Arsenal dominated Chelsea en route to a 1-0 win that vaults them over Manchester City back into the top spot in the Premier League. Don’t let that scoreline fool you: the Gunners smashed the home side. Arsenal totally controlled the match (~2 xG) and Chelsea hardly had a sniff (>.5 xG). It was the statement away win that was missing from the Gunners’ resume this season. They hadn’t beaten at top team in their ground before today. Now, Arsenal have. I’m reluctant to say it for karma reasons, but I think you have to consider Arsenal a title threat now.
It was a shocking performance from Chelsea, honestly. Graham Potter set his team up to defend deep and try to counter. The problem is that nobody on Chelsea, especially in the midfield, could progress the ball to connect with the attackers. If you boil it down, Potter set Chelsea up not to lose to Arsenal, a London rival, in his home ground. It’s a powerful statement of where the two sides are compared to each other right now.
Most of the credit goes to Arsenal, though. The Gunners sliced through the Chelsea formation with quick, one-touch passing and forced mistakes with heavy pressure. Arsenal keyed on Jorginho, and by denying him the ball, time, and space, made it difficult for Chelsea to get out of their defensive third. I don’t think there was less than a 7 of 10 performance anywhere on the pitch for Arsenal.
Gabriel Jesus was fantastic. Even though he didn’t score, he was a menace all over the pitch. His tireless running harried the Chelsea defenders into mistake after mistake, and he kept popping up all over the attacking third to create unbalanced situations and mismatches. It was his hustle that dispossessed Thiago Silva and his shot off that turnover that won the corner from which Arsenal scored the only goal of the match.
The defense was magnificent across the board. Ben White had a really good defensive match. William Saliba was his usual, dominant self and added to his performance with a powerful on-ball run down the wing and into the Chelsea box to win a corner. Gabriel Magalhaes had another incredibly solid match and added to his goal tally, the most from any defender in the Premier League since the start of last season.
And Alex Zinchenko made a huge difference. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Arsenal looked so dominant in his first match back. He’s nominally a left back, but he’s really a second holding midfielder next to Thomas Partey, and his progressive passing and ball retention makes Arsenal a different beast in possession. He’s a big part of why the Gunners repeatedly sliced through the Chelsea midfield like a hot knife through butter.
Arsenal have two more matches before the World Cup break. They face Brighton midweek in the Carabao Cup and travel to Wolves next weekend. They’ll be favored to go into the time off atop the Premier League. I love it.