Arsenal and Chelsea. Chelsea and Arsenal. It’s a dance as old as time itself.
Jose Mourinho may be gone (again) but the Stamford Bridge side were at it again on Sunday afternoon, seeing off their old rivals 1-0 in north London.
Not for the first time, Diego Costa was the hero/villain of the piece. The Spain striker was involved in the game’s turning point after just 18 minutes, drawing a foul from Per Mertesacker, who was sent off.
Costa then rubbed salt into Arsenal wounds, firing past Petr Cech after some lax defending from the home side.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Diego Costa could beat Arsenal on his own
So, did we learn this? No. But it confirmed from what we found out in September.
Back then, Costa got Gabriel sent off in a game which also saw Santi Cazorla get his marching orders as Arsenal finished with nine men.
So it’s hardly surprising that Costa was the biggest influence at the Emirates as well.
Costa was taken down by Per Mertesacker, the Arsenal defender saw red and then Costa scored the opener. Good job, Diego. Your work here is done. In a scrappy, nasty, snarling game, there’s few better players to have on your team.
2. Arsenal’s mentality will again be seen as their biggest flaw
Have they got the mentality to win a title? Do they have enough spirit and strength? Well, after this game it’s a fair question.
These big games are the ones where you find out about focus, strength of mind and determination. It also helps you send out a message that you can win big games, you can pass the big tests.
Yet again, Arsenal were found wanting. They’ve won some big games – notably against both Manchester clubs at the Emirates this season – but this was yet another one which will raise more questions about their mentality.
3. Per Mertesacker’s lack of pace is an issue
Well, he was never quick off the mark. But the red card against Costa exposed his pace – or lack of it.
Maybe, just maybe, referee Mark Clattenburg reached for his pocket because he knew Mertesacker against Costa was such a mismatch. Was there contact? There was some doubt.
Mertesacker has been brilliant for Arsenal. No doubt about it. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. But, as Arsenal look to evolve and strengthen each summer, maybe Mertesacker will find himself eased out, By Gabriel at first and then possibly a new signing in the longer term.
Just to tease Arsenal fans, they had Sol Campbell on the pitch at half time. How they could do with him now.
4. Theo Walcott is captain material
Nice touch by Arsenal. They gave Walcott the captain’s armband, he led the teams out and tossed the coin before kick-off.
It is to mark his ten years at the club. It’s a touch sentimental, granted. But it probably made Walcott feel proud and, ultimately, Per Mertesacker – who would normally captain the team – was happy to pass on the honour.
But can you really afford sentiment in such a big game? And does it make a difference? The answer is probably no to both.
5. Chelsea have still got what it takes
When in the mood, Chelsea are still an incredibly good team. The Premier League table might suggest otherwise, but the squad which won the title at a canter last season is still there.
They must find some consistency, unity and some new players.
But the core is still there. They just need to play Arsenal every week.
Photo Credits: Reuters,Daily Mail