Arsenal battled their way to a first victory at Stamford Bridge in 10 years with a dogged, hard-working display against Chelsea on Wednesday thanks to Emile Smith Rowe’s early winner.
Chelsea had the chance to take the lead after Pablo Mari’s error allowed Kai Havertz in on goal, only for the Blues’ forward to smash his shot over.
Minutes later the hosts then found themselves picking the ball out of their own net, after a calamitous mistake by Jorginho led to Smith Rowe breaking the deadlock with a simple tap-in.
Gunners’ No.1. Bernd Leno was kept busy at the other end, denying Havertz before parrying a low cross by Ben Chilwell as Chelsea threatened to equalise.
Havertz then went over twice in the penalty area at the start of the second half but neither referee Andre Marriner nor the VAR saw any issue despite the protests from blue shirts.
Christian Pulisic then had the ball in the net on the hour mark as he bundled home Havertz’s flick from a corner only for his goal to be disallowed correctly for offside.
Arsenal frustrated them and snuffed out any attacks with resilient defending to eventually get the full rewards, but only after a late scare when the Blues rattled the woodwork twice in the closing minutes.
Here are the talking points from Stamford Bridge.
1. Sky Kai
Kai Havertz took his job of filling the No.9 role in place of Timo Werner seriously by missing a glaring opportunity that his compatriot will have been pleased wasn’t added to his season showreel.
Both players have struggled to hit the ground running since joining Chelsea in the summer but have been growing into life in England with their more recently impressive performances.
However, it took just 10 minutes for Havertz to blaze a golden chance over the crossbar when clean through on goal.
Pablo Mari doesn’t come out of this unscathed, but the Arsenal defender was relieved to see his poor awareness didn’t lead to a goal after Havertz dispossessed him on the halfway line.
Havertz was clean through, one-on-one, and he skied it.
It was a shocking miss, and one which will have done little for his confidence, which is the last thing Chelsea need denting.
2. Jorginho’s gift
You’d have thought Havertz’s miss would have been the blooper of the match, but Jorginho very much stole the limelight with his own ‘hold my beer’ moment.
The Blues’ midfielder looked once but not twice to see where his goalkeeper was positioned, and sent his wayward backpass fizzing towards his own net as Kepa Arrizabalaga scrambled to keep it out.
Fortunately for Jorginho, Kepa managed to do so, though unfortunately only as far as Aubameyang, who cut it back for Smith Rowe to finish.
In the space of six minutes Chelsea had fallen behind when they should have had the lead, and it was all their own doing.
3. Soak it up
Arsenal are not a team you would normally associate with sitting in deep and parking the bus but Mikel Arteta’s team saw no other option to protect their lead against Chelsea.
The home side hemmed Arsenal in their own half for much of the second period as they searched for a breakthrough but were largely met with a wall of red shirts and were continually frustrated.
Bukayo Saka was even withdrawn just after the hour as Arteta looked to shut up shop and catch Chelsea on the break but committed few men forward in the hope of escaping with all the spoils.
Chelsea threatened on occasion, though Arsenal’s defence stood firm throughout with Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey working tirelessly in front of them.
In fact, you question where Arsenal would be in the table had they defended more like this all season.
It wasn’t great, it wasn’t pretty, but it was just what Arsenal needed – and Chelsea couldn’t quite find an answer.
4. Eyes on the prize
You can perhaps forgive Chelsea for taking their eye off the ball with a big day at Wembley to come on Saturday and a Champions League final just over a fortnight away.
The Blues have bigger fish to fry in the weeks ahead, but they can ill-afford to let their league form suffer.
Thomas Tuchel has done a good job of putting them well back in the Champions League picture, but they were slightly off the pace here, handed Arsenal the lead and never created enough spark to cause their opponents trouble until the dying moments.
The chasing pack still have plenty to do in the top four race, though Liverpool will be hot on their tails if they get a result at Old Trafford on Thursday.
With tough fixtures against Leicester and Aston Villa to come for Chelsea, that would certainly put the pressure on.
5. It’s been a while…
It says a lot about Arsenal’s decline that they have failed to win at Stamford Bridge in a whole decade.
And it’s even more remarkable to think despite their woes they’ve now done the double over Chelsea this season.
It was the return fixture at the Emirates on Boxing Day which looked like it would breathe life into the Gunners after a shoddy start.
Smith Rowe was at the forefront of Arsenal’s charge that day as a surprise inclusion in the starting XI – a far cry away from his important role in the side just months on.
His goal proved all important in this encounter as Arsenal ended their hoodoo on Chelsea’s turf to banish that 10-year record, even though the result may not do much in the grand scheme to help their final league standings.
But one thing is for sure, Smith Rowe was excellent throughout and is imperative to Arsenal’s hopes of it not being another 10 years till their next one.