Arsenal put in a phenomenal attacking display at Stamford Bridge to take all three points in a thrilling 4-2 win, which has boosted their hopes of a top four finish. Eddie Nketiah bagged his first Premier League brace and ended a run of 367 days without a league goal as he took Arsenal level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
Those two will meet in May in what could be a decider, but on this showing, Arsenal aren’t going anywhere and Chelsea may not be secure in third. The entire game was like a classic Rock’Em Sock’Em boxing match. Every time the red robot landed a brutal blow, the blue robot came back fighting.
After the one-sided mauling we saw last night, this end-to-end contest in the capital was rather refreshing, but the reds would land the decisive knockout blow. Sure, neither side showed much capability in defending their own box but it was enthralling to watch from the opening minute.
With only season ticket holders and away fans allowed into Stamford Bridge there were plenty of empty seats on show and the Arsenal fans revelled in this. “Just like the old days, there’s nobody here,” they sang from the corner of the ground.
Marcos Alonso saw his close range effort deflected wide from a corner before Romelu Lukaku, handed a rare start, dragged his right-footed effort past the post. However, despite the early promise from the Blues, it was Arsenal that struck first.
Andreas Christensen looked to have the situation under control, but he underhit his pass back to Edouard Mendy. The ever-dangerous Nketiah beat Malang Sarr to the ball and kept his composure to score his first Premier League goal of the season.
However Chelsea would level the scores with a slice of luck of their own. Timo Werner, in red-hot form at the minute, took a strike from outside the area and it took a deflection off Granit Xhaka that left Aaron Ramsdale flat-footed, before spinning into the corner.
Arsenal fought back and created two half chances, before Mikel Arteta’s side were rewarded with a quality second goal. Xhaka pulled off a nutmeg on the edge of his own box and they broke, as Bukayo Saka fed Martin Odegaard who teed up the onrushing Emile Smith Rowe, who casually passed the ball into the corner.
This ding-dong battle took its next turn as Werner and Mount battled to win the ball back on the left wing, before the Englishmen delivered a dangerous ball into the box, for Cesar Azpilicueta to cleverly finish. The seemingly strange decision to play Reece James at centre-back and the Spaniard at wing-back paid off yet again.
The Gunners were absolutely scintillating going forward and should have added to their tally. Smith Rowe carved an improbable path through the Chelsea back-line but saw his effort just go wide of the post, moments before the break. Clearly, the defensive issues had troubled Thomas Tuchel enough that he brought on Thiago Silva at half-time to solidify the defence.
But it didn’t work.
Once again a loose pass gave Arsenal the initiative and after a couple of deflections, Nketiah was on the spot to poke home after a clever turn. The 22-year-old hadn't scored a league goal in 367 days before tonight, yet in under an hour, he had two.
A heroic block from Gabriel stopped Marcos Alonso equalising while Cedric, off the bench, mis-hit his cross before Nuno Tavares struck wide. But the Gunners would get their fourth as Azpilicueta was adjudged to have manhandled Saka in the box.
The English winger got up to take just the second penalty of his career, the first being in the Euro 2020 final, and he converted from twelve yards to seal a massive win for Arteta’s side.
Chelsea’s defensive woes will worry Tuchel, they have conceded 11 goals in their last three games at Stamford Bridge - four against Brentford, three against Real Madrid and four more here to Arsenal. Third place seemed in the bag, but they are now just five points clear of both north London clubs, and Arsenal look invigorated.
The race for the top four is well and truly on.