Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea: Laca, Xhaka and Saka end winless run
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Granit Xhaka of Arsenal celebrates with teammate Alexandre Lacazette after scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on December 26, 2020 in London, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Arsenal's young attacking trio of Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka ran the show as they prevailed 3-1 winners versus rivals Chelsea at The Emirates Stadium

The Gunners were boosted by two first half goals courtesy of an Alexandre Lacazette penalty and a Granit Xhaka free-kick.

Mikel Arteta's men dealt a further blow to The Blues when Bukayo Saka extended their lead which proved to seal the win for Arsenal despite Tammy Abraham's consolation goal.

  • Story of the match

Despite their midweek defeat to Manchester City, Arsenal started surprisingly brightly against London rivals Chelsea. Youngsters Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe set a fast tempo early on, the former coming close inside the first two minutes of the match.

Chelsea swiftly took back control of the game and had the best chance of the game when Mason Mount’s whipped free-kick clipped the post from 25 yards out.

The Gunners responded in due course and capitalised on Chelsea’s defensive error, but Hector Bellerin’s ball evaded the onrushing run of Smith Rowe.

Christmas had been celebrated the day before but Michael Oliver gifted Arsenal their present a day late when he awarded the home side a penalty following Reece James’ foul on Kieran Tierney. Alexandre Lacazette, a senior player among a youthful side, stepped up bearing immense pressure on his shoulders but coolly dispatched past Edouard Mendy, giving The Gunner’s an unexpected lead.

Mikel Arteta’s men doubled their lead soon after courtesy of a Granit Xhaka free-kick, which unlike Mount’s earlier attempt, found the net from a similar position, giving Arsenal a firm grip of the game going into the half.

Frank Lampard signalled his sides intent to spark a comeback by making a double change at the start of the second half, with Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jorginho the personnel entering the frame. Hudson-Odoi soon made his presence felt when he teased in a dangerous ball, but his teammates were unable to put a finishing touch to his work.

Chelsea were relentless for the opening ten minutes of the second half and pinned The Gunners back for the majority of it. Out of the blue Bukayo Saka provided a moment of brilliance, as he has done several times this campaign, when he inadvertently looped the ball over the Mendy’s head to give Arsenal a three goal lead no one could’ve foreseen.

 

Three goals to the better, Arsenal started to get a foothold in the game. They withstood a flurry of Chelsea attacks, however the visitors failed to pose any real danger to Bernd Leno in the Arsenal net. Tammy Abraham used his height to his strength and had a series of headed attempts, most of which sailed over the German’s bar.

Lacazette nearly added a fourth to the scoreboard when he was presented with the ball eight yards out following a sloppy clearance from Mendy. The resulting corner nearly proved to be fruitful for Arsenal as well. Mohammed Elneny’s shot from the edge of the box crashed the bar and Rob Holding came close shortly after.

Chelsea pulled one back through Abraham with five minutes of regulation time left. The striker unconventionally chested the ball home from close range following some delightful work from the substitute Hudson-Odoi.

Chelsea continued to push for another and won a penalty when Pablo Mari fouled Mount inside the area. Jorginho stepped up for the Blues but Leno stood tall and palmed away the Italian’s effort to preserve Arsenal’s two goal cushion and ultimately securing their first league win in since the beginning of November.

 

  • Gunners hungry for results

It was no secret that Arsenal were desperate for a result heading into their Boxing Day fixture. The Gunners have find themselves in a relegation battle and needed a response to ignite their redemption run.

Arteta, although slightly forced, opted to change his lineup and placed his faith In Hale End Academy products Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka as well as Brazilian starlet Martinelli. The promising trio produced a performance to get fans off their seats and sofas in the current climate with a series of promising attacks that caused a solid Chelsea backline some serious problems at times.

  • Momentum required for Arteta’s men

Despite the positives, Arsenal are not yet out of the hole their poor form has put them in. Arteta’s men can ill afford to get carried away and must continue to build on this result. In order to replicate tonight’s scoreline, it is of utmost importance that they continue to challenge teams with the same hunger and resoluteness with which they both defended and attacked Chelsea.

The introduction of Martinelli is a much welcomed addition, but it is crucial they do not rely solely on him to carry the team forward. Older, more experienced heads such as Xhaka and Lacazette need to guide these young prodigies as well as nurturing them whilst the club continues to rebuild from the bleak times they have faced.

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