to block N’Golo Kante’s effort shortly after the half hour mark, and an ankle injury sustained in the clash forced him off two minutes later, but his impact on his teammates had already had the desired effect.

And to the supporters’ delight, they got to see Xhaka for more than 50 minutes regardless.

Cahill bereft of belief where Sanchez flourishes

The contrast between Cahill and Sanchez could not be clearer. One knows he is fighting for his future in a bid to convince his new manager that he still warrants a place in a side he has represented commendably for the last four years. He appeared close to the exit during the summer, and that door looks to be closing behind him rapidly now. Without Terry by his side, the 30-year-old looked out at sea while the energetic Chilean snapping at his heals continued his purple patch.

Sanchez has four goals in his last three games and is displaying the type of performances that were expected of him every week when he arrived in a £35m move from Barcelona three years ago. Giving him centre stage in the heart of the Arsenal attack may well prove to be one of Wenger’s finest decisions.

Conte not to blame for this Chelsea mess

Antonio Conte can only select what he has at his disposal. Chelsea tried to sign Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly in the summer and failed. Chelsea then tried to sign Alessio Romagnoli of AC Milan, and failed. They ended up with David Luiz in a cut-price buy-back deal, but you can see why Paris Saint-Germain were happy to let him go. The Brazilian is not a leader, and he couldn’t deal with the agility of Sanchez, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott when he was not getting support from Cahill.

Conte is still short of a defender, and had Chelsea gone out and landed the players he wanted, they may have avoided this humiliating defeat. Instead, they now face a second consecutive season where a battle for a top-four finish appears the best they can achieve. It’s not good enough for a club that has ambitions of winning the Champions league again.

Will Arsenal build on September?

This has been a good month for Arsenal – a draw away at PSG, a first win over Chelsea in five years and progression to the EFL Cup fourth round to keep their fringe players fresh and ready to come into the side if needed. But this run of form will only pay off is Arsenal can maintain it, given that they conceded five points early on to Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola’s side have set the tone this season and stretched their run to six wins from six with a win over Swansea on Saturday, and the Gunners already have an unenviable task on their hands to chase down City if they are to challenge for the title. Let battle commence.

Independent News Service

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