Arsenal vs Chelsea match report: Arsene Wenger's 13-game winless run broken thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's first-half strike

Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0

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The Independent Online

There are not two managers in the business who avoid a handshake with more carefully-calibrated timing and brimming ego than Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger. You only had to watch them as the Arsenal players came down the steps and Wenger ducked left, avoiding the trap that Mourinho had set for him and the latter decided against breaking right and chasing his quarry.

Such a brief moment but what a story it tells of their enduring rivalry, of the two touchline megalomaniacs who can turn the most perfunctory social interaction into a competitive event. The game was an early-season dust-up that went Arsenal’s way, an unpolished contest between players of varying degrees of match-readiness. But the friction between the two managers? That was straight out the proverbial top drawer. They have hit the ground running.

Once again, Wenger professed indifference at Mourinho’s unbeaten run over him and finally having broken it at the 14th attempt. “As long as I got it [the run] served every time in press conferences it could have an impact on the team,” he said. Mourinho looked anything but indifferent to defeat, making a great show of congratulating every Arsenal player as they came down the steps and then tossing his losers’ medal to a kid who was leaning over the tunnel, as the Chelsea manager made his exit.

In between his big show of gallantry and the medal-chuck, Mourinho and Wenger conspicuously missed one another for their handshake. It looked as if Wenger broke first and then, seeing what was unfolding, Mourinho made sure that he was not left with his hand fluttering in mid-air. No-one would argue that it behoves two grown-ups but what entertaining stuff.

Mourinho said later that Wenger’s team had “abandoned their philosophy” in sitting back and defending the first half lead given to them by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Wenger conceded that his team had been determined to defend well but on the thorny question of philosophy said that his side had “abandoned nothing”.

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Mourinho and Wenger on the touchline

What was not in doubt was Mourinho’s displeasure at losing. He switched and reorganised his formation throughout the second half, eventually settling on a three-man defence with the substitutes Radamel Falcao and the lesser-spotted Victor Moses deployed from the bench in search of the equaliser.

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s part was telling given that this was the man whom Mourinho would have liked to sign as part of the deal that took Petr Cech to Arsenal. The England international has struggled with injuries for well over a year now yet with the benefit of a solid pre-season he looked well capable of delivering on his potential.

As for Cech, he kept a clean sheet - which is exactly what Mourinho fears he will do on a regular basis at his new club. On this occasion it was not as if the champions pushed their old comrade to the brink. Eden Hazard was off-key. Falcao, a second half sub, barely had a sight of goal. Diego Costa did not figure at all. In the game’s hectic later stages, it was Arsenal, not Chelsea, who created more chances.

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Petr Cech played for the first time against his former side and was excellent

Mourinho was cryptic on Costa, saying that the striker had been ready to play but had changed his mind on Saturday. There seemed to be the hint of a reproach about Mourinho’s words, although it was difficult to tell. Wenger said that Cech’s effect was such on the Chelsea players that he thought they looked as if they needed to “score the perfect goal”.

What does it mean for Arsenal? They pumped three goals past the 2014 champions Manchester City in this game last year, and then started the season sluggishly. This time they took their chance in the first half and then absorbed the best that Chelsea could throw at them after the break.

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal on 24 minutes was the kind that Chelsea usually make a habit of not conceding. The ball was moved from left to right from Mesut Ozil to Theo Walcott and on to Oxlade-Chamberlain who took it inside onto his left foot where Cesar Azpilicueta’s efforts to tackle or block might best be described as lacklustre.

Oxlade-Chamberlain took his chance well, hitting a shot that accelerated sharply past Thibaut Courtois. The Englishman played just six games post-January as the club tried to solve a groin problem that would not go away. He was excellent in the first half, getting down the right wing on 42 minutes to cross under the Chelsea bar, where Branislav Ivanovic had to be brave to get the ball away.

Chelsea had their moments before the break, including a suspicious looking foul by Per Mertesacker on Cesc Fabregas on the right side of the area that went unpunished. Ramires could have done better with a Loic Remy cross that he headed over at the end of a fine, flowing move.

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Eden hazard should have scored but fired over

Although they started the second half better than they had the first, Chelsea struggled to create the goalscoring chances they needed. The obvious one, a clever throughball by Fabregas to Hazard, the current player of the year conspired to dig out from under his feet and strike wildly over the bar. This was not his best afternoon’s work.

It was worse for Azpilicueta, one of Mourinho’s key men last season. Given a bad time of it by Oxlade-Chamberlain he was out-sprinted by the Arsenal man on 65 minutes and responded by dragging him back by his sleeve. Mourinho substituted him not long after, preferring instead the unlikely figure of Kurt Zouma at left-back. Azpilicueta would hardly have needed telling that better was expected.

Cech was required to push a free-kick from Oscar, a second half substitute, around the post on 69 minutes, although even then it did not feel like he was at full stretch. At the other end Courtois made two fine saves from Santi Cazorla and then substitute Kieran Gibbs as Chelsea found themselves over-run at times on the counter-attack.

While Mourinho could argue that his team had the more of the attacking play, it was Arsenal who had the better chances at the end of the game and they really should have scored from one of them. As for the unbeaten record going, Mourinho’s point was that one swallow does not a summer make. “One game is one game and has no relation with other games,” he said.

“Thirteen matches is an eternity, it's too much.” Even so, no-one could be in any doubt that he had taken the result of game No 14 harder than most.

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Arsenal celebrate lifting the Community Shield

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Cazorla, Coquelin; Ramsey, Ozil (Gibbs, 82), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arteta, 77); Walcott (Giroud, 66).

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (Moses, 82), Azpilicueta (Zouma, 70); Matic, Ramires (Oscar, 54); Willian, Fabregas, Hazard; Remy (Falcao, ht).

Booked:

Arsenal - Coquelin
Chelsea - Azpilicueta

Referee: A Taylor

Attendance: 85,437

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