LONDON — Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League courtesy of a 1-0 win over London rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
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Gabriel put Arsenal ahead on 63 minutes with his second goal of the season to settle a hard-fought game and crown Mikel Arteta’s 150th match in charge. The victory marked a third win in a row at Stamford Bridge for Arteta’s men, who reestablished their two-point advantage over Manchester City with one match to go before the league breaks for the World Cup.
ESPN’s James Olley has reaction and analysis from Stamford Bridge.
JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Postmatch quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures
1. Statement win puts Arsenal back on top
Perhaps the authority was the most impressive thing. Arsenal only beat Chelsea by a solitary Gabriel goal but they played with a conviction and purpose which has previously been something of a rarity in games away from home against the traditional “Big Six.”
Chelsea have had injury problems under manager Graham Potter, still acclimatising to his new role, but this was nevertheless a victory which underlined the quality and clarity with which Mikel Arteta has rebuilt Arsenal. This was the Gunners’ third successive victory at Stamford Bridge, but on their two previous visits, they had 32% possession. On Sunday, that figure rose to 56% (it was 61% at half-time) as Arsenal imposed themselves on Chelsea to the extent they ended with an xG of 2.11 to Chelsea’s 0.26.
There was also a propensity for the Arsenal of old to endure a nervy finale riddled with errors and self-doubt but there was none of that here. They are now 13 points clear of Chelsea, back on top of the Premier League and safe in the knowledge if they win at struggling Wolves next week they will stay there during the World Cup break.
2. Arsenal leave Aubameyang further behind
If this match served as something of a referendum on whether Arsenal were right to jettison Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in such unceremonious circumstances back in January then there was only one winner. The 33-year-old was allowed to join Barcelona on a free transfer after a breakdown in relations with Arteta, who believed the striker’s lack of professionalism was undermining the growth of his team.
How the Gunners have grown in his absence. Aubameyang was hardly helped by an extremely disjointed display from Chelsea but he touched the ball just eight times — by far the fewest of anyone on the pitch by the time of his 64th-minute substitution. His only meaningful contributions were a blocked shot after William Saliba‘s mistake early in the second half and a late tackle on Ben White, for which he was booked and prompted an apoplectic reaction from Arteta on the touchline.
The Arsenal boss made a huge judgement call to release Aubameyang, and the contrasting fortunes of both parties since only vindicates him. Contrast his involvement with Gabriel Jesus, his effective replacement: 62 touches from 90 minutes.
3. Chelsea’s full-back issues
The lack of consistently fit and available first-choice full-backs became a major issue for ex-Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. Potter is still working out his best lineup but the dual absence of Reece James and Ben Chilwell were keenly felt here given the alternatives were Cesar Azpilicueta and Marc Cucurella.
Arsenal pressed the ball well in central areas, meaning Chelsea’s centre-backs could not find midfielders Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Jorginho to build attacks, resulting in the home side often being forced out wide to build play. Cucurella has struggled to impose himself since a £62 million summer move from Brighton while Azpilicueta is a club legend but looks vulnerable to a team as youthful and dynamic as Arsenal.
In another marked difference between these two sides at present, White continues to thrive at right-back while Oleksandr Zinchenko was excellent in his first game since Oct. 1 following a calf injury. And they have Kieran Tierney, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Cedric Soares in reserve.
Chelsea: Mendy 6, Azpilicueta 5, Chalobah 6, Silva 6, Cucurella 5, Loftus-Cheek 5, Jorginho 6, Sterling 5, Havertz 5, Mount 7, Aubameyang 5.
Subs: Broja 6, Gallagher 5, Kovacic 6, Pulisic 6.
Arsenal: Ramsdale 6, White 8, Gabriel 8, Saliba 8, Zinchenko 8, Odegaard 7, Partey 8, Xhaka 7, Saka 7, Jesus 7, Martinelli 7.
Subs: Tierney 6, Elneny 6, Holding 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: William Saliba
Recovered the ball 13 times (a match high alongside Thomas Partey) and his centre-back pairing with Gabriel continues to go from strength to strength.
WORST: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
The former Arsenal striker was the focus of almost all the prematch build-up but failed to make his mark.
After the match: What the players and managers said
Mikel Arteta: “We are [in contention] today. But in football, today and tomorrow is a very different. So let’s enjoy tonight. Do something: just look at the last six years, what Manchester City have done. With the best manager in the world, the best team in the world. They have shown it consistently in every single competition. We have to be very very respectful of that. We are getting much better as a team and competing much better. We are getting really good results right now, but this is a long, long [season].”
Gabriel on Twitter: “NOTHING PERSONAL .. LONDON IS RED” — the Arsenal defender taunted Aubameyang by mimicking the striker’s prematch promotional video for BT Sport in which he said: “Arsenal, nothing personal. I’m back, I’m blue, I’m ready. Let’s go.”
Key stats (via ESPN Stats & Info)
Arsenal have won three consecutive Premier League games against opponents from the Big Six for the first time since April 2012.
Chelsea have now lost back-to-back Premier League matches, and they have only registered two points out of a possible 12 in their last four games in the competition.
Gabriel has scored nine goals from corner situations in the Premier League, the most of any player in the competition since he joined for the 2020-21 season.
Aubameyang only had eight touches of the ball in his 64 minutes on the pitch. Kai Havertz, who was substituted at the same time, had the next-fewest touches for an outfield player with 35.
Chelsea: Wednesday’s trip to face Manchester City in the Carabao Cup will likely see many changes made to the XIs of both sides. It will give some Chelsea players a chance to rest and others the opportunity to impress ahead of Saturday’s visit to Newcastle United, which looks likely to have plenty of implications for the top-four race.
Arsenal: The Gunners host Brighton & Hove Albion at the Emirates in the Carabao Cup in midweek, before they travel to play Wolverhampton Wanderers, where new manager Julen Lopetegui will be taking charge of his first Premier League match at Molineux.