Chelsea were out-thought and out-fought as three first-half goals by Sanchez, Walcott and Ozil sealed the emphatic Arsenal win in Arsene Wenger’s 20th-year anniversary game.
Antonio Conte’s men simply had no answer to the pace and possession of his London rivals, with the Italian losing back-to-back league matches for the first time in seven years.
Indeed it took until the 83rd minute before his side even registered a shot on target, in a match dominated by Arsenal with Cech untroubled.
One positive that may come out will be a clearer sense of identity, with Conte changing from 4-2-3-1 to his preferred 3-5-2 mid-way through the second-half, which offered more solidity and may be the system going forward.
But it remained an abysmal day.
The Gunners have not scored a goal in this fixture for 3 years, but 3 would come in the first 45 minutes, largely gifts from suicidal Chelsea defending.
The signs were ominous from kick-off when the visitors appeared content to let the hosts have all the ball and dictate play, and it only needed four minutes before Cazorla has the game’s first shot.
Cahill lost possession unfairly two weeks ago against Swansea but could have no complaints when he was dispossessed in the 11th minute by Sanchez, who raced in on goal and looped over Courtois, who was indecisive in coming out to close or staying back.
One became two just three minutes later when Arsenal piled down Chelsea’s right side, exploiting Azpilicueta’s wrong-footedness and Hazard’s ineptitude to defend. A one-touch square ball by Bellerin found Walcott in acres of space to tap in. Two goals had come from just three shots on target, all inside a quarter of an hour.
It should have been three but for Sanchez’s greediness as Walcott was in a better position, but nothing was kicking Chelsea into gear.
Slow, lethargic passing without any purpose meant it took 21 minutes before we saw Chelsea’s first dangerous attempt, but it flew wide from Willian after great work by Hazard and Costa.
The Blues started to get back in the game, with Costa finding his way through but a last-ditch block stopped the Spaniard from getting a shot in on Cech’s goal.
The suckerpunch came right before half-time as Ozil countered from a Chelsea attack, and after a one-two with Sanchez, the German slotted past Courtois. It was a two-on-two situation with Cahill and Luiz both unable to stop the cross or the shot, nor did Kante cover himself in glory by allowing Ozil to run the length of the pitch.
Hazard hit the side-netting in first-half injury time, but the Gunners went in with their highest lead over Chelsea since the Premier League era began.
It should have been four when Walcott raced in with no defender in sight, but he opted to try to find Sanchez’s head rather than bury it. It was the wrong decision.
Fabregas was the first scapegoat, with Marcos Alonso entering the fray as Conte opted to use this match to switch from the Chelsea tried-and-trusted 4-2-3-1 to his favoured 3-5-2.
Rampant Arsenal were not stopping though, queuing up one after the other to get shots away and ending up only getting in each other’s way.
The inquest got worse and worse as, with every Arsenal attack, the Chelsea back-line berated each other. Cahill sccreamed at Courtois for not coming to clear a ball, whilst the Belgian returned the favour when he saved Walcott’s shot in disgust.
Batshuayi came on as Conte experimented with two strikers for the final 20 minutes, as did Pedro, who raced in one-on-one but was too slow against Bellerin, whilst Xhaka instantly turned play up the other end and Walcott outpaced Alonso to win Arsenal a corner.
Batshuayi got Chelsea’s first shot on target when found by a wonderful Luiz through-ball but Cech did what Courtois could not do for Sanchez’s first goal and save.
The end could not come quickly enough and Conte has a week to ponder.
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Man of the Match
MARCOS ALONSO: The Spaniard only had 40 minutes to impress, which sums up how badly those who lasted the full 90 minutes played, but Alonso floated some excellent balls in and provided a useful addition by being a natural left-footer in the left-back role. With three in central defence and two wing-backs, Chelsea had more solidity and Conte needs to experiment quickly. 6/10
Conte was candid in his assessment about the way forward: “I think that we didn’t have the right attitude from the first minute. After today we are thinking we must work a lot because we are a great team only on paper. We have not got the balance and now is the moment to consider everything. We must reflect a lot to find very soon the right way.”
Wenger was buzzing after the victory: “It was an outstanding team performance. We played with spirit and collective pace and movement, always in a positive and committed team way.”