Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea: Mikel Arteta's rampant young guns show their class

Jake Leach on Arsenal's outstanding 3-1 victory over Chelsea at the Emirates that gave everyone associated with the Gunners a welcome boost

Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea: Mikel Arteta's rampant young guns show their class

Arsenal beat Chelsea 3-1 in a glorious display at the Emirates at the weekend

A youthful Arsenal side blew away Chelsea on Boxing Day to give Gooners a late Christmas present after a convincing 3-1 win.

The pressure was eased on Mikel Arteta after a fabulous victory at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday after goals from Alexandre Lacazette, Granit Xhaka and Bukayo Saka left fans with much to cheer about.

Arsenal came into the festive fixture hard on the heels of a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester City in the Carabao Cup quarter-final earlier this week.

However, the North London side vanquished further turmoil with an unexpected victory - though one that was fully deserved – with the match offering a genuine chance for plenty of Arsenal youngsters to stake a claim on a dark winter’s night.

Similar to the City clash in midweek, team news prompted mixed emotions with a glance at the side Arteta selected to face the west Londoners that started the day in second place in the Premier League.

Prior to kick-off the main talking point centered on reliable defender, Gabriel, missing the game due to being in close contact with someone who had Covid.

At first glance it was concerning that the defender - who has been the club's player of the month on every occasion this season - was to miss this London derby. Yet after 90 exhilarating minutes, the Gunners backline was found to be as resolute as the attacking verve was mesmerising. 

Club captain Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang was back on the bench after his injury, giving a huge boost to an Arsenal side who have been lacking a classy touch in and around the business end of the pitch.

Pablo Mari returned to the side, while the introduction of Gabriel Martinelli in the starting XI offered excitement and reassurance in equal measures after the talented teenager went off injured against City.

The hosts were on top in the first 30 minutes despite not winning in their last seven Premier League games. Chelsea started slowly and Arteta’s side exploited this fact, further bolstered by the knowledge that Frank Lampard’s side had lost their last two away games.

The home side’s opening goal came after England international Reece James gave away a penalty moments after the half an hour mark.

The spot-kick came after Kieran Tierney won a foul in the box after having his ankle tapped following a tussle with James, before Lacazette dispatched the resultant effort from the spot. 

It was intelligent football from Arteta’s men to note that James had been struggling on the right-hand side – with a vibrant Arsenal side happily exploiting such weakness.

Was the goal a sign of change for Arsenal?

It has been an abysmal season thus far – yet the relief that eurupted after Lacazette’s successful spot-kick meant it became one of biggest celebrations during this troubled campaign.

It was vital Arsenal remained on top. They deservedly took the lead – but getting to half time in the ascendancy was paramount.

Chelsea appeared unsettled rushing, while boss Lampard looked angry on the touchline.

The opposite was true for Arsenal.

A lot of the players in red and white have rightly received criticism for their recent performances – but against the Blues their desire and passion was simply superb, while also underlining the players are playing for Arteta.

It was clear they want him to succeed in N5 and it showed on the night.

Arsenal doubled their lead on the brink of half-time. Xhaka, who was been questioned this season, thundered a freekick from distance into the top corner.

The bullet from the Swiss international showcased an effective technique and was the pick of the bunch on a wodnerful afternoon with his freekick from distance shown on highlights reels for a long time.

Xhaka was instrumental on the night, silencing a few critics that he has been facing recently.

Yet the real issue with Arsenal’s No34 is his consistency.

He has the ability, but he does not show it enough. He must build on this now while also eradicating poor discipline that haunts his game.

Xhaka's strike to make it 2-0 was the first time Arsenal had scored two goals in the first half in the league this season. A sign of change.

Senior players may have grabbed the goals for Arsenal in the first half, but the fearlessness of youth was so inspiring.

Emile Smith-Rowe, Martinelli and Bukayo Saka were providing energy which was so refreshing to witness, as the team headed into the interval with a deserved lead.

Arteta has been under severe pressure this season - but now, for a change, he had the chance to move the spotlight onto the guy in the opposite dugout.

Chelsea introduced Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jorginho onto the field in the second half – but it was to no avail as a rampant Arsenal made it a festive triple when Saka made it 3-0 just shy of the hour mark.

While, it has to be said, Saka’s goal looked like an attempted cross, the youngster ended any doubt of a Chelsea comeback.

It was interesting to watch Saka confirm emphatically to a frustrated Tammy Abraham after the match that he meant to score by lobbing Mendy and net at the far post - despite evidence to the contrary with what looked like a far post cross gone wrong.

Either way, the unlikely strike capped an outstanding performance from the hosts – who were making Chelsea look like relegation fodder.

A late consolation goal from Tammy Abraham made it 3-1, moments after real drama when substitute Jorginho missed a penalty in the 90th minute to dash hope of a late Chelsea comeback.

Yet, Bernd Leno read the intention of the hop, skip and jump routine to deny the Italian.

Where does this leave The Gunners?

There is no doubt that the pressure on the Spanish boss has been lowered.

His side really did him a favour on the night – not least because Xhaka and Lacazette, who have let the side down with poor displays at times this season, both stepped up to appear on the scoresheet.

A good evening all round for Arteta with a resounding victory over old foes Chelsea giving the club, the Arsenal young guns from Hale End and long-suffering supporters a real boost. 

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