Chelsea Paints Arsenal Red With 2 Goals Win
Chelsea Paints Arsenal Red With 2 Goals Win
Goals from Kurt Zouma and Eden Hazard were enough to give Chelsea a 2-0 win over Arsenal in a game which saw the Gunners reduced to nine men.
It has taken some time but, finally, there is the sense that the old Chelsea are back: winning matches, driving Arsène Wenger close to the point of spontaneous combustion and with Diego Costa showing all his various faces. Costa was one of Chelsea’s better performers but there was also another hard-faced example here of the traits that leave the impression sometimes he has the soul of a pickpocket.
Costa does not just leave a mark of football matches when he behaves in this manner; he leaves a stain. Yet it was undoubtedly idiocy on Gabriel’s part to get so riled by the Chelsea striker he eventually flicked out his boot to provoke the red card that turned the game in Chelsea’s favour at the end of the first half. Gabriel spent so long trying to carry on the argument with Costa before being ushered away by a security guard in a fluorescent orange jacket it could conceivably lead to a disciplinary charge for Arsenal. Yet the more serious repercussions came in the form of the goal from Kurt Zouma that gave Chelsea their lead early in the second half and and Wenger’s complaints cannot rest solely on the opposition centre-forward bearing in mind Arsenal were down to nine men when Eden Hazard’s deflected shot made it 2-0 in stoppage time.
There was certainly no debate about the validity of the two yellow cards for Santi Cazorla – one on Pedro just after the half-hour and another for clattering Cesc Fàbregas after 79 minutes – that meant Arsenal finished the game in disarray. With 10 men, Arsenal had barely threatened the home side. With nine, their chances of getting anything were somewhere between minimal and non-existent.
On that basis, it felt like this might have been the day when Chelsea can feel they shook their heads clear after their worst start to a top-division season since 1986. José Mourinho’s decision to leave out John Terry in favour of Zouma was justified by the younger man’s display. They kept their first clean sheet so far in their defence of the league championship and will presumably like to think they can still clamber back into the reckoning for another title. It is just a pity, perhaps, that the origins of this victory were so unsatisfactory.
The most squalid part of the little exchange that ended Gabriel’s involvement is that we know enough about Costa’s skulduggery to say for sure that he will probably reflect on what happened as good play. Costa spends so long trying to pick arguments with opponents his credo seems to be that eventually someone will take the bait. More fool Gabriel that he was the one. Yet there is not a great deal to admire about Costa’s behaviour when he resorts to these levels of snideness and, unless Mourinho can tell us otherwise, there seems to be absolutely no desire within the club for him to change.
Gabriel, though, was guilty of a mix of naivety and daftness. Costa’s initial intention was to get under the skin of Laurent Koscielny, swiping him across the face with that accidental-on-purpose style and pretend innocence that all forms part of the routine. Koscielny swung him to the ground and, from that point onwards, everything became even more petty and silly. Costa was quickly back to his feet and chest-bumped Koscielny with enough force to put the defender on his backside. Gabriel’s role at that point was to get between the two and act as peacemaker but it quickly descended into a separate argument.
Both of them were shown a yellow card but continued chuntering at one another all the way back to the centre circle until Gabriel, with his back to his opponent, flicked out his leg in a way to signal his irritation rather than actually hurt Costa. Gabriel was on his feet but it was in a manner similar to David Beckham’s sending-off against Diego Simeone in the 1998 World Cup. It was a straight red card and, for all their protests, Gabriel should have known better at the age of 24 to leave himself in that position.
Wenger’s decision to remove Francis Coquelin at half-time owed to the player suffering a knee injury. Arsenal were suddenly without their one naturally defensive midfielder as well as being a man down. Calum Chambers replaced Coquelin and went into Gabriel’s position in the centre of defence but it was probably inevitable that the re-organisation would leave Arsenal with an air of vulnerability.
Eight minutes into the second half, Chelsea had a free-kick 30 yards from goal. Fàbregas, who showed some glimpses of his old self, clipped the ball into the penalty area and Zouma was running in at the far post. Nacho Monreal had lost him and Zouma scored with a downward header despite Petr Cech getting his hand to the ball.
Arsenal will inevitably link everything back to the red card but it is also true that Wenger’s men had lost their momentum after an encouraging start when Alexis Sánchez was a difficult opponent for Branislav Ivanovic and Theo Walcott’s speed and directness posed other problems. Arsenal began like a team that quickly wanted to explore whether Chelsea’s confidence might be a little brittle. The passing was crisp and the movement was good but they lacked real presence in attack and, though Chelsea took a while to get going, the home side always carried the great threat in attack. Costa created all sorts of legitimate problems and Hazard put in an improved performance even if he was still somewhere short of last season’s exhilarating standards. His shot flew in off Chambers and Wenger, having reluctantly shaken Mourinho’s hand at the start, was straight down the tunnel at the end.
Culled from Guardian UK