Football: Gullit's rude awakening for slumbering Chelsea

Chelsea 0 Arsenal 3
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The Independent Online
Chelsea 0 Arsenal 3

One of the advertisements for the film of Fever Pitch includes David Baddiel remarking that it is enough to make you an Arsenal fan. Many of Baddiel's fellow Chelsea supporters could be forgiven the same sentiments after watching this game.

The home crowd saw much that was familiar in the second half as one side overwhelmed their opponents with pleasing, passing interplay and incisive forward movements. Except that it was the visitors who were in control.

Not that Ruud Gullit gave Arsenal much credit after a performance from his own team that he described as the most embarrassing since he became manager. Gullit exempted only Jody Morris and Dan Petrescu from a withering critique of Chelsea's passionless display, and refused to make allowances either for the absence of a handful of regulars or the presence of an FA Cup semi-final next weekend.

"I told the players beforehand, 'Don't give them the chance to say we missed six players today'," he said. "I think everyone in this stadium was astonished by this performance."

Gullit added, with the nearest the dreadlocked Dutchman can get to a hint of menace: "I've seen what I wanted to see." This has already been taken to point to the imminent departure of Gianluca Vialli, whose cause Gullit had championed 24 hours earlier, but who was clearly in the manager's mind when he spoke of the experienced players not showing the requisite leadership.

Gianfranco Zola, whose excuse of international duty Gullit refused to countenance - "I know, I've been there" - was another.

Welcome though Gullit's candour was, it seemed a mite unfair on the bald- headed one, whose display lacked aptitude rather than attitude, suggesting more than anything that an Italian birth certificate was no insurance against the ageing process. Vialli goes into most challenges these days with a look of pained resignation and one hand already raised to claim the foul, but he put himself about willingly in a competitive first half.

He also had a couple of shots well saved by David Seaman, but it was that other slaphead striker who opened the scoring, Ian Wright fastening on to Dennis Bergkamp's precise through ball in the 22nd minute and easily beating Frode Grodas. Arsenal's second, eight minutes after the break, fashioned by Bergkamp and Wright, and finished by Platt, killed the game.

"11.15? I like to get up at 11.15," Dennis Wise wrote of the kick-off time in the programme. But at least the Chelsea captain had the excuse of not being on the pitch as his team-mates fell into a communal slumber. Arsenal, by contrast were vibrant and aggressive, none more so than Patrick Vieira and the improving Stephen Hughes, who took a grip on midfield.

Once again Arsene Wenger's side have responded spiritedly to a home defeat - they boast the best away record in the division - though the Frenchman, speaking before the shock results that befell Manchester United and Liverpool, insisted they were no longer realistic championship contenders. By the end, they were toying with Chelsea, and should have added more goals than Bergkamp's 10 minutes from time.

Even then, Vialli's frustration was not at an end. With four minutes left he seemed finally to have found some succour when a firm shot beat Seaman and seemed destined for the net. It rattled back off the post.

Goals: Wright (22) 0-1; Platt (53) 0-2; Bergkamp (80) 0-3.

Chelsea (3-5-2): Grodas; Parker (Granville, h-t), Clarke, Johnsen (Myers, h-t); Petrescu, Burley, Morris, P Hughes, Minto (Nicholls, 75); Zola, Vialli.

Arsenal (3-5-2): Seaman; Keown, Garde, Bould; Dixon, Platt, Vieira (Selley, 85), S Hughes (Parlour, 77), Winterburn; Bergkamp, Wright (Anelka, 85).

Referee: R Dilkes (Mossley).

Booking: P Hughes (Chelsea).

Man of the match: Vieira (Arsenal). Attendance: 28,182.