Chelsea were not at the races on Saturday evening as they were comfortably beaten 2-0 by Arsenal at the Emirates.
First-half goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny were more than enough for Unai Emery’s side to gain a vital three points and leave their London rivals feeling sorry for themselves.
The two big talking points concerned both Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante being played out of their favoured positions yet again as Maurizio Sarri opted to play the Belgian in the False Nine role with his French team-mate in an advanced midfield spot.
The first warning sign came for Chelsea within five minutes as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should have put the hosts in front after latching onto Laczette’s weighted pass. Hazard then had a chance of his own but his first-time effort flew wide when he really should have hit the target.
The visiting side were made to rue that missed chance as the Gunners went in front from a corner they earned following a terrific save from Kepa. Hector Bellerin sent a low cross in towards Lacazette who did brilliantly to take the ball away from Marcos Alonso before squeezing a bullet of a shot inside the near post to give Arsenal a deserved early lead. `It seemed a long way back for the Blues after their slow start and as it turned out, it was.
Other than a chance for Pedro where he lifted the ball over Bernd Leno and inches wide of the target, the Blues’ chances were at a minimum and they found themselves with a mountain to climb just minutes before the half-time whistle. Sokratis was given ample time to angle a cross into the six-yard where Laurent Koscielny was waiting to loop a header past Kepa and into the top corner, only for replays to show he had, in fact, scuffed the header with the ball going in off his shoulder.
It was a huge slice of luck but nothing less than a persistent first half had warranted for Emery’s men as their opponents had failed to get out of first gear. Alonso had seen a header bounce back off the post moments before the break but it would have been unjustified based on the Gunners’ dominance.
Some half-chances came and went as the visitors tried their utmost to get back into the contest with a lack of composure being the catalyst for much of their failure. The lion’s share of possession was met by nothing in the way of a clinical nature, as has been the problem for the whole season under Sarri, and Arsenal had opportunities to extend their lead before Bellerin was stretchered off the field with, what looked like, a horrendous knee injury.
A host of corners were all both sides could manage as the hosts engineered their way to a vital three points with the visitors providing very few nervy moments for the home supporters. Olivier Giroud, who had come off the bench against his former employers, missed what many would describe as a gilt-edged chance but it would have too little too late for his current side as they succumbed to a rare defeat against their London rivals.
The games continue to come thick and fast for the Blues as they must overturn a one-goal deficit against Tottenham in their Carabao Cup semi-final second leg on Thursday night.