The Warm Down: Gunners return to winning ways as young stars take centre stage
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Granit Xhaka of Arsenal celebrates with teammates Bukayo Saka, Hector Bellerin, Gabriel Martinelli, Rob Holding and Mohamed Elneny after scoring their sides 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 secured a long-awaited victory and owe a big thanks to some of their young talents who produced mature performances worthy of more starting minutes.

Mikel Arteta surprised fans with his team selection, as it emerged Gabriel, Willian and David Luiz would all miss out through illness, opportunities arose for Pablo Mari, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith-Rowe who all earned their first league starts of the season. 

Arsenal set up with a youthful attack, Bukayo Saka, Smith-Rowe and Martinelli lined up behind the experienced Lacazette, the trio have an average age of 19 years old but played well beyond their years, and will excite the Gunners faithful for many seasons to come.

  • Trust in youth

Arteta has been heavily criticised for some of his tactical choices this season and with regular starters missing out through illness, and natural attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil not registered for the season, the calls were finally answered as Emile Smith-Rowe was finally given his league chance and took it with both hands and seriously impressed, showing his boss and fans what they had been missing creatively this season. Despite coming off injured midweek, Gabriel Martinelli returned to the first team and treated fans to another immense display that caused the Chelsea defence an evening to forget. The hunger from the youngsters was clear to see, with Bukayo Saka netting Arsenal’s third after he showed why the faith has been put in him. Nicholas Pepe would traditionally have filled in during a Willian absence, but the bold calls payed off as Saka and Martinelli light up the wings and now will have put pressure on Arteta to start and establish themselves as regular first team starters.

  • Belief in the boss

It has undoubtably been a tough run of form for the Gunners, who before their Boxing Day win languished in 15th place in the Premier League, there had been some fans who had given up on the team and the boss, the same cannot be said for the players, who showed in the game they are firmly behind Arteta. The performance was the best in the league this season from Arsenal, they showed fight, passion and resilience for the majority of the game. The desire to win was clear to see, and the Gunners held firm for nearly 90 minutes until they conceded a goal and a penalty, which Jorginho subsequently missed, in the last five minutes of the game, every player gave their complete best, which cannot be said for most of the squad this season. Players who have failed to impress thus far, Granit XhakaAlexandre Lacazette both scored in the game and put in impressive performances which delighted fans and manager alike.