Chelsea got back to winning ways after they saw off Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday. The Gunners had been leading the table going in to the weekend, and they were heavy favourites to take all three points. However, the Blues have an excellent record in clashes against the north London side in recent years, and they did the double over 10 man Arsenal thanks to Diego Costa’s goal.
Costa was widely expected to be missing here, which did little for pre-match optimism. After bruising his shin bone in the draw with Everton, it was thought that he faced a few weeks out. The Spaniard started up front, however, and made a huge contribution. Pedro pulled out injured before the game, meaning Oscar took his place on the left. Eden Hazard was back to fitness, but he was overlooked, leaving him to watch on from the bench.
Chelsea were in control of the opening stages and, pretty early into the game, everything was turned on its head. Costa was sent through on goal, after using his pace to get around Per Mertesacker, but then the big German was rash to dive into a challenge and hauled the Spaniard down. The referee had the red card out right away, leaving Arsene Wenger a little less than pleased.
While Wenger was annoyed about the decision, his next move didn’t help things very much. We all know that the Gunners are short in the striking department, so it made little sense when Wenger took off Olivier Giroud and replaced him with Gabriel following the red card. Theo Walcott moved up front for a while, but he quickly dropped back, leaving Arsenal effectively playing without a forward.
Chelsea’s forward showed exactly what that kind of presence up front can do just a minute later. He didn’t mind that he was up against two centre halves again, as he was first to the ball when Branislav Ivanovic whipped in a cross from the right. Costa was more alert than anyone else in the box, turning it past Petr Cech to open the scoring.
The second half saw the Blues move to keep what they had, as Arsenal came pushing for an equaliser. They had started with Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel once again, and that defensive shield did well on this occasion, screening runs and passes form the Gunners’ midfield. Kurt Zouma was a monster at the back once more, repeatedly throwing himself in the way of the ball like a man possessed.
Of course, the Gunners kept pushing, which opened up gaps at the back for the Blues to exploit. Loic Remy, who replaced Costa in the second half, seemed to spend the entire time offside, ruining some great build up play. Willian missed a great chance to make it 2-0, but in the end it didn’t matter, as the team held on for all three points.
LCN Man of the Match: John Obi Mikel