Looking lethargic and, frankly, clueless for most of this London derby, Chelsea conceded two first-half goals to Arsenal at the Emirates, and never looked like clawing anything back.
No wonder the Blues fans were largely silent for this absurd display of back-and-forward passing, rather than any serious assaults on the Gunners’ goal. Bernd Leno had no saves to make, with the closest Chelsea came to scoring being a glanced header from Marcos Alonso which struck the base of the post and bounced harmlessly away.
Morrie Sarri seems unable to change his three-midget strategy up front. Only the arrival of Gonzalo Higuain on loan from Juventus, via AC Milan, this week will alter his formation, which begs the question: Why didn’t he start Olivier Giroud against his old team tonight, instead of bringing him on as a late sub?
Answer: He clearly doesn’t trust him or rate him.
Higuain will be thrown straight into the mix against Spurs in the second leg of the League Cup this week, but meanwhile there can only be hand-wringing and regret about Chelsea’s failure to make any dent in this Arsenal defence.
Yes, Pedro scampered and scurried around, as Eden Hazard and Willian tried to find space, but the Gunners had had all week to practice against this whiskery and oh so predictable formula of three little people in the forward line, and they were not only well prepared but also far sharper on a bitterly cold north London night.
Soporific at the start, Chelsea conceded a goal after 14 minutes, Alexandre Lacazette firing home from a tight angle after Granit Xhaka’s fourth corner was taken short, then pitched into the mix in the goalmouth.
The Blues finally broke out of their initial stupor and began attacking, but couldn’t make Leno work in goal.
David Luiz, playing in a distracted way, was lucky not to be red-carded in the 38th minute for a rash, out-of-control tackle on Aaron Ramsey, but a minute after ref Anthony Taylor showed him a yellow, Arsenal were two-up, captain Laurent Koscielny diverting the ball into Kepa’s net off his shoulder from Sokratis’ lob.
And that was it. Hector Bellerin was stretchered off in the second half (no Chelsea player involved – he just seemed to land awkwardly on his ankle) and the Blues huffed and puffed but couldn’t even pull one goal back.
To be this predictable in attack, and this easy to defend against, is unforgiveable. Why doesn’t Sarri mix things up a bit and experiment when the existing system is so easily guessed and worked on by opponents?