For the English Super League side created from the financial fall-out from the Covid crisis enabling the state and oligarch owned clubs already well placed, to create a league of their own, the £97.5 million Lukaku got a first start.
The £950m squad used the £70m Havertz as a co-striker with Mount behind. The Belgian has added more dimensions to the Chelsea attack to an already super-confident side.
Arsenal were hit by Covid 19 again with White out and Holding in disrupting a planned three-man defence. And Covid after-effects hit the attack too with Lacazette out and Aubameyang on the bench.
That had implications – weakening the defence against Chelsea’s wing backs, leaving gaps on the wings, and blunting the attack, with spearhead Martinelli starved of possession.
Chelsea’s swagger and dominance, shows how much the clubs have diverged from each other. The financial and footballing reality is that Arsenal are in a different league, competing with six or seven other clubs for Europa or Europa Conference positions and can only buy at a lower level and hope the youngsters gel. Patience is needed in a game which increasingly needs instant results, now.
But given the lack of organisation and structure in the last two performances the question is now: will Arteta survive until the December ‘review’? Logic suggests he will after being backed in the transfer market.
Xhaka sent a longish ball for Saka who let it bounce off his chest for Smith Rowe to fire a low shot saved by Mendy.
On 14 Lukaku provided a wall drawing Arsenal defenders in, turned Mari, set it up on the right for James to fire it back into the area. Tierney was too close to the central defenders and Xhaka and Lokonga were too far apart, and the Belgian barged Mari to the ground chasing the unopposed low cross and fired home.
The crowd’s mood changed.
Arsenal stopped pressing high, reverting to a low block. It began to look like men against boys.
Lukaku had the beating of Mari, who was getting too close and muscled out of it.
Havertz found Alonso who passed inside to Mount who again found James in space coming in from the right firing it into the top left corner of the net.
For a boring forgone conclusion, like many Chelsea games are going to be for neutrals and the Premiership, this season, Arsenal did well to stabilise and fight.
Sambi sent Tierney away, the ball bounced favourably for Smith Rowe in the area but was just too far away from the chance.
On 40 Saka tussled with James in the Chelsea area and appeared to hit James’ leg first. Paul Tierney didn’t give a penalty.
A run and chase from Tierney down the left wing raised the crowd’s spirits at the start of the second. And from some pressure, the ball found Saka who fired goalward – tipped over by Mendy.
From a corner, Mari got a free header across to Holding who headed wide. The Bolton man should really work hard on his finishing, as he seems to get more than his fair share of chances.
On 60, Saka came off for Aubameyang. Martinelli led a charge leading to a shot from the Gabonese.
Tierney came off with muscular injury on 65 for Tavares.
Leno saved from Lukaku tipping it onto the bar.
Adding injury to the general insult – Martinelli came off injured for Balogun.
Thomas Tuchel said: “In the first half we lacked sharpness and activity – bit passive – leggy. In the second half we controlled more and created some chances.
“I’m happy with Lukaku – he’s a democratic leader, humble and competitive. He gave something to our game – protecting balls and creating some assists and some half chances.
“They created some overloads on both sides. But we gained control.”
Lukaku said: “we played well, we dominated, we could have scored more. I was dominant. I try to improve every time. We have to keep working and getting stronger.”
Mikel Arteta said: “I think Chelsea were too good. When everyone is available – they have world class players and organisation. We can always do things better. You can find ways to do better. We didn’t finish enough actions. I’m pleased the way the team responded. The crowd never gave up.
“When people are back from Covid we’ll have a completely different team.”
“I saw a lot of positives with the crowd. When players were subbed – they got a good reaction. The circumstances are difficult, unprecedented. You have to face the challenges. The team never gave up.”
Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2
Arsenal: 1Leno, 17Cédric Soares, 16Holding (Booked at 45mins), 22Marí (Booked at 34mins), 3Tierney (Substituted for Tavares at 66’minutes), 23Sambi Lokonga (Booked at 67mins), 34Xhaka, 19Pépé, 10Smith Rowe, 7Saka (Substituted for Aubameyang at 61’minutes), 35Martinelli (Substituted for Balogun at 79’minutes)
Chelsea: 16Mendy, 28Azpilicueta, 4Christensen, 2Rüdiger, 24James, 5Jorginho, 8Kovacic (Substituted for Kanté at 72’minutes), 3Alonso, 19Mount (Substituted for Ziyech at 82’minutes), 29Havertz (Substituted for Werner at 90’minutes), 9Lukaku