By Alex Forbes
It was approaching five years since Arsenal last beat Chelsea in the league, so what made us break the recent bad run against the Blues on Saturday?
Undoubtedly, the early goals were essential to the impressive 3-0 result. With a slightly controversial team among the fans as summer signing Granit Xhaka was dropped to the bench and Alexis returned to a more central role - one which the jury is still out on. However, as the score line suggests, these were evidently the correct picks from the boss.
- Five Gunners who impressed
- My Favourite Match
- 'Coquelin shouldn't be undervalued'
- Walcott could be our secret weapon
In Saturday's game we saw a more intense press from Arsenal and a more urgent approach to tackling the Chelsea players from the first kick. The pace and stamina advantage Francis Coquelin has above Xhaka appears to be why he was selected. Along with the ever-mobile Alexis, the Gunners were able to deny the Blues any time of the ball throughout the pitch. This was especially effective against a defensive Chelsea line up that lacked the ability to pass their way out of the trouble. From the start, you could tell that the high press would get results. And we didn't have to wait long, with Alexis' opening goal the result of pressing and setting a tone for the game.
The first goal was crucial, it silenced the visiting fans, got the home crowd off their seats and, most importantly, forced the Chelsea team to change their game plan to get back into the game. This was evident in the third goal as both of the Blues’ defensive midfielders committed forward, allowing Mesut Ozil to drive forward to cut out the whole of the Chelsea midfield. With players of Alexis' and Ozil's quality in a two v two counter attack, you should always be worried, and before you knew it, it was 3-0.
Of course, Theo Walcott's goal needs a mention. Hidden behind the outstanding quick attacking passing from the Gunners was some very interesting movement by Alexis. The Chilean plays the striker’s role more as a 'false nine' opposed to a target man like Olivier Giroud, meaning that he'll roam and drop into the midfield. This is a risky tactic to play with just one striker as it can leave us with no one leading the line, but it can be incredibly effective, especially against a new opposition defensive partnership. Alexis dropped out of the forward line, leaving no one for Gary Cahill and David Luiz to mark.
This is a rare situation for centre backs, and it raises the question of whether to follow the forward, hold your position and decide who should mark who. For the second goal, after the ball was played to the right hand side ahead of the cross, this left the Chelsea defence slightly bemused as Walcott drifted into the box, found the space and slotted the ball home.
After complementing the attack, there was a defensive masterclass from both new boy Shkodran Mustafi and captain Laurent Koscielny. They were able to eliminate any threat from one of the league's most influential strikers, Diego Costa. Both stepped up to the plate and were close to faultless. Hector Bellerin also deserves praise as he kept the in-form Eden Hazard out of the game.
Another unseen reason for our success is our new squad depth. Despite a worrying injury to a critical player in the team, Coquelin, we were able to bring in an equally good replacement in Xhaka. Moreover, during the second half when we were putting the game to bed we were able to bring on the very capable Kieran Gibbs, who locked down the left hand side with Monreal and Giroud. The Frenchman would also offer extra aerial cover from any set-plays that Chelsea may have won.
A great game from the Arsenal boys. All of them looked up for it, all of them had a desire to win and hopefully we can take this momentum and mentality into a very busy few weeks of fixtures.