Arsenal 3 - 1 Chelsea: match report

LONDON ENGLAND - DECEMBER 27: Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal shoots to score Arsenal's second goal despite a challenge by Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on December 27 2010 in London England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images).

1 - 0 Song 44'
2 - 0 Fabregas 51'
3 - 0 Walcott 53'
3 - 1 Ivanovic 57'

Chelsea coverage: We Ain't Got No History. [game recap here].

Arsenal defeated Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium today after an assured attacking performance saw them storm to a 3-0 lead shortly after halftime.  It was the type of confident performance that supporters have been hoping to see since Arsenal lost to Chelsea earlier this year in a match they also played well in, and the squad did not disappoint today.

Arsène Wenger, to the delight of many, favored Theo Walcott in place of Andrei Arshavin and Johan Djourou in place of Sebastien Squillaci tonight, and both decisions paid off, Walcott able to help contain Ashley Cole and Djourou's aerial presence and pace shoring up the back.

The first ten minutes of the match were a bit woolly from both sides, the action end-to-end but a bit wild as well.  Robin van Persie whiffed on his volley after Alex Song released him over the top on six minutes, and moments later, Didier Drogba was racing down the pitch, his shot beating Lukasz Fabianski but skidding wide of the far post.

Things slowed down a bit after that, the only chance of note in the next ten minutes a pitiful Gael Clichy shot with his right foot that squibbed about twenty feet wide of the near post.  Free kicks for Arsenal either drifted out for a goal kick or were caught by Petr Cech.  Fabregas released Walcott on the right a few minutes later, but the young winger's first touch let him down.

The game became a bit bitey after the half hour mark, both Ashley Cole and van Persie getting yellow cards for underwhelming tackles.  Arsenal produced a great chance shortly thereafter, a series of 1-2s getting van Persie through on the left, his shot going over the bar.

Arsenal were starting to move into another gear, but still only hanging out on the fringes of Chelsea's penalty area.  Samir Nasri tried to lob a shot into the top corner at the 41 minute mark, but Petr Cech got back to tip it over, a really outstanding save.  Arsenal came again a few minutes later, though, and this time, they found a way through.

Song came storming up from his midfield position, fed Jack Wilshere, and continued to plow forward into the box.  Wilshere's return was for Fabregas, but the ball deflected off of his feet into the path of the suddenly free Song.  He hit it with his left as quickly as he could and beat Cech, the ball nestling in the far corner of the net.  1-0 to the Arsenal just before the half, a bit lucky in the creation, but finished quite well.  Song has come in for criticism lately for not staying home in front of the back four, but this moment was a calculated risk, and for the most part, he found the right balance between defense and attack today.

Chelsea attempted to shake things up at the half, Carlo Ancelotti bringing on Ramires for John Obi Mikel.  Arsenal were on the hunt, though.  Six minutes after the restart, van Persie tackled Michael Essien near the Chelsea area, and the ball too a fortunate deflection directly into the path of the speeding Theo Walcott.  Cech came out, but Walcott got a a last-second square pass in, and Fabregas swept the ball into the empty net.

Two minutes later, it was three.  Fabregas and Walcott again combined, this time Fabregas lifting a through ball just off the ground, releasing Walcott on goal.  The finish was low and hard into the far corner, and Arsenal were on the rampage.

But it wouldn't be an Arsenal match without a bit of "uh oh" thrown in.  Four minutes after they looked to be running away with it, Didier Drogba hitting a hard free kick that Branislav Ivanovic got his head to over the not-jumping Laurent Koscielny.  The header left Lukasz Fabianski helpless, and with thirty-something minutes to go, Chelsea had brought the score back to 3-1.

Arsenal had been in this situation before, but this time, there would be no stirring comeback.  They managed to re-stabilize possession in the next few minutes, and Wenger started bringing on the tactical substitutions.  Theo Walcott came off for Abou Diaby, who hadn't played in some weeks, but Diaby did well, Cole posing no more of a threat than he had when Walcott was pinning him back.  van Persie came off for Marouane Chamakh a few minutes later, the Moroccan's aerial game and holdup play more valuable than the Dutchman's sharper attack.

Diaby didn't take a golden opportunity to get four for the Gunners on the 80th minute, Frank Lampard had a shot saved, and Tomas Rosicky replaced Cesc Fabregas with two minutes to go.  Chelsea had one more good opportunity from a free kick at the end of full time, but Diaby blocked Drogba's volley, and the match fizzed out.

It was a huge win for an Arsenal team looking for proof that they could defeat their nearest competition in the table, and Chelsea are going into the January transfer window looking thin.  The win ensures Arsenal will stay in second place for now, and Chelsea linger in fourth place.

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