Chelsea followed up their good win over Maccabi Tel Aviv midweek in the Champions League with a solid 2-0 win over Arsenal at Stamford Bridge which saw the visitors reduced to 9 men in a game full of controversy.
Where to start with this one?
The major incident came at the end of the first half when both Diego Costa and Laurent Koscielny went for the ball and ended up getting into a scuffle. Costa ended up taking a couple of swings/swipes at Koscielny’s face which caused Gabriel to come running over and get involved in things, leading to a confrontation between the two. After lots of arguing referee Mike Dean opted to show both Costa and Gabriel a yellow card each.
Gabriel getting involved in things probably saved Costa who could have easily have seen red at this point.
Still unhappy that Costa had not been shown red, the arguing and the bickering continued until Gabriel backed into Costa and gave him a sneaky Beckhamesque kick that forced Dean to give him his marching orders.
Gabriel was clearly trying to get Costa sent off with the reaction, but not only did he not get one, he also got caught by the referee. His and Koscielny’s aim was to wind Costa up, as it is for defenders every week, but Gabriel clearly just wound himself up more.
It was stupid by Gabriel and he can have no complaints about the red card. He should have kept calm and walked away.
And this wasn’t the first incident of the day that Gabriel was involved in. Shortly after the half hour mark he should have given away a penalty as he wrestled Eden Hazard with no intention of playing the ball. It was a stonewall penalty and he was lucky to get away with it.
Chelsea took the lead early in the second half from a free-kick, which was given after Aaron Ramsey was penalised for handball. Cesc Fabregas floated the ball to the far post where Kurt Zouma ran to meet it, unchallenged, and head it past Petr Cech to score his first Premier League goal.
With a little over ten minutes left there was more misery as Arsenal went down to 9 men when Santi Cazorla was shown a second yellow card after sliding in late on Fabregas. Again, Cazorla can have no complaints, both his offences were easy yellow cards.
Chelsea then doubled their lead in injury time, the ball found its way to Hazard in the penalty area who took a shot, that took a slight deflection off Calum Chambers, wrong footing Cech.
It was a deserved victory for Chelsea who were the better side for most of the match. Arsenal started the match strongly and looked good for the first 15 minutes but as the game went on Chelsea grew into the game and grew in confidence which was reflected in their play.
Arsenal never really gave Asmir Begovic much to do but the few things he did have to do he did well. One particular highlight for him was when he forced Theo Walcott to take a heavy touch as he ran into the Chelsea penalty area.
At times we saw the Chelsea from the start of last season, the Chelsea that could open up a defence with a bit of magic, be it an amazing run by Hazard or a perfectly weighted pass by Fabregas.
Yes their still need to be improvements but this was a good result, but more importantly it was a good performance with a clean sheet.
Dropping Branislav Ivanovic for the game against Tel Aviv looks to have been an inspired move by Jose Mourinho. Ivanovic was much better today, at the start of the game he was caught out a handful of times by Alexis Sanchez but once Chelsea grew in confidence Sanchez had a lot less luck and it resulted in him being substituted.
The importance of Oscar shouldn’t be ignored either. He made a couple of very good tackles that earned him a thumbs up from Mourinho on the sidelines. Oscar presses and fights to win the ball high up the pitch and he isn’t afraid to track back either. Chelsea have missed his pressing and work rate in recent weeks.
Even the likes of Hazard and Fabregas who have been under performing this season seem to be growing in confidence and it reflected in their performances.
This is easily Chelsea’s best performance of the season so far, yes more work needs to be done, but at least there are some very promising signs.
As for our man of the match, it has to be Kurt Zouma. He scored his first Premier League goal but importantly for a defender he made some brilliant tackles. He was able to keep the likes of Walcott, Sanchez, and Mesut Ozil quiet.
It’s amazing what a win can do for your confidence.