Chelsea 2-4 Arsenal: Nketiah brace powers Gunners to victory in thrilling London derby
Photo by Getty Images/Marc Atkins

Arsenal put an end to their three-game losing streak in the Premier League thanks to victory at fellow Londoners Chelsea on Wednesday night.

The first 45 minutes witnessed one of the most entertaining halves of the season thus far, bringing four goals as the Gunners twice went ahead — first through Eddie Nketiah and then courtesy of Emile Smith Rowe — before goals from Timo Werner and Cesar Azpilicueta pegged them back.

And the second-half didn't disappoint either. Arsenal managed to shore up their defence but Chelsea remained leaky, ultimately giving away a soft goal for Nketiah's brace before Azpilicueta went from hero to zero with a lazy lunge on Bukayo Saka who then stepped up to score from the penalty spot and seal victory for the Gunners.

The result sees Chelsea remain 3rd in the table, whilst Arsenal also stay in 5th but are now level on points with north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur currently occupying the fourth and final Champions League spot.

Story of the game

Stamford Bridge may not have been at its regular full capacity, but there was still an expectant, excitable atmosphere here, and the hosts responded well from the outset as the first chance of the match fell their way when Arsenal failed to clear a Mason Mount corner — it dropped for Marcos Alonso who had ample time to measure up his shot, but a brave block from Granit Xhaka diverted it into the side-netting.

They went close again when Ruben Loftus-Cheek pounced on a loose pass from Martin Odegaard and fed Romelu Lukaku's run into the box, but the striker dragged his shot wide of the far post under pressure from Gabriel.

The visitors had been firmly on the back foot thus far, but they gobbled up their first opportunity to take the lead. An awful back-pass from Andreas Christensen was anticipated well by Nketiah who darted through one-on-one with Edouard Mendy before slotting coolly into the bottom corner.

But Chelsea didn't have to wait long for the equaliser courtesy of Werner's fourth league goal of the campaign. The forward cut in from the left wing and powered an effort goalwards — it took a rather fortunate deflection off Xhaka whose presence both off-sighted and off-footed Aaron Ramsdale in goal as it trickled in at his near post.

If the opening 20 minutes were anything to go by, we had a seriously entertaining clash on our hands here. Soon after the scores were levelled, Mount attempted to apply his own touch of the spectacular with a sliced half-volley from the left edge of the box which whistled just high and wide of the target.

Nketiah was repaying his manager's faith by making himself a busy customer in the early stages, involved in most of Arsenal's more threatening attacks — he nearly prodded home after terrific work from Bukayo Saka down the right but was caught off-balance as it dropped just wide of the upright.

Just moments later, Arsenal did indeed regain their advantage with another goal made in their Hale End academy. Again, Saka put in most of the hard yards down the right before supplying Odegaard who in turn teed up Smith Rowe, and the 21-year old produced a superb placed finish from the edge of the box.

In doing so, he became just the second Arsenal player to score at least 10 goals in a single Premier League campaign at the age of 21 or younger, following in the footsteps of Nicolas Anelka who completed the feat at 17 before going on to play for both of these clubs.

But this match just got more and more topsy-turvy as Chelsea restored parity once again only five minutes after Arsenal's second. This goal owed much to a sumptuous assist from Mount, whose in-swinging cross from the edge of the box was inch-perfect to meet the run of Azpilicueta into the box, the home skipper beating Gabriel to the ball and finishing first-time past Ramsdale.

With both of their first two attacks thereafter, Arsenal went within inches of their third goal — first when Nketiah wriggled free of Malang Sarr and struck from the edge of the area, before Nuno Tavares came close again with a driven cross-cum-shot in the next phase of play.

Next, Werner supplied Marcos Alonso with a good chance to put the hosts into the lead for the first time with an excellent cross-field pass which was picked up by the Spaniard in the box but, from a tight angle and under pressure from Ben White, Alonso failed to keep his effort down.

In the last chance of this enthralling first-half, Odegaard played it to Smith Rowe who then wriggled through three Chelsea defenders before letting fly from 18 yards, but Mendy watched on relievedly as it dropped wide of the target. It had been a superb game of football thus far, one understandably with the feeling and intensity of a proper London derby — and, fortunately, there were still 45 minutes of it to go.

Neither side had been at the races defensively in the first period and Thomas Tuchel opted to change that at the earliest opportunity as Christensen, who had endured a torrid half, was withdrawn to make way for Thiago Silva in the middle of Chelsea's back three.

Suffice to say that, less than 15 minutes later, that switch didn't look as if it had helped much as a horrendous mix-up by Chelsea's defenders gifted Arsenal their third goal. Silva looked to have averted the danger after Nketiah had pirouetted his way into the box but his clearance rebounded off Sarr and straight back to the feet of the striker who prodded home in front of the visiting supporters to notch his second of the match.

Could the hosts equalise for a third time? They would certainly try, and their first good chance to do so fell Alonso's way after good work from Reece James down the right flank teed the Spaniard up in the box, but his goalbound effort was blocked expertly by Gabriel.

Chelsea's increasing desperation to go forward and seek another leveller was beginning to open up gaps for the Arsenal forwards on the counter-attack. One such moment very nearly paid dividends for the visitors when Saka ran into the box and tried to prod it across from substitute Gabriel Martinelli, but Mendy got to the ball before the Brazilian.

The substitution of Smith Rowe for Cedric with 15 minutes remaining signified Arsenal's switch to a more defensive mindset for the closing stages, but the full-back's first involvement ended up being at the other end as he darted into the box and fizzed a ball across which was picked up by his compatriot Tavares on the other side, but the 22-year old's driven shot missed the target by some distance.

The game looked set to be wrapped up when Azpilicueta's awful, mindless shove on Saka in the box saw referee Jonathan Moss award Arsenal a penalty. Saka immediately grabbed the ball and stepped up to take it, sending Mendy the wrong way and, in doing so, sending his side on their way to three crucial points in the race for Champions League qualification.

Takeaways from the match

Two goals and not a lot else from Chelsea

Tuchel's impassioned rant after the first tie against Real Madrid two weeks ago certainly seemed to inspire his team into better performances over their last three matches, but tonight saw Chelsea slip back into their pre-hairdryer state.

There was a hint of fortune about their first goal as it took a huge deflection off Xhaka but take nothing away from the work of Werner who was busy and energetic all night long, standing out among an otherwise lacklustre, lethargic Blues attacking display, helped in no part by Arsenal's ability to dominate the midfield.

But it's in defence where most of Tuchel's qualms will lie. Arsenal's first and third goals were utter calamities from a Chelsea perspective, with Christensen's underweight back-pass and Silva and Sarr's mix-up both easily avoidable, as was Azpilicueta's lazy lunge on Saka to gift the visitors their fourth from the spot.

He still has much work to do in order to get this Chelsea team to the level at which he wants it to be.

Nketiah's coming-of-age performance in a Gunners victory made in Hale End

Saka and Smith Rowe are undoubtedly the the most revered Hale End graduates in this current Arsenal squad, but tonight was Nketiah's in which to shine. Arteta showed faith by granting him his second start in a row and the 22-year old repaid him with a mature but still exuberantly youthful display.

His contribution is what won the visitors this match, Nketiah's first goal in particular showing tremendous composure and confidence for a man making just his 70th professional appearance tonight, and the persistence he showed in the build-up to his second was also mightily impressive.

Aside from the goals, his energy out of possession is what defined the academy graduate's performance here, never allowing the Chelsea back-line a second to rest on the ball. Perhaps that is why he was withdrawn after 70 minutes despite being on for a hat-trick — his manager wants him fit for the weekend!

Teams

Chelsea: Mendy; Azpilicueta [c], Christensen (Silva 46'), Sarr; James, Loftus-Cheek, Kante, Alonso (Ziyech 81'); Mount, Lukaku (Havertz 60'), Werner.

Unused subs: Arrizabalaga, Chalobah, Jorginho, Saul, Barkley, Pulisic.

Arsenal: Ramsdale; White, Holding, Gabriel, Tavares; Xhaka, Elneny; Saka (Lacazette 90'), Odegaard, Smith Rowe (Cedric 75'); Nketiah (Martinelli 70').

Unused subs: Leno, Swanson, Azeez, Lokonga, Hutchinson, Pepe.

Referee: Jonathan Moss

Attendance: 32,249

Up next

Following defeat here, Chelsea are back at Stamford Bridge on Sunday for another London derby, with east-siders West Ham United their visitors on that occasion.

And it's another big game for Arsenal, too, as they return to their Emirates Stadium home to face Manchester United on the Saturday — a crucial clash in the quest for European qualification.

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