The European Champions passed their biggest test of the season so far by ending Arsenal’s unbeaten start to the campaign.
Roberto Di Matteo opted to leave Frank Lampard on the bench in order to deploy Ramires as the holding midfielder alongside John Obi Mikel, and the discipline of the two was a key part in Chelsea’s victory as Arsenal struggled to break down their visitors. The deadlock was broken midway through the first half, Fernando Torres improvising brilliantly; hooking a leg around marker Koscienly to turn home Mata’s pinpoint free kick in the 20th minute. It was no more than the visitors deserved after settling the better and disrupting the usual Arsenal passing patterns. In fact, the front four of Mata, Oscar, Hazard and Torres looked the more fluid. The goal was a mixture of brilliant instincts and shocking defending as Torres was able to wrestle his way around his marker after confusion in the home side’s back line over who should be picking up David Luiz. The Brazillian was completely free as Mata floated in the set piece, and while it was too high for Luiz, Torres obliged with his third of the season. A second goal for the Spaniard should of followed soon after when Torres stole the ball from Koscienly and raced through, only to hesitate and allow the Arsenal defender to recover. There were half-hearted cries for a penalty, but the contact looked minimal.
The Blues looked comfortable, the hosts frustrated, but Arsenal did manage to grab an equaliser just before half time when Gervinho, afforded too much space from Oxlade-Chamberlain’s low cross, controlled and fired into the roof of Petr Cech’s net.
It was a sour way to end what had been a very promising first period from the league leaders, who have had to deal with criticism that the change of style under Di Matteo leaves them vulnerable, and the apparently never-ending John Terry saga.
It didn’t take long for the Blues to get back in front however, when eight minutes into the second period when another perfect Mata free kick found it’s way beyond everyone, clipping Koscienly (him again) and skipping into the net. The set piece itself, around 35 yards out and right of centre, required one of those deliveries that pundits always talk about; around head high, on target before any touch and in front of the line of players moving onto it. Mata’s ball was the exactly right in every way and would have beaten Mannone in the Arsenal goal even without the touch from the defender. The goal stretched the game and Petr Cech was forced to make two fine saves, first tipping away Podolski’s header and then somehow managing to turn Giroud’s deflected shot around the post. The Arsenal frontman also had a glorious chance to grab a point when he rounded Cech, but could only hit the side-netting. All the while though Chelsea threatened on the break, with Hazard and co causing constant problems for the home side. In truth Chelsea never looked under serious strain, and the organisation and pace of counter attack showed off that the squad has bought into the Di Matteo philosophy, and the new fluid style is what we can all expect to see at Stamford Bridge in the future. On the evidence of this game it could well be a successful one.
Man of the Match: Juan Mata