LONDON (AFP) – Arsenal eased fears of being dragged into a relegation battle with a stunning 3-1 win over Chelsea early yesterday.
Mikel Arteta led Arsenal to win the FA Cup the last time they faced Chelsea in August, but less than five months on the Spaniard was under intense pressure after a run of one win in 10 league games.
Arteta had bemoaned his side’s fortune in recent weeks, but the Gunners’ luck turned on a night when he gave youngsters Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe the chance to shine in the absence of more experienced figures such as David Luiz, Willian and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
“It’s a really big win for us,” said Arteta. “Hopefully it is going to be a turning point and elevate the level of confidence in the team.”
Kieran Tierney won a soft penalty for a push by Reece James and Alexandre Lacazette slotted home the spot-kick to open the scoring on 34 minutes. Granit Xhaka then answered his critics after being stupidly sent off in a 1-0 defeat by Burnley earlier this month with a brilliant free-kick to double Arsenal’s lead just before half-time.
A third consecutive away loss for Chelsea further damages their chances of competing for the title and there was no way back for Frank Lampard’s men once Bukayo Saka chipped in off the inside of the post 11 minutes after the break.
“It’s not good enough,” said Lampard. “The players have got to take responsibility.”
Tammy Abraham did pull a goal back five minutes from time and Chelsea could have set up a grandstand finish in stoppage time, but Jorginho’s penalty was saved by Bernd Leno.
Victory lifts Arsenal up to 14th, six points clear of the relegation zone, while Chelsea drop down to sixth on goal difference.