A lot was at stake when Chelsea and Arsenal locked horns at Stamford Bridge this weekend. It was realistically a must win game for Mourinho’s men and they certainly played like it.
A newly found confidence seemed to have engulfed the defending champions, who were dominant throughout and limited a dangerous Arsenal attack to scraps. But who cares? An angry and confrontational Diego Costa grabbed all the headlines and sadly tarnished what was a very convincing performance from his side.
The Brazilian showed early signs of aggression in the first half, when his flailing arm deliberately caught Laurent Koscielny on the chin, but, to his fortune, went unseen by referee Mike Dean.
Only a matter of minutes later, however, Costa was at it again scrapping with Arsenal’s other centre-half Gabriel, which resulted in the defender being sent off for a provoked kick out at the confrontational striker.
Love it or hate it, Costa’s intimidating provocation of Gabriel was straight out of the gamesmanship textbook and was certainly a determining factor in Chelsea’s convincing win. However, it left a bad taste in the mouth. In the Premier League, fans want to see the game played in the right manner and Costa certainly didn’t do that.
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The 28-year-old seemed more up for a fight than a football match, and his reactions towards fair challenges from Koscielny throughout the game were completely unacceptable.
Even after the mayhem of the first half Costa persisted in his attempt to get sent off by subtly kicking out at Oxlade-Chamberlain in the closing period of the match, which prompted Mourinho to substitute his star striker.
Pundits have previously praised Costa for his aggression and physicality, but his display against Arsenal was a step too far.
On the other hand, I don’t think there’s any need to get too carried away by Costa’s antics. After all, it’s often a ploy from opposition defenders to try and get Costa riled up to a point where he acts irresponsibly and gets sent off... Isn’t that essentially what he did to Gabriel?
It’s time Costa gets back to focussing on his football and if he gives the same amount of attention to scoring goals as he does to fighting, i’m convinced it can be another very prosperous season for the ex-Atletico man.
Don't feel too sorry for Arsenal
Arsenal fans will undoubtedly be feeling like everything went against them on Saturday, however it didn’t, in my opinion.
The soon to be removed Gabriel astonishingly got away with a blatant foul on Hazard in the penalty area early on, the likes you’d expect to see at Twickenham not Stamford Bridge, however somehow evaded Mike Dean’s judgement.
The centre back was then the architect of his own downfall by brainlessly kicking out at Diego Costa, despite of course being provoked.
Ultimately, Arsenal were beaten by the better team and that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Chelsea had their first convincing win this season against Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Champions League on Wednesday and I think that had a significant impact on the confidence of the Chelsea players going into Saturday’s derby.
Fabregas, fresh from a goal and assist in midweek, looked back to his supreme best and dictated the pace of the entire game throughout. The Catalonian constantly looked to penetrate Arsenal’s back-four and couldn’t have provided Zouma with an easier header to put Chelsea one up.
Elsewhere, a lot was made of Ivanovic’s exclusion from the side in the Champion’s League, however the Serbian was recalled and made captain against Arsenal, a gesture that would’ve filled the right back with confidence, and it showed. Ivanovic completely nullified arguably Arsenal’s main threat in Alexis Sanchez and looked far more composed offensively.
The same can be said of Hazard who finally assumed responsibility for Chelsea going forward and looked back to his explosive best at times, swivelling in and around Arsenal’s shaky defence.
Perhaps his midfield compatriot Oscar can claim some credit for the Belgian’s strong performance. The Brazilian was tireless for Chelsea and put in a brilliant defensive display which gave Hazard the licence to express himself higher up the pitch.
Lacked killer instinct
Despite much improvement, it was by no means a perfect performance from Chelsea.
Sublime build up play was often brought to an abrupt halt, with Mourinho’s side at times lacking that decisive pass or spontaneous shot.
As Glen Hoddle said on the BT Sport commentary, “there comes a time after 15 passes…” and it’s at that stage Chelsea will need to improve on in the coming matches.
Chelsea ratings vs Arsenal: