What a game and what a win. The pressure was on and Emery and the boys delivered. Defeat would have left us nine points behind Chelsea and with Sven Mislintat departing his role as Head of Recruitment, the inevitable complaints about the structure of the club and calls for signings would have been deafening. Yes we need changes, but we need to be patient. Importantly, this game highlighted that the difference between Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United is tiny. The team who wants it the most and makes the least mistakes will get fourth.
For one of the first times this season we made and electric start at both ends of the pitch. We were solid at the back, created a handful of chances and finished the game with two first half goals.
Chelsea fans must have be bursting with envy at Lacazette’s opener. The Frenchman showed them what they are missing on 14’ with an amazing tight dribble and cute finish at the near post. Bellerin, who got the assist, had a fantastic game, but was stretchered off with a knee injury. The young Spaniard has made huge progress this year with his end product and will be a big loss. When will this injury nightmare end! No team can deal with this many first teamers out.
Koscielny and Sokratis have started every game since Brighton, but this was their first match in a back four. In a game where we recorded only our fourth clean sheet, it was fitting that the centre backs were at the heart of the second goal. The breakthrough came on 39’ when Sokratis hooked a ball into the box to Koscielny who rebounded the shot off his shoulder past a bemused Kepa. Kos thought he was Duncan Ferguson and should have had two goals on the day.
Chelsea created decent chances and even hit the post, but we fully deserved the three points. Sarri has since questioned the desire of his players. That should be music to the ears of every player in the squad as we enter the final third of the season.
Good wins like this do wonders for morale and are the best antidote against unwanted scrutiny. Losing Sven Mislintat after less than two years in charge probably looks worse than it is, but a loss would have made it seem like a much bigger issue. As much as he was making an impact with the acquisition of players like Torreira and Guendouzi, there are many teams doing brilliantly without his services. There are a 100 ways to skin a cat and time will tell if we have picked the right one.
Address the away form and fourth will be ours
The Emirates is very much a fortress and if we can replicate just 70% of that form away from home, fourth should be ours. We have the third best record in the league at home with nine wins, two draws and one defeat. Away from home we sit in eighth, behind Leicester and Watford. With only four away wins, that has to be Emery’s focus over the coming months. A solid Koscielny-Sokratis partnership at centre back might do the trick.
Next up: FA cup fourth round classic in the making?
With Pogba purring and Marcus Rashford exploding under the new regime at Manchester United, this game won’t be easy. However, as we know, the Emirates is a fortress and hopefully a win can help stall their march in the league.