It was a Boxing Day to forget for Chelsea in this away London derby as Arsenal overcame recent struggles to lead 2-0 at half-time and then extend the advantage shortly after the break. Tammy Abraham scored a late consolation and there was even time for Jorginho to miss from the penalty spot after that, but there was no repeat of the late turnaround led by those two in this fixture last season.
Mason Mount hit the post with the game still scoreless but the Blues were punished for a performance that lacked sharpness when the Gunners scored from a penalty after a Reece James foul and then converted a free-kick just before half-time.
Alexandre Lacazette, playing Arsenal centre-forward today with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench, slotted the penalty and Granit Xhaka the free-kick, with Bukayo Saka adding the third in open play with a lob that might have been an intended cross. Abraham's goal was a close-range finish with a Callum Hudson-Odoi assist.
The result gives the Gunners a first Premier League victory in eight games, the previous one their 1-0 win at Old Trafford in November. Regretfully, punctuated by our 3-0 beating of West Ham at home, this result means it is now three away defeats on the spin for Frank Lampard’s men.
Full-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell, who had both been nursing injuries, were named in the side. Mateo Kovacic came into midfield for Jorginho so with Cesar Azpilicueta returning to the bench, there were two changes from the pre-Christmas win against West Ham. Thiago Silva took the captain’s armband.
There was an unusually large 10 Premier League places between these two sides ahead of kick-off and Chelsea, who began the day in fifth, knew we would go second with a win but we also knew the home side would be determined for this London derby despite their recent poor form, and so it proved.
The first half was scrappy for long periods so it was set-pieces that were the main story before the interval.
Arsenal, who had made six changes were not able to include either of the Brazilian former Blues in their squad as both David Luiz and Willian were reported to be unwell. Gabriel was also missing from their backline but they could include Martinelli in attack after a midweek injury and he had a chance inside a minute. A Bellerin cross skimmed off Thiago Silva and Martinelli miscused his shot, with today’s Chelsea captain immediately acknowledging he might have done better with his header.
Blues go close
Twelve minutes into the game, Mason Mount struck the woodwork from a free-kick which was Chelsea’s best first-half attempt.
Christian Pulisic had run towards the heart of the Arsenal defence but before he could reach it he had been tripped by Xhaka. Mount’s attempt at goal was cleanly struck and appeared to have Bernd Leno beaten, but it hit the outside of the post.
Chelsea, in open play, then attacked Arsenal through Timo Werner after N’Golo Kante had intercepted, but Rob Holding made a good challenge inside the penalty area, and then Abraham was denied by a Pablo Mari challenge as he tried to reach a Reece James cross. From the corner that followed, Kurt Zouma, not for first time this season, met the ball first but had no control on his header.
It appeared the visitors from Stamford Birdge were taking control but midway through the half, Arsenal could have made Chelsea pay for a couple of mistakes but Emile Smith Rowe, in front of goal, could not sort his feet out when Bellerin picked him out.
It then opened up for Abraham to shoot after Werner had touched the ball on but the Arsenal defence blocked again, Mari the man in the way once more. Mount lashed wide from the edge of the area soon after but then Chelsea conceded.
Gunners do damage
There were 13 minutes to go to half-time when Kieran Tierney slipped past James near the byeline and was adjudged fouled by our chasing right-back, as confirmed by a VAR check. Lacazette beat Edouard Mendy from the spot.
Then with 43 minutes on the clock, the home side had another sight of goal when Kante fouled, although the free-kick was 30 yards out. Unfortunately for the Blues, Xhaka struck it as well as he could have hoped and found the top corner. Chelsea would have to come back from two goals down in the second half.
Jorginho and Hudson-Odoi were introduced at half-time in place of Kovacic and Werner. Pulisic moved over to the left and it was a better Chelsea at the start of the second half but then Arsenal scored with their first attempt after the break, 10 minutes in.
Saka was the scorer, beating Mendy from distance out on the right with a ball over our keeper's head and in via the far post.
Mendy was able to save an acrobatic attempt by Martinelli and then sharply from the same player after an Arsenal break, but we desperately needed opportunities at the other end. The crosses came in but were dealt with relatively comfortably. Thiago Silva headed over from a Mount corner and Abraham did the same from a Hudson-Odoi cross when well placed.
Chelsea’s bad day was almost compounded when Mendy gifted the ball to Lacazette but then redeemed himself with a good save. Elneny then smashed a shot against the Chelsea crossbar.
Abraham’s 86th-minute goal was initially ruled out for offside after he chested in a Hudson-Odoi cross from close range at the near post but was given by VAR. It was too little too late however although Thiago Silva did head another good chance wide.
There were 89 minutes on the clock when Mount was fouled by Mari. Jorginho’s penalty was struck too close to Leno who saved so any lingering hope of a fightback from 3-0 down to match the one at West Brom early in the season disappeared.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Mendy; James, Zouma, Thiago Silva (c), Chilwell; Kovacic (Jorginho, h-t), Kante (Havertz 74), Mount; Pulisic, Abraham, Werner (Hudson-Odoi h-t).
Unused subs Kepa, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Emerson, Gilmour, Giroud.
Scorer Abraham 85
Booked Thiago Silva 73
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Leno; Bellerin (c), Holding, Mari, Tierney; Elneny, Xhaka; Saka, Smith Rowe (Willock 65), Martinelli (Pepe 71), Lacazette (Mustafi 90+1).
Unused subs Runarsson, Ceballos, Soares, Maitland-Niles, Nketiah, Aubameyang.
Scorers Lacazette 34 pen, Xhaka 44, Saka 56
Booked Mari 16, Tierney 83
Referee Michael Oliver