April 20th – Chelsea 2 Arsenal 4

Knock me down with a feather. What just happened? This was pre international break Arsenal. I thought we’d lost that team to be replaced by the hollow team of the last three weeks. Where have they been?

We scored a goal without a deflection. And then proceeded to score yet more. Let’s ignore for the moment that we conceded. We played stylish, open, creative football. We controlled large parts of the game. We also defended (in the second half) in a coherent and coordinated manner. This was reminiscent of how Arteta structured us in our F A Cup run. 

After seeing the team selected I assumed (as I had after the last match) that we were royally fucked. There was no way we could compete with bankrupt chelski. But this was Artetas day. Everything he touched turned to goals and three points. As wrong as he got it against Brighton was more than offset by how every move he made was perfect. Against the master tactician Teuchel he out tacticed him. From the initial move back to a back three to every in game adjustment. Whereas we’ve question his slowness to adapt, for this game he was one step ahead of each of their moves. And how animated was he on the touch line. Compare that to his passive and sullen presence on the touch line against Palace and Brighton. He believed in this team today (technically yesterday).

The transformation of this team was amazing to watch. To see the progressive team of this season reassert itself was uplifting and completely unexpected. It makes you believe in a higher force at work. Even higher than Arteta. 

Southampton was an aberration. We were devoid of luck (and goals). Here though we had a little luck – as did they though for their jammy first goal. Care of Christiansen, we had our first goal since the invention of electricity. But who actually believed Eddie would score? He was calm and poised as he clinically put us one nil up. And who thinks Cigarette could have scored from that position? You’re all liars if you thought he would.  I have been consistently doubting of Eddie. I have have nightmares about his missed header at Everton. Today though he was on fire. Sure the breakdown in his link up play gave rise to one of their goals. But his pressure, persistence and pace were needed in this team. He helped Saka, ESR and Odegaard. One summer does not a swallow make. But this was a performance from him of genuine promise. Enough, for sure, to earn him a starting position against United. He will now get that run in the team that he has been craving. A chance to consistently prove us all wrong. Maybe he’ll still be gone at seasons end. So what. We need him to play like this for 6 more games. And consign Cigarette to the bench. 

Then we have to look at Xhaka. One of his best performances as well. With a solid, reliable (aka boring) Elneny alongside him we saw a more creative Xhaka. His risky nutmeg play in our box was the catalyst for that sublime second goal. The entire move was positive, direct and quick; no hesitation as possession  progressed up the pitch. But that finish by ESR. Remarkable. The poise and grace of that goal. That is instinct. You can’t learn that skill. Breathtaking stuff. Once released by Xhaka it was created by 20 year olds. Made in the cresh of arsenal. 

Odegaard was as quick and Intelligent in his movement and passing even as they tried to hack him down. He linked up with Xhaka and released the youngsters in front of him. Chelski could not get control of him.

Holding and Elneny were certainly rusty as the game started. Each giving away possession with poor passing. But then each grew into game. Elneny, did I’m mention that he was boring, so let me say he was as boring as ever but pivotal to protecting our  back three. And Holding being tough and physical with Werner and the vanishing Lukaku. Which was needed as White was a little careless again. He was caught for their second goal – which did look like a foul – as was Tavares. But Gabriel was immense today. Very little distribution but vital blocks and last ditch defending.

Which just leaves Saka and ESR. They came of age against Chelski over a year ago at home. They love playing Chelski. Here we saw them at their most fearless. ESR could have scored a couple more times. His ghosting into positions was reminiscent of the legendary Freddie. Except ESRs close control bewildered Chelski. And Saka just refused to be bullied and instead ripped Alonso apart creating havoc whenever he was on the ball. You could see he enjoyed today. Especially that penalty. How often do we get those calls? How often do we have that luck? 

With all the money they have spent Chelski fans should get used to a new reality. Any new owners will not provide blank checks based on oligarch money. They will have to compete in the real world now where the rest of us (aside from Man City) live. And hopefully this will cause the financial doping they introduced to abate somewhat assuming, that is, that Newcastle don’t replicate their approach. Anyway it was nice to see the plastic, jonny come lately Chelski fans stream out of the ground so early. They deserved this. As did we. Today, we deserved and earned this victory. It restored some faith. It swept away some of the fear we all had for the rest of the season. And, fuck me, was it unexpected!

So, am I nervous for Saturday? Hell, yes. But, whatever happens we will always have Stamford Bridge and 4-2. No-one can take away that joy. That happiness – that after the last three games – I’d feared had vanished for the season. The sheer pleasure of watching the re-emergence of our new arsenal. The enjoyment in seeing sublime goals and the outright suffering of Chelski to boot as well. We deserved this. This is what joy feels like. I have the glow back. And we have a few days to bask in the glory of a famous victory. 


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