As part of our Premier League snap-shots feature, Rachel Griffiths looks back at Saturday's Emirates Stadium clash as Chelsea rained on Arsenal's early parade with a 2-1 win.
Last Updated: 29/09/12 5:54pm
Arsenal and Chelsea had both been bright starters ahead of Saturday's London derby at Emirates Stadium but the Blues had the edge as they upheld their unbeaten streak with a 2-1 victory.
Fernando Torres had his scoring boots on as he fired Chelsea ahead in the first half and Juan Mata finished things off with a curling free-kick, with those strikes coming either side of a delightful shot on the turn from Gervinho which couldn't save the Gunners from defeat.
Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen was back in Arsene Wenger's side after returning from a virus, with Per Mertesacker dropped to the bench to make way. It could be suggested he was missed, with a previously solid Gunners backline showing weaknesses and both goals conceded as a result of poor defending at set-pieces, with Laurent Koscielny a particular weak link. Contract rebel Theo Walcott was left on the bench by Wenger once again but young winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was an early substitution and repaid the manager's faith with a lively display crowned by the assist for Gervinho's goal.
John Terry skippered Chelsea after a turbulent week off the pitch and was typically composed in defence. Fernando Torres once again led Roberto Di Matteo's frontline and netted the Blues' opener with an impressive finish as he continues to rediscover his scoring form. Blues veteran Frank Lampard found himself on the bench once more, with Di Matteo preferring Ramires and John Obi Mikel in the middle of the park.
Wenger stuck with his 4-3-3 system but it failed to deliver the results of previous games this season as Chelsea stifled the creativity of Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta in midfield. Most of the Gunners' threat came down the flanks, with Carl Jenkinson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain putting in hard-working shifts down the right. Lukas Podolski took time to grow into the game but also offered a threat on the left, while full-back Kieran Gibbs was kept busy by the tricky Eden Hazard. In the second half the Gunners pushed high up the pitch as they hunted for a goal but that left them exposed to the Blues' counter-attacks.
Roberto Di Matteo kept faith with his 4-2-3-1 and was rewarded as Chelsea continued their good progress. The manager called on three playmakers in Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar but fears their play might be too open were cooled as they worked hard to keep things tight, with Oscar often dropping back to help out in a defensive role. Mata enjoyed a productive afternoon as he contributed a goal and the assist to Torres' opener, while Ramires and Mikel continued to flourish as a holding midfield partnership as they prevented the Gunners from finding a rhythm.
Wenger had a big call to make early on when Diaby limped off injured and the Frenchman chose to introduce Oxlade-Chamberlain as his 17th-minute replacement. The youngster looked a livewire on the right and when he was shifted into the middle to make way for second-half substitute Walcott, but Diaby's presence was missed and Oxlade-Chamberlain's inexperience showed when shoddy defending from a free-kick led to the opening goal. Olivier Giroud was the Gunners' other change, coming on for Podolski 20 minutes from time, but the striker still could not break his Premier League scoring duck and wasted a chance late on.
Di Matteo made his first change when he brought on Victor Moses for the tiring Oscar, who was on a booking after being called up for several fouls, and the substitute put in another good display. Gary Cahill was introduced for the effective David Luiz with nine minutes remaining and slotted comfortably into central defence alongside Terry. Ryan Bertrand was Di Matteo's final swap and he offered a more defensive approach on the left in place of Mata as Chelsea successfully preserved their lead late on.
Martin Atkinson was not too popular with the visiting fans when he refused to give anything after Torres went down in the area off Koscielny. There looked to be contact as the defender appeared to brush his foot but replays show it was an extremely tough one to call. Chelsea were denied another spot-kick appeal which looked much more clear-cut as Luiz earned a booking for simulation, fuelling the debate around diving which has surfaced again this season.
Arsenal have looked one of the brighter teams in the early stages of this season and it's no surprise Wenger was left disappointed with Saturday's result. One of the main aspects of their play to earn them plaudits so far has been their resilience at the back but it was less than stellar against their London rivals, with shambolic defending at set-pieces letting them down. The Gunners were not helped by a surprisingly low-key performance from Cazorla in midfield, with the Spaniard having been at the heart of the action in previous games, while injury to Diaby will come as a blow after his good start.
Di Matteo said in his post-match interview Chelsea still have work to do as his new-look side continue to gel, which will be ominous news to their Premier League rivals. Already the Blues are looking a dominant force and they remain unbeaten in the league this season. Midfield technicians Hazard, Mata and Oscar all appear real threats, while Torres' confidence seems to be growing, and an assured defence provides the foundations for the Blues' attacking ventures.