By Rob Kelly
We claimed our first Premier League win in close to two months with a thrilling, high-energy performance to beat Chelsea on Boxing Day.
Coming into this game off the back of a heavy Carabao Cup defeat, Mikel Arteta shuffled his pack due to a spate of absences and in an effort to change our fortunes.
Both Willian and David Luiz missed out due to feeling unwell, while Gabriel is isolating after coming into close contact with someone with COVID-19.
Emile Smith Rowe was in for his first Premier League start of the season and instantly caught the eye with the way he took up space between the lines, while Gabriel Martinelli was his usual ball of industry and energy.
We made a strong start and, with mere seconds on the clock, Martinelli scuffed a volley just wide but Chelsea soon grew into the game and came close themselves when Mason Mount clipped the post with a free kick.
But this young Arsenal team showed real heart and no little attacking spark, and could have opened the scoring when Hector Bellerin raced into the box and cut the ball back for Smith Rowe, but he couldn’t make contact.
But we kept coming forward, and were soon awarded a penalty when Kieran Tierney went down under Reece James’ tackle in the area – and Alex Lacazette made no mistake from the spot.
It was a huge boost for a side struggling for confidence – and there was even better to come when, minutes before half time, Granit Xhaka arrowed a stunning free kick into the top corner.
As expected, Chelsea came flying out of the blocks at the start of the second half but, after soaking up some early pressure, we extended our lead as Saka curled the ball over Edouard Mendy and into the far corner.
It was no more than we deserved – and Martinelli twice came close to adding a fourth, first with an acrobatic effort and then with a low drive from the edge of the area, both saved by Mendy.
Lacazette had a big chance near the end as Mendy cleared straight to him, but the visitors’ goalkeeper spared his own blushes with a diving save to keep a curling effort out.
There was still time for Mo Elneny to hit the bar, and Rob Holding to see his follow-up shot cleared off the line, before Tammy Abraham scored a late consolation.
Bernd Leno then saved a penalty from Jorginho in injury time, but despite the tense finale we held on for a big, big three points.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
We’re straight back into action on Tuesday as we travel to Brighton & Hove Albion, before we kick off 2021 with a trip to The Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion on January 2.
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