Coming into Sunday, Arsenal had been sitting on top of the league table, with Leicester and Manchester City following closely behind in the league standings. After stringing together several impressive performances despite suffering a few injuries along the way, the Gunners were being praised as strong contenders to win the title. Meanwhile, previous seasons’ defending champions, Chelsea, are floating just above the relegation zone with draws against Everton and West Brom in their previous two matches. While title hopes may be out of the question for the Blues, a win against league leaders Arsenal would rejuvenate a mentally exhausted squad and certainly improve team morale.
Meanwhile, a win Sunday for the Gunners would give them the chance to increase its lead amongst the league and put them into clear title contention. Arsenal has never seen a better opportunity than this to grab a victory from the Blues, whom had won every matchup between the two teams since 2011.
The pivotal moment in the match came during the 18th minute, when Willian played a beautiful through ball to Costa, whose pace was no match for Per Mertesacker. In a desperate attempt to stop Costa in a one on one breakaway, Mertesacker lunged at the Chelsea forward.
“This is a major weak point of the Arsenal team. When Mertesacker gets exposed he hasn’t got the pace to deal with it.”
– Jamie Carragher
While Costa’s tumbling, resulting from the challenge, was slightly excessive, it was enough for referee Mark Clattenburg to draw a red card, sending off Mertesacker and leaving Arsenal down to 10 men with 72 minutes left to play. Wenger followed the play with a controversial substation of Olivier Giroud for center back Gabriel Paulista during the 21st minute. The decision was as shocking to Arsenal fans as it was to the striker who seemed astonished by the decision made by the manager.
Despite playing on the road in a rowdy atmosphere at the Emirates, Chelsea was looked strong right from kickoff. Arsenal could not seem to construct a strong enough attack against Chelsea, who played superbly on defense, containing them to limited opportunities and poor shots. On the other end, Chelsea exposed Arsenal’s vulnerable defense with Fabregas orchestrating the offense behind Diego Costa, Willian, and Oscar on either flanks.
In the past, Didier Drogba has crushed Arsenal fan’s hopes with late game-clinching goals for Chelsea. To their relief, he is no longer with the team. Instead recently, Diego Costa has assumed the “villain” role in this heated London derby.
Sunday was no different for Costa, who appeared refreshed with the departure of Jose Mourinho and the arrival of new manager, Guus Hiddink. After a sluggish start to the season, Costa’s 23rd minute match-winner against the Gunners was his sixth goal in six games under Hiddink, in all competitions.
For Arsenal, Flamini missed on a clear opportunity to equalize right before half. He also failed to create contact with ball on two chances in the box.
The game was basically written by halftime as Chelsea chose to sit back and play conservatively for the entire second half.
The 0-1 loss to Chelsea will be another tough one for Arsenal fans to swallow as they continue to be disappointed by their team when facing the Blues. As a result of their loss on Sunday, the Gunners now lie a game behind Leicester at the top with Manchester city moving to second and Tottenham climbing closely behind to the fourth spot.