Arsenal produced a devastating first-half display to dismantle Chelsea and secure a fourth successive Premier League win. Alexis Sanchez took advantage of Gary Cahill’s error to race clear and lift a composed finish over Thibaut Courtois after 11 minutes, and Theo Walcott completed a brilliant move to steer in Hector Bellerin’s pass three minutes later. Mesut Ozil then left N’Golo Kante trailing to expose Chelsea on the counter-attack and steer home Arsenal’s third five minutes before the break, after an exchange with Sanchez. It was little more than damage limitation for Chelsea after that as they fell to their second league loss in a row as rampant Arsenal moved third in the table.
Arsenal, for all Chelsea’s obvious frailties, were simply untouchable from back to front in a magnificent first 45 minutes that revived memories of their finest days. The Gunners showed pace, skill, pressed Chelsea into submission and probed weaknesses ruthlessly in the manner of a team at the top of its game. Arsenal’s fans, so often frustrated and having already expressed their discontent at home this season, left Emirates Stadium with a spring in their step and sharing the optimism expressed by manager Arsene Wenger. He wrote in his programme notes: “We feel as though we are on the way up.” This was a performance that spoke eloquently on behalf of Wenger’s theory – with the proviso Gunners fans have heard this talk before only to be disappointed. This, however, was a magnificent exhibition of power, pace and end product, from the skills of Sanchez and Ozil in attack to the lightning speed and tackling of Bellerin at the back.
When Sanchez and Ozil are in this mood, Arsenal are a threat to anyone. The pair are world class when at the peak of their powers – and they certainly were here. Sanchez hurried Cahill into a panic before a gloriously composed chip for Arsenal’s first, and he and Ozil combined to leave Chelsea’s defence embarrassed as the latter scored the third. Arsenal were outstanding in all areas – but Sanchez and Ozil provided the final flourishes with the sort of class that makes them central figures in all Wenger is trying to achieve this season. Arsene Wenger inflicted Antonio Conte’s heaviest league defeat since October 2010, when he was manager of Siena (3-0 loss to Empoli). Chelsea found themselves three goals down at half-time in a Premier League game for the first time since May 2012 (v Liverpool, 4-1 FT). This was the first time since October 2012 v Manchester United the Blues had conceded twice in the opening 15 minutes of a Premier League game. This is Arsene Wenger’s first win over Chelsea in the league since October 2011 (drew three, lost six). Chelsea’s first shot on target came in the 82nd minute. Hector Bellerin has provided more assists than any other Premier League defender since the start of last season (six). Theo Walcott scored in consecutive Premier League games for the first time since May 2013 (three in a row for the Gunners).