Chelsea did not quite summon up an awesome dismissal of their nearest Premiership challengers that so many feared would blunt the season's competitive edge before it had even begun, but for Jose Mourinho it was a template for his continued success. Drogba's two goals nudged the match out of Arsenal's reach before they ever threatened to inflict any damage on Chelsea, and Drogba went some way to reassuring Mourinho that his awkward, unpredictable Ivory Coast striker might yet be worthy of leading the most expensive forward line in Europe.
Twice Drogba burst through Arsenal's back four to finish with confidence and, in direct comparison with the vastly more talented Thierry Henry, he could claim a far more valuable day's work. Drogba has displayed a looseness of touch, a carelessness in front of goal, that has, at times, left English football unconvinced but by the time he was replaced by Hernan Crespo before the hour there was little doubt that he had done enough to assure himself of a place in the starting line-up against Wigan on Sunday.
It was not an occasion that crackled with the tension that has been generated, for the most part, between the boards of these two clubs. Mourinho made reference to a hand in the face that Henry dealt Damien Duff and Wenger complained of Crespo running the ball into the corner as time slipped away. But the Arsenal manager did so with a grin on his face as he made light of the occasion and what he perceived as a lack of "charity" from Chelsea. "We've won this four times and no one counts it as a trophy," he said, "so now I just prefer to see it as a friendly game."
Available on the bench for Wenger was Mark Howard, an 18-year-old goalkeeper, and Justin Hoyte from the academy, while in the blue corner was £79.5m-worth of Roman Abramovich's money including Shaun Wright-Phillips, who played for 20 minutes. He was greeted by the Arsenal supporters with the song they once sang for his stepfather, Ian Wright, and was expertly managed down the right flank by Ashley Cole, who received only a murmur of disapproval from the Chelsea support.
The ball that unlocked Arsenal's defence came on eight minutes and was an unremarkable angled pass into the area from Asier del Horno that found Philippe Senderos stranded hopelessly behind Drogba and unable to intervene as the striker chested the ball into his stride. It was a bleak moment for the young Swiss defender, who replaced Sol Campbell in the side at the end of last season, as he forlornly tried to close down the striker. Drogba clipped a confident volley past Jens Lehmann.
This was far from the finest 90 minutes in Senderos' young career. He was uncomfortable against Arjen Robben, who set the tone for another season of deception when he threw himself to the ground as the Arsenal defender offered the meekest of challenges on 22 minutes. Watching Senderos' performance from home, the unfit Campbell will have concluded that this was a good day for his first-team prospects.
Campbell would have surely have had a better chance than Senderos to tussle Drogba away from the ball as he thundered on to an Eidur Gudjohnsen flick-on on 57 minutes. Having disposed of the Swiss defender he took the ball wide of Lehmann, to the extent that he had to break through a tackle from Lauren, who had caught him up, before swivelling to beat Kolo Touré on the line.
Not a sleek, clinical, predatory finish but one that illustrated the robust, adversarial brand of attacking that Drogba offers, especially when the Chelsea manager picks a team that is unabashed about hitting long balls to their lone forward, an uncomplicated style that will need refinement against the very best teams in Europe. In defence, John Terry was outstanding while Del Horno's debut promised much.
Chelsea's concentration deserted them just once when Freddie Ljungberg threaded a cross from the right that found its way across the area and was turned in by Cesc Fabregas on 65 minutes. The 18-year-old more than held his own in the centre of midfield but an Arsenal team without Patrick Vieira at its heart still looks unfamiliar. They will have to arrive at some solution to that before the real Premiership business commences at Stamford Bridge 14 days from now.
Goals: Drogba (8); Drogba (57); Fabregas (65)
Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Lauren (Hoyte, 77), Senderos (Cygan, 71), Touré, Cole; Ljungberg (Reyes, 71), Fabregas, Flamini (Gilberto Silva, h-t), Pires (Van Persie, h-t); Bergkamp (Hleb, h-t), Henry. Substitutes not used: Howard (gk).
Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Ferreira, Terry, Gallas, Del Horno; Makelele; Robben (Wright-Phillips, 69), Lampard (Geremi, 90), Gudjohnsen (Tiago, 58), Duff (Cole, 73); Drogba (Crespo, 58). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Carvalho.
Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).
Booked: Arsenal Fabregas; Chelsea Makelele, Lampard.
Man of the match: Drogba.
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