Chelsea travelled to the Fly Emirates Stadium to thump title pretenders Arsenal on Sunday with a convincing 3-0 win. Didier Drogba contributed two of them (but apparently not much else), Vermaelin proved that Drogba’s finish for the first was the sort of finish he to is capable of, and let’s not forget that Ashley Cole chipped in with the assists for the first two.
The last time we played Arsenal at Fly Emirates we destroyed them 4-1, with Arsenal fans embarrassing themselves by taunting us for not being in the Champions League Final…Forgetting the events a day previous to our knockout when they got humiliated at home to be dumped out the competition themselves. (Ironically our reply that day was ‘3-0 and you all went home’ in reference to the United match, and it looked like De Ja Vu struck that day, and again on the Sunday just been). Without their petty taunts about us also not being in the final of the Platini Cup, they could only settle for the two usual entries in their banal songbook. With memories of the last meeting still in strong memory, surely no one could have foreseen us winning by three goals again.
The match started quite evenly with both teams up for a battle, and if anything Arsenal slightly edging it. The first real incident occurred in the 19th minute when Anelka was fed through, the Frenchman turned inside his fellow countryman Sagna, who then illegally used his arm to unbalance Nico, who managed to get his shot in before being felled by the illegal challenge, unfortunately there wasn’t enough power or placement on the shot and the onrushing Almunia dealt with it.
Referee Andre Marriner looked a bit overly keen to exercise his authority over the game, with Armand Traore and later Didier Drogba both receiving harsh first half bookings.
As Super Frank was waiting to take a corner, an Arsenal fan threw a camera at him yet somehow managed to miss his fat frame. If ever you wanted a difference in class demonstrated this was it, whilst we jovially threw celery at Fabregas in Cardiff, they throw a bloody camera.
With it looking like the match might be a stalemate at half time, John Terry played the ball down the line in the 41st minute to ex Gooners favourite Ashley Cole, who fizzed in a cross that Drogba reacted first to, placing the ball in the net after it hitting where the crossbar meets the post, leaving Almunia no chance. Chelsea looked set to go into Half Time a goal to the good.
Then just four minutes later Ashley Cole whipped in a similar cross, this time Drogba was beaten to the ball by his marker Thomas Vermaelin, no matter though it would seem the pair of them had similar ideas and the Dutchman carved an effort into his own net, a finish that was uncannily like Drogba’s.
Walcott replaced Song at half time, becoming their only Englishman on the pitch. Minutes later and Arsenal thought they’d pulled one back, but Andriy Arshavin hadn’t even got as far as his stupid ‘shushing’ celebration before he realised that the ref had already blown the whistle. Our defence had been in six and sevens, Cech pulled off one good save before attempting to collect the ball with both hands, whether the ref deemed it was a high foot or the ball was kicked out his hands by Eduardo I’m unsure, but if it was the latter it was the wrong decision. Vela came on for Eduardo ten minutes later.
Midway through the second half Lampard was unlucky not to score with an effort he knew little about, Drogba’s shot hit him in the chest and Almunia saved the ball from creeping inside his near post.
A minute later Rosicky replaced Nasri, and Deco came on for Joey Cole in the 69th minute. Just after this, Mikel’s quite tame challenge earnt him a booking, for what Marriner looked to gesture was not due to the nature of it, but for it being his fifth infringement of the match.
On the 72nd minute Ashley Cole pulled up with a slight hamstring injury and had to be replaced by Ferreira. He must have been content with the role he’d played in it, and in the festive spirit of things he’d played the pantomime villain very well, getting booed with his every touch.
Arsenal offered little going forwards and showed no real signs of getting back in it. Any lingering hope they had of a late comeback was killed off in the 86th minute when the detestable and gobby Cesc Fabregas give away a free kick for a challenge on Essien. Drogba and Lampard both lined up the resulting free kick, and it was the Ivorian who had the effort, which gave Almunia no chance when he blasted into the Arsenal net to make it three without reply.
With the game won, much to Traore’s relief Drogba came off in the 87th minute for Malouda. If there was one moment that highlighted the sheer strength of the Ivorian, it was a legal should barge that sent the twenty year old Frenchman tumbling to the floor just inside the area.
Fabregas capped off an underperformance with a booking for a challenge on Malouda, in all likelihood he was probably trying to get himself sent off so he could join 57,000 other Arsenal fans in leaving the stadium early.
With no real incidents after that, Andre Marriner put Arsenal out of their misery and drew a close to the match.
So Ancelotti has come out unblemished in arguably his toughest away test to date, and oversaw us repeat the three goal winning margin against North London’s title pretenders. In the process of doing so he has all but dispelled any myth that the Premiership has the possibility of returning to Arsenal for the first time in six years. We now lie eleven points clear of them (albeit they have a game in hand) and are still five clear of Man United.
I thought our fans were excellent too, and the bouncy at 3-0 was class. What a fantastic day for Chelsea. This surely gives the players the serious belief and realisation that they can deliver the title.