Arsenal vs Chelsea result: Five things we learned as youngsters excel in convincing Gunners win

Mikel Arteta’s side were 3-1 Premier League victors at the Emirates Stadium on Boxing Day

Alex Pattle
Saturday 26 December 2020 19:24
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Arsenal enjoy shoot-out pre-season win over Chelsea

Entering this London derby in 15th place in the Premier League, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal very much felt like underdogs.

As such, their convincing 3-1 victory over sixth Chelsea felt like a bit of an upset.

Alexandre Lacazette scored from the penalty spot for the Gunners before Granit Xhaka doubled their lead with a free-kick, and Bukayo Saka’s (apparent) cross was clipped over Eduoard Mendy in the second half to give the hosts a 3-0 lead.

Tammy Abraham pulled one back for Chelsea late on at the Emirates Stadium, with Jorginho seeing his penalty saved by Bernd Leno in the dying moments as the Blues’ attempt at a comeback failed.

READ MORE: All Premier League fixtures this weekend

Here are five things we learned from the Boxing Day clash.

Happy anniversary!

The game marked the one-year anniversary of Arteta’s appointment at Arsenal, presenting a good opportunity to look back at how the former Gunners midfielder has fared in charge so far.

The Spaniard seemed to construct some solidity in his side in their early outings after he replaced compatriot Unai Emery, with that added steel developing as the season progressed. A sharpened mentality seemed to follow as Arsenal captured the FA Cup with victories over Manchester City and Chelsea, as well as the Community Shield with another win against City.

But the new term heralded a sharp downturn in form for the north London club, who entered this fixture 15th in the Premier League without a top-flight win since 1 November.

The improvements in Arsenal’s performance against Chelsea, however, suggest that talk of pressure on Arteta is premature. The 38-year-old is arguably the only person at the club who knows what they need to be, and – especially with a transfer window coming up – he should be given time to mould the Gunners as he sees fit.

A change in formation

Arsenal lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, shifting from the 3-4-3 that Arteta deployed in this week’s 4-1 Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat by Man City, as well as in the Gunners’ loss against Everton and draw with Southampton in the top flight this month.

In front of goalkeeper Leno were Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney in the full-back positions, and Rob Holding and Pablo Mari at centre-back – with Gabriel self-isolating. Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny were the hosts’ holding midfielders, and Gabriel Martinelli and Saka were stationed out. Emile Smith Rowe, meanwhile, was positioned behind lone striker Lacazette.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos were among those on the bench for Arsenal, but the line-up that was fielded – and the formation in which they were organised – did seem to carry more stability than Arteta’s team have exhibited in recent outings.

Youth really is the way for Arsenal

A factor for Arsenal in their perfect Europa League group-stage campaign this season was the effective implementation of youth, something that stood out in today’s clash. Saka (19 years old), Martinelli (19) and Smith Rowe (20) were all called upon to test Chelsea’s defence, and the trio performed admirably, injecting an expected energy and appetite into Arsenal’s collective showing.

Gabriel Martinelli (right) celebrates with goalscorer Bukayo Saka

It was Saka, who has the most first-team experience of the three youngsters, who craftily won the free-kick that enabled Xhaka to double the hosts’ lead, and the England international then clipped what appeared to be an attempted cross over Edouard Mendy and into the Chelsea net in the second half.

Furthermore, the exuberant, younger players provided some of the more senior players with a platform and confidence to perform, too. Before Xhaka fired his set-piece into the top corner, Lacazette had confidently stepped up to dispatch the penalty that gave Arsenal the lead. Both the Swiss and the Frenchman appeared to benefit from the inclusion of – and performances from – Arteta’s younger squad members.

Will this end up being the game that convinces the Spaniard to trust his youngsters more in the league?

Chelsea continue to stutter

Chelsea’s last five results in the Premier League read W, L, L, W, L – and their last win, 3-0 against West Ham this week, flattered them.

They are sixth in the table (ahead of Man City’s hosting of Newcastle, where a win would see Pep Guardiola’s side overtake Frank Lampard’s), and they are six points behind leaders and champions Liverpool, who have a game in hand.

As we approach the midway point of the season, a six-point gap between the Blues and the league leaders is not catastrophic, but there is no doubting that a nine-point lead would be incredibly difficult to overcome if held by a team like Liverpool. Either way, the Reds will expect to extend the gap when they take on 19th West Brom at Anfield tomorrow.

Chelsea literally cannot afford to slip out of the title race so early, having invested so much over the summer.

Why no Giroud?

As summer signing Timo Werner continues to flounder for Chelsea, the question is begged: Why was Olivier Giroud not used here?

The 2018 World Cup winner has excelled when given the opportunity to play this season and would surely have proven useful against his former team on Boxing Day.

The striker look set to come on around 70 minutes, but Lampard instead opted to introduce Kai Havertz off the bench.

If Giroud had taken to the pitch with 20 minutes to go and a 3-0 deficit to overturn, the question would be: Why was he not deployed sooner? As it turns out, the question is: Why was he not deployed at all?

This weekend get a £10 free bet with Betfair, when you bet £10 on a Same Game Multi on the Premier League. Terms: Min £10 Same Game Multi bet on any EPL match this Fri - Sun. Free bet valid for 72 hours, awarded at bet settlement. Excludes cashed out bets. T&Cs apply.

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