Arsenal’s youngsters eased the pressure on Mikel Arteta as they inspired the Gunners to a 3-1 victory over an insipid Chelsea on Boxing Day.
Chelsea travelled to the Emirates Stadium looking to boost their title credentials but were outclassed in every department as a youthful Arsenal ended their seven-game wait for a Premier League victory.
Alexandre Lacazette converted a penalty on 34 minutes after Reece James was penalised for a foul on Kieran Tierney, before Granit Xhaka fired Arsenal into a two-goal half-time lead for the first time this season with a stunning free-kick.
Bukayo Saka’s long-range lob over Edouard Mendy early in the second half put Arsenal three up before Tammy Abraham sparked a late rally, but it proved too little, too late for Chelsea as Bernd Leno saved Jorginho’s stoppage-time penalty to end their hopes of pulling off the unlikeliest of comebacks.
Arsenal climb up to 14th after their first league win since November 1, eight adrift of Chelsea who drop a place to sixth and miss the chance to move second in the table after a third consecutive away defeat.
Arsenal: Leno (7), Bellerin (7), Holding (8), Mari (6), Tierney (8), Elneny (7), Xhaka (8), Smith Rowe (8), Martinelli (8), Saka (9), Lacazette (7).
Subs: Willock (6), Pepe (5), Mustafi (n/a),
Chelsea: Mendy (4), James (4), Zouma (5), Silva (5), Chilwell (4), Kante (5), Kovacic (5), Mount (5), Pulisic (6), Werner (5), Abraham (6).
Subs: Hudson-Odoi (7), Jorginho (5), Havertz (5).
Man of the Match: Bukayo Saka.
How Arsenal eased pressure on Arteta
Sluggish starts have undermined Arsenal throughout their seven-game winless run but the injection of youth saw the Gunners fly out of the traps against Chelsea.
They could have had the lead inside 40 seconds when Saka and Hector Bellerin combined and Thiago Silva flicked a cross out to Gabriel Martinelli, but the Brazilian failed to mark his first Premier League start of the season when he scuffed a shot wide.
- Pablo Mari, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli made their first league starts of the season as Arsenal made six changes from the defeat at Everton.
- Reece James and Mateo Kovacic returned as Chelsea made two changes from the victory over West Ham.
Mason Mount clipped the outside of the post with a long-range free-kick but it failed to spark Chelsea into life as Arsenal’s dominance soon yielded goals.
The first game from the penalty spot after Chelsea full-back James was adjudged to have bundled Tierney over, and Lacazette made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Mendy the wrong way before picking out the bottom corner.
Arsenal and Arteta would have snapped your hand off for one-goal lead at the interval but there was still more to come as Xhaka whipped a fine free-kick over the wall, beyond the stretch of Mendy and into the top corner to double their lead.
Lampard introduced Jorginho and Callum Hudson-Odoi in a bid to transform Chelsea’s fortunes after the break, but Arsenal were as comfortable defending their lead as they were establishing it, and they extended it further when Saka floated a shot over Mendy and in off the post as Chelsea were caught on the counter.
The impressive Martinelli looked to extend Arsenal’s lead further with an acrobatic overhead kick and a shot which drew saves from the beleaguered Mendy in the Chelsea goal.
Lacazette should have made it four when he intercepted Mendy’s poor pass out from the back, but the Frenchman atoned with a diving save to tip the Arsenal striker’s shot out.
Mohamed Elneny rattled the bar as Arsenal smelt blood, but Chelsea grabbed a lifeline from the next passage of play, as Abraham’s chested effort from Hudson-Odoi’s cross survived a VAR review for offside.
The goal sparked panic in the Arsenal defence for the first time in the game as Chelsea pushed for an unlikely point, but Thiago Silva sent a header over in the closing stages before Jorginho’s tame penalty was kept out by Leno and brought their challenge to an end.
Opta stats – Gunners produce on Boxing Day
- Arsenal have now won each of their last 10 home Premier League matches on Boxing Day, the second-best run in the competition’s history after Manchester United won 12 in a row between 1997 and 2016.
- Arsenal have recorded their first win in eight Premier League matches, and their first at the Emirates since a 2-1 win over Sheffield United back in October (D1 L4).
- Chelsea have lost each of their last three away games in the Premier League, their worst run since February 2019.
- Arsenal netted more than once during the first half of a Premier League game for the first time this season, leading by at least two goals at the interval for the first time since a 3-2 victory over Watford in July.
- After netting each of his first eight penalties for Chelsea in all competitions, Jorginho has since missed three of his last six for the club, also failing to do so against Liverpool in September and Krasnodar in October.
What the managers said…
Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta: “Obviously [it’s a] a really big win for us. We were really disappointed and frustrated with the results, not so much with the performances, but the results.
“The players were suffering; our fans were suffering and today is a really special day. It doesn’t get any better – Boxing Day, playing a London derby at the Emirates and winning the way we’ve done it.
“Hopefully this is a turning point and will elevate the confidence of the team because I know that they can play at this level. It is how consistent we are throughout the game to sustain that level and to maintain it.”
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard: “It wasn’t good enough. We fought in the second half but in the first half we gave ourselves too much to do. The players who came on added speed energy and intensity.
“I’ll take responsibility on the outside, but the players also have to take responsibility. The message was clear – Arsenal are a dangerous team. When you go out and play 60 or 70 per cent then you’re not going to win any games
“I am angry because I want us to win games. It was an opportunity to go second. You get what you deserve.”
Young trio invigorate Arsenal
Sky Sports’ Peter Smith:
Out with the old, in with the new?
Alexandre Lacazette, Granit Xhaka, and Bernd Leno with a late penalty save made sure that end-of-year-mantra did not quite fit Arsenal’s big Boxing Day win over Chelsea but their streak-busting victory over their London rivals was driven by an injection of youth.
After no Premier League win in seven and a Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat just a few days before Christmas, Arsenal were on their knees going into this one. Defeat would have piled the pressure onto boss Mikel Arteta and left the Gunners wobbling above the relegation zone.
Twenty-year-old Emile Smith Rowe, along with 19-year-old pair Gabriel Martinelli and man of the match Bukayo Saka, rose to the challenge – and, crucially, pulled their team-mates along with them.
‘Different dimension to Arsenal’
Sky Sports’ Alex Scott:
“Arteta trusted in youth and they added that element of freedom. They weren’t scared to take players on and in one-on-ones.
“Today we saw a pattern of play with the wide players coming infield to allow the full-backs to bomb forward and create an overload. That in turn makes more chances in the final third, whereas previously they were just putting in crosses.
“There were different dimensions to Arsenal’s play today which l haven’t seen previously in however many games.
“In previous games l have looked at the link-up play between Bellerin and Willian and there hasn’t been a connection. Today the connection was better today with the youngsters.”
Man of the Match – Bukayo Saka
⭐️ Man of the Match, @Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka
46 touches, 3 in opposition box
Completed 20/25 passes
2 shots, 1 on target
2nd PL goal this season – the other was in Arsenal’s previous home PL win, 83 days ago v Sheffield Utd pic.twitter.com/N7Vhwt50eV
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) December 26, 2020
Arsenal travel to Brighton in the Premier League on Tuesday at 6pm. Chelsea host Aston Villa in the Premier League on Monday at 5.30pm.