For the fourth consecutive match against ‘the’ Arsenal, Chelsea ran out comfortably winners and ended the Gunners’ already faint title hopes. An emphatic Didier Drogba brace sealed the 2-0 victory which saw Chelsea march back to the top of the table.
Ricardo Carvalho, Ashley Cole and John Mikel Obi were the only three changes made from Wednesday’s draw in Hull. Chelsea started brightly and were rewarded for their early pressure with a goal after only seven minutes. Florent Malouda swung over a corner from the left which was met by the towering John Terry, who diverted the ball into Drogba’s path. The Ivorian lashed home from point-blank range with much of the Arsenal defense seeming to have gone AWOL. For the fourth consecutive home game, the Blues had scored inside the first seven minutes.
Arsenal responded by playing some pretty football and even fashioned a decent chance ten minutes later. Cesc Fabregas floated a beautifully weighted ball over the Chelsea backline but Andrei Arshavin’s volley was repelled by the excellent Petr Cech. The visitors were made to pay for their profligacy five minutes later when Chelsea doubled their lead. An Arsenal attack broke down on the edge of the Blues’ box, with Mikel releasing Frank Lampard, who in turn set Drogba free down the right. He cut inside Gael Clichy and Thomas Vermaelen with embarrassing ease before thumping a powerful left-footed drive past the bemused Manuel Almunia. It was the Ivorian’s twelfth goal in twelve games against Arsenal.
Chelsea continued to press until the break but found clear-cut opportunities hard to come by. They did have the first chance after the interval though, when Drogba did brilliantly down the right-hand side and crossed deep to Malouda, the Frenchman’s volley almost audaciously backheeled home by Lampard. For all Arsenal’s possession football they continued to look largely impotent up front, as they had done at the Emirates in November. They finally found a way through with a lovely Fabregas pass splitting the otherwise solid Terry/Carvalho combination, but on this occasion Cole expertly dispossessed Samir Nasri as the Frenchman prepared to shoot.
Arsene Wenger, who cut a despondent figure on the touchline throughout, hauled off the ineffective Walcott and threw on possibly Arsenal’s only player over six feet tall, Nicklas Bendtner. The Dane was fouled by Carvalho right on the edge of the box three minutes later, and Cech had to be at his best again from the resulting free-kick, parrying Fabregas’s effort which came through a crowd of players. That same duo combined again but Cech clawed away Fabregas’s knock-down before Bendtner could reach it.
Eight minutes from time Chelsea and Drogba nearly put the icing on the cake. Lampard had been fouled 25 yards from goal; Drogba stepped up and hit a magnificent shot over the wall. Almunia didn’t bother moving but unfortunately the ball rattled off the bar and Drogba was denied a deserved third. Nicolas Anelka had his first clear sight of goal following a well-worked Lampard free-kick moments later but could only find row EE of the Matthew Harding Lower.
That proved to be the last decent opening of the game as we ran out easy winners in the end. Our finishing had been clinical and our defense solid when it needed to be. In the end Arsenal were simply brushed aside, an irritant crushed. John Terry thanked the home fans for their consistent backing of their captain by throwing his shirt and armband to the crowd, rounding off an excellent afternoon for the supporters of London’s finest.