Three days before Wembley and a timely lesson to Chelsea about complacency from the same team that outwitted them in last season’s FA Cup final.
They were very impressive under Thomas Tuchel. Focused, resilient and organized against formidable opposition, with plenty of creativity up front as they stylishly cut into two cup finals.
However, nothing is being won yet, and at this elite level, the quality doesn’t have to slide far before games are on the line. It happened at Wembley at the end of last season when they got loose against Arsenal.
Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe celebrates scoring the only goal of the game in the Chelsea win
Smith Rowe scored on a cut from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (not pictured) in the first half
Thomas Tuchel shows his frustration from the Chelsea bench on a bad Blues show
It happened again here in a game that, understandably, seemed to mean more to the visitors.
Despite all their shortcomings under Mikel Arteta this season, Arsenal have now won three Premier Leagues in a row and are holding on to hopes of European qualification with two games to go.
End with a prime of five wins and they might have a shot, though maybe in the newly designed third league, the Europa Conference League. They will also reinforce the Arsenal conundrum. Just when you write them off as a lost cause, they offer a glimmer of promise.
On this occasion, mind and character.
Emile Smith Rowe scored the lone goal here and rebuked a mistake by Jorginho in the 16th minute, and they produced a solid defensive performance to complete their first win at Stamford Bridge in nearly a decade.
Arsenal’s 1-0 Premier League win at Stamford Bridge has put them in a good hunt for Europe
Kepa Arrizabalaga comforts Jorginho after his terrible backpass led to Arsenal’s winning goal
Chelsea enjoyed the ball a lot, but with little urgency. It wasn’t until the final minutes, when Bernd Leno hit an attempt by Kurt Zouma against the crossbar and Olivier Giroud hit the woodwork again just seconds later in the ensuing battle.
A defeat means Tuchel’s team has work to do in the remaining league games – against Leicester and Aston Villa – if they want to reach a top-four finish.
Before then, Leicester was at Wembley, with the momentum lost only a few players fresher, including N’Golo Kante, Antonio Rudiger and Timo Werner, who sat all of this out. We’ll find out on Saturday if it was worth it.
Kai Havertz led the line and should have opened the score when he attacked on a bad pass from Gabriel, won the ball against Pablo Mari and broke through Arsenal’s goal.
With time to think about his finish, he tried to hit a shot over ‘keeper Leno’, but lifted it too high and saw it float down comfortably.
However, Aubabmeyang endured an otherwise frustrating night of being groomed for a cut lip
Christian Pulisic saw an equalizer in the second half disallowed for offside, while the Blues struggled
Chelsea (3-4-3): Arrizabalaga 6; Azpilicueta 6 (Ziyech 78), Silva 6, Zouma 6; James 6.5, Gilmour 6 (Hudson-Odoi 46.5), Jorginho 5.5, Chilwell 6; Pulisic 6, Havertz 6.5 (Giroud 65.5), Mount 7.
Subs moth used): Mendy, Alonso, Emeron, Livramento, Anjorin, Werner.
Manager: Thomas Tuchel 5.5
Arsenal (3-4-2-1): Leno 8; Holding 7.5, Mari 6.5, Gabriel 6.5; Saka 6 (Bellerin 66, 6 (Chambers 88)), Partey 6, Elneny 7, Tierney 7.5; Smith Rowe 6.5, Odergaard 6; Aubameyang 6.5 (Lacazette 79).
Subs not used: Ryan, Bellerin, Chambers, Soares, Ceballos, Willian, Pepe, Martinelli, Lacazette
Goal: Smith Rowe 16
Trainer: Mikel Arteta 6.5
Referee: Andre Marriner 6.5
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Competition 1
- A competition
- The competition
It was a costly miss, because moments later carelessness on the other side of the field put Arsenal in the lead. Jorginho was the culprit and turned a pass towards his own goal without realizing that Kepa Arrizabalaga had slid to the left, away from his posts.
The Chelsea goalkeeper reacted quickly, scrambling over his goal and diving full length to scoop the ball away. He made it, just in time, but Pierre Emerick Aubameyang retrieved the loose ball and squared it to give Smith Rowe the simple task of ending in an open goal.
It was Arrizabalaga’s first goal under Tuchel – in his sixth appearance – and gave Arsenal something to dig in and protect with Leno and Rob Holding taking up the challenge.
When they beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final last season, few could have predicted that these two London clubs would meet nine months later in such conflicting circumstances.
The Blues have skyrocketed since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard, while Arsenal’s hopes of another trophy with a Europa League semi-final defeat have been dashed and there’s still no guarantee of improvement from last eighth place. season in the Premier League, a 25-year low, even after this victory.
Arteta took on Tuchel’s back three at the bridge. They were deep in numbers, happy to admit possession. Chelsea passed and investigated, although with little threat.
Aubameyang was eventually replaced late in the game by manager Mikel Arteta
Pulisic saw a half chance pass because his low shot lacked the strength to harass the goalkeeper
Their brightest moments in the first half revolved around Mason Mount, who was rejected twice by Leno in the first half hour. Mohamed Elneny closed another chance just before the break, when Mount tried to pounce after a positive run from Ben Chilwell.
Tuchel sent Callum to Hudson-Odoi and Giroud but Chelsea backed down and seemed even less likely to find an equalizer for most of the second half, with Mount moving into a deeper role alongside Jorginho.
Referee Andre Marriner was not fooled by Havertz, fell over and claimed a penalty, and VAR Kevin Friend rightly ruled out a goal from Christian Pulisic.
The corner of Mount was well won in the air by Havertz, who climbed high in the crowd, and was knocked over by Pulisic at the back post. Chelsea celebrated ignorantly, but the American striker was clearly sidelined as the replays were scrutinized.
It wasn’t until the clock stopped that they caused any real pressure. Giroud and Zouma came close, but Arsenal, who lost Hector Bellerin to an injury in the final minutes, defended excellently.
Hector Bellein came on as a substitute for Arsenal, but had to leave soon after an injury
Kurt Zouma (left) hit the crossbar for Chelsea with a header in the last minute
LIVE ALL ACTION AGAIN WHEN IT HAPPENED …
Chelsea and Arsenal will face off in a London derby, with both sides having ambitions for European football next season ahead of the Premier League clash.
While Chelsea can secure a place in the Champions League next season by winning the league at the end of the month, Thomas Tuchel’s side will be keen to secure a safety net of a place in the top four they with six points on West Ham.
Arsenal, meanwhile, threatens to go without European football for the first time since 1995-96 and needs three points to stick to continental action next season.
Follow Sportsmail’s DAN RIPLEY for live EPL coverage of Chelsea vs Arsenal, including score, lineups and build-up for the 8:15 pm BST clash