Arsenal and Wenger an embarrassment – now top four is under threat

The Gunners showed a lack of fight and desire at Stamford Bridge as the Blues took Wenger’s men apart with incisive attacking play


Eden Hazard dancing through the Arsenal defence with such consummate ease perhaps provided an apt summary of how the Gunners have once again allowed another title challenge to slip into the abyss.

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Former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas then lobbing Petr Cech after a poor clearance from the ex-Chelsea goalkeeper was the final nail in the coffin for a team who never looked like posing a genuine threat at Stamford Bridge throughout the 90 minutes.

If Arsene Wenger’s side continue to put in performances like in this 3-1 defeat then they will be hard pressed to finish in the Premier League’s top four this season.

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The barometer of success at Arsenal has been questioned over the past few years. Wenger himself admits that his future is dependent upon how successful a season his team have, but who knows what his definition of success is?

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Consecutive years of Champions League qualification, especially during the barren years, is a worthy achievement which shouldn’t be denigrated but Arsenal supporters are no longer looking to play among the big boys unless they can mount a genuine challenge for that competition. 

The demoralising midweek defeat by Watford was a sign that their defensive frailties and complacency in certain games had not gone away and, when Hazard jogged half the Stamford Bridge pitch to put Chelsea 2-0 up, there was a sense of de ja vu that Arsenal’s annual crisis had occurred once again.

HD Azpilicueta Alexis Chelsea Arsenal

HD Eden Hazard Chelsea Arsenal

A plethora of injuries in midfield, a title challenge which has now dissipated and a manager unable to influence proceedings from his position sat among the Chelsea fans in the crowd, Arsenal’s somewhat predictable demise has once again arrived at such a key point in the season.

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With the crucial Champions League last-16 first leg against Bayern Munich coming up in less than a fortnight, it remained imperative that Arsenal could come away from the Bridge with something positive to shout about.

The passionate supporters in the away end at Stamford Bridge will surely increase the demand for a change of management following this result, but their reaction wouldn’t be an instantaneous, emotive response – it’s been years in the making.

Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal: Blues blast past sorry Gunners to move 12 clear at the top

Marcos Alonso opened the scoring before a superb solo goal from Eden Hazard and a strike from Cesc Fabregas sealed victory for Antonio Conte’s men

An Eden Hazard-inspired Chelsea extended their lead at the Premier League summit with a dominant 3-1 win over title rivals Arsenal.

Marcos Alonso gave Chelsea a 13th-minute lead, heading home the rebound when Diego Costa’s header looped up off the crossbar.

The wing-back’s robust challenge on Hector Bellerin that allowed him to score is likely to draw post-match rancour from Arsene Wenger, but the suspended Gunners manager could have no complaints when those alongside him in the stand were brought to their feet in the 53rd minute.

Hazard made his mazy way from his own half to the edge of the Arsenal six-yard box to score the kind of goal that can come to define title triumphs.

Arsenal could muster little in the way of a response as they limply succumbed to a defeat more chastening than the one they dealt out to Antonio Conte’s men in September, when the prospect of Wenger besting an elite opponent in the dugout briefly re-emerged.

At Stamford Bridge, as substitute Cesc Fabregas collected Petr Cech’s woeful clearance and lobbed into an unguarded net, it was nowhere to be seen.

By the time Olivier Giroud headed a stoppage-time consolation from Nacho Monreal’s centre, the fact Liverpool can shave Chelsea’s advantage to 10 points by beating Hull City later on Saturday felt of greater significance.

Chelsea’s measured playing out from the back has been a feature of their transformation under Conte but goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and David Luiz passed their way into trouble in the second minute.

Mesut Ozil intercepted and Alex Iwobi’s low drive deflected agonisingly wide with Courtois beaten.

HD Marcos Alonso Chelsea Arsenal

HD Bellerin Chelsea Arsenal

HD Eden Hazard Chelsea Arsenal

The hosts’ first opening came from a set-piece when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain brought down Victor Moses and Gary Cahill headed into the turf and over.

Arsenal failed once more to deal with their opponents’ aerial threat when they fell behind.

Costa planted a header from Pedro’s excellent right-wing cross against the crossbar and, with Cech peeling himself off the turf, an onrushing Alonso emphatically beat the stationary Bellerin to the rebound.

The groggy Spain right-back was substituted shortly afterwards after failing to recover and Costa fired into the side netting as Chelsea scented blood.

Shkodran Mustafi was redeployed to right-back and earned a booking for clattering Hazard, although the Belgium playmaker recovered sufficiently to orchestrate a flowing 32nd-minute move that ended with Cech unconvincingly spilling Pedro’s attempt behind.

Bellerin’s replacement Gabriel had a glorious chance to equalise before the break but could not keep his free header down and Courtois acrobatically clawed to safety.

Early in the second period, Laurent Koscielny made a vital challenge on Hazard as the last man but, shortly afterwards, the mercurial Belgian effortlessly shimmied past the France centre-back – having unceremoniously shrugged off Francis Coquelin – to score a stunning solo goal.

Wenger shuffled his pack to little effect – as if rearranging the deck chairs on a once-famous ocean liner – and an increasingly understaffed midfield appeared ever more to Hazard’s liking.

His old protege Fabregas applied the final insult in the 85th minute and declined to celebrate. The midfielder was in a small majority as Stamford Bridge lapped up a famous triumph – Giroud offering the briefest punctuation to the party atmosphere.

Injured Bellerin forced off against Chelsea

Arsenal suffered an early double blow at Stamford Bridge as the right-back had to be substituted in the immediate aftermath of Marcos Alonso’s opener

Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin has been forced off in the opening stages of his side’s crucial Premier League clash against Chelsea.

The Spain international suffered an injury after trying to reach a header from which compatriot Marcos Alonso gave the Blues the lead.

And after receiving lengthy treatment in the six-yard box, Bellerin was replaced by Gabriel at Stamford Bridge.

More to follow.

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The Gunners have made four first-team changes from the starting XI which suffered a 2-1 defeat to Watford in midweek, while the hosts made one swap

Alexis Sanchez will start up front for Arsenal while Olivier Giroud has been dropped to the bench for Saturday’s game against Chelsea.

Arsenal and Chelsea to lock horns in China

The French striker started at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday as the Gunners suffered a 2-1 loss to Watford, while Alexis lined up on the left wing.

GFX Info Chelsea XI vs Arsenal 04022017

However, Arsene Wenger has switched things around for the encounter at Stamford Bridge, with the Chilean leading the line ahead of Theo Walcott, Alex Iwobi and Mesut Ozil. Meanwhile, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will start in midfield, having replaced Aaron Ramsey from the midweek XI.

Hector Bellerin is the other first-team change for Arsenal, having replaced Gabriel Paulista.

GFX Info Arsenal XI vs Chelsea 04022017

Chelsea, on the other hand, have made just one change from the team that drew 1-1 with Liverpool during the week, with Pedro replacing Willian in attack to support Diego Costa.

Antonio Conte’s men sit nine points clear of nearest rivals Tottenham and Arsenal at the top of the Premier League ahead of the game, with Liverpool and Manchester City a further point behind. 

Arsenal and Chelsea to lock horns in pre-season clash in China

Beijing will be the location for the clash between the Premier League duo, in what will be their first meeting outside of the United Kingdom

Premier League rivals Arsenal and Chelsea will go head-to-head in a friendly in China in July.

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Beijing will be the location for the pre-season clash – with Arsenal and Chelsea set to meet outside of United Kingdom for the first time – at the Bird’s Nest Stadium on July 22.

The announcement comes as runaway Premier League leaders Chelsea welcome London rivals Arsenal to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

“In this moment we are focused on winning a very important game against Arsenal in the league but we are happy to be travelling to China for another exciting match in the summer,” said Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte.

“I have seen already the passion our supporters have for Chelsea here in England and last summer in America, and I believe our fans in China will show the same intensity when we are in Beijing.”

We’re playing Chelsea in just over 12 hours – and we’ll be facing them this summer too

— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) February 4, 2017

July’s friendly will mark the end of Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Asia and Australia, with Arsene Wenger’s men to face A-League duo Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers before travelling to the Chinese capital.

Arsenal – set to make their third visit to China – will play Sydney FC at ANZ Stadium on July 13 and Western Sydney two days later.

Chelsea, who are scheduled to play in Perth next year, will return to mainland China for the first time since 2008.