Arsenal upped the speed of passing and movement and bingo, a 3-1 victory.
It was a simple plan – 4-2-3-1 with wide players coming inside and the backs going on the outside creating overlaps and some spaces in the middle where Arsenal managed seven shots on target (their highest in 15 Premiership games this season). Smith Rowe, a fulcrum at number 10, continually fed it out to the wings and often received it back progressing attacks. And the team pressed with plenty of energy.
Mari partnered Holding in the centre of defence with Tierney and Bellerin either side. Elneny and Xhaka formed a defensive block with Saka, Smith Rowe and Martinelli ahead of them and Lacazette up front.
In a previous report I predicted Arsenal’s luck would turn. And it came in threes here. Fate determined that Luiz, Willian and Gabriel couldn’t play due to health reasons, meaning a rejig; three goals, including one in off the post, and a penalty which could have gone either way; and an early Chelsea shot which hit a post and probably would have changed the course of the game.
A first win in eight Premiership games lifts the consciousness around Arsenal – and provides hope going into the New Year. A model to build on with Partey coming back, and a chance for ins and outs in a few days-time. And another win against one of the ‘big six’.
But feet should be kept firmly on the ground, given the enthusiasm after beating United seven weeks ago. Thoughts of going down and ridding the club of Kroenke are for another day.
Bellerin, captain – one of four on the pitch and one of five including the substitutes, crossed in the first minute, Silva headed it on, but it came to Martinelli too quickly and he didn’t get hold of it.
In first five, Arsenal had four attacks down the wings with Lacazette getting to one which popped softly into Mendy’s gloves.
Xhaka fouled Pulisic on a run to the area on 11. Mount shot onto the outside of the post. Going a goal down would have changed the complexion of the match.
There were some scary moments. Holding kicked straight out to Werner – who lost it; and Mari clattered into Kovacic and was yellow carded. Elneny lost it to Werner and Holding shepherded him down the line and blocked the cross.
At the other end, Bellerin broke into the area and crossed to Smith Rowe who missed his kick.
In the first 25 – there were valiant attacking attempts – but mistakes were giving Chelsea chances. Mount had a chance, set up by Pulisic but sliced it wide. And Werner had a couple but rushed them.
Tierney ran into the area dragged his foot a bit, changed his angle and James knee touched the Scotsman and he went down. Lacazette converted the penalty to Mendy’s left, waiting for him to move.
Saka, who was performing well, made the right decision again, taking the ball inside and was fouled by Kante. Xhaka fired the free kick into the top corner – adding fuel to the fire of his extreme roller-coaster of an Arsenal career.
Jorginho and Hudson Odoi came on for Kovacic and Werner, signalling a rollicking by Lampard, emphasised by the fact the team returned early.
Hudson Odoi immediately sent in a good cross – cleared by Bellerin.
But Arsenal responded with a good combination out of defence between Xhaka, Elneny and Bellerin and Smith Rowe who found Saka who lobbed Mendy off his line, the ball rebounding off the post. Fortune favoured the brave.
Tierney made a great break and set up Martinelli whose shot was saved by Mendy and Saka was finding space on the left and went on a couple of runs.
But Chelsea put some dangerous balls into the box – the most threatening – Thiago Sliva’s header just over the bar.
Mendy made a mess of a clearance – leaving Lacazette a one on one, from which he should have scored, but the French goalkeeper saved.
Elneny hit the bar from a loose ball in the Chelsea area – which would have made it 4-0.
But on 85, Hudson Odoi found space on the right, crossed and Abraham bundled it in off his chest.
Chelsea had a chance from a corner to make it 2-3 but Silva headed wide.
And then in injury time, Mari gave away a penalty with a late tackle on Mount. Leno saved, reading the Jorginho jig and waiting until the last second to dive.
Mikel Arteta said: “Hopefully it is a turning point and will elevate the confidence. In big moments we were the better team.
“We had a good mix of youth and experience. The mood was good before the game.”
Kiren Tierney said: “It’s a start. It gives the fans something positive. We started better – played well and created chances.”
On the penalty: “I felt contact and went down. All the youngsters were hungry. Today they were brilliant. “
On the message at half-time, he said: “It was to keep going.
“The result is something to build on – and to start to climb up the table.”
Chelsea coach, Frank Lampard said: “The first half was not good enough. It left us a mountain to climb. In the second half, we fought. The people on after half-time added speed energy and intensity. The players have to take responsibility.
“They [Arsenal] are a talented team with their backs against the wall – and dangerous. If you go out at 60-70% – you are not going to win any Premiership game.
“You make it difficult or give them an opening. It was lazy to give away penalty and the free kick. You have to ask: do you want to run or sprint?
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerín, Holding, Marí (Booked at 16), Tierney (Booked at 82), Elneny, Xhaka, Saka, Smith Rowe (Substituted for Willock at 65), Martinelli (Substituted for Pépé at 71), Lacazette (Substituted for Mustafi at 90+2)
Chelsea: Mendy, James, Zouma, Thiago Silva (Booked at 73), Chilwell, Kovacic (Substituted for Jorginho at 45), Kanté (Substituted for Havertzat 74), Mount, Pulisic, Abraham, Werner (Substituted for Hudson-Odoi at 45)