It might only be February but that’s surely Arsenal well and truly out of the title race, if they were even in it to begin with.
Chelsea have gone 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League table, cruising to a 3-1 win over the Gunners at Stamford Bridge.
Marcos Alonso opened the scoring early on in the first half, before Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas sealed the win in a devastating performance from Antonio Conte’s players.
Olivier Giroud did grab got one goal back for the Gunners in added time, but, such was their toothless display, the substitute’s goal might only have frustrated Gooners even further.
Chelsea almost got themselves into trouble a couple of minutes into the top flight contest, gifting the ball to playmaker Mesut Ozil on the edge of the box.
Thibaut Courtois, as now expected of Premier League goalkeepers, attempted to play out from the back to David Luiz, despite two players surrounding the Brazilian, and he was comfortably dispossessed. Alex Iwobi, however, failed to capitalise on the error, curling an effort wide of the far post.
There will have been nerves from the Stamford Bridge faithful, but Conte’s troops brushed aside the worrying start and while Arsenal continued to press their opponent’s backline at every opportunity, it was the hosts who looked the more dangerous.
Gary Cahill met a cross from Cesar Azpilicueta 11 minutes in, but his headed effort was into the ground and bounced over the bar. And this was a taste of what was to come for the Gunners, as two minutes later Alonso opened the scoring for top of the table Chelsea.
Pedro delivered an exquisite cross from the right flank onto the head of the onrushing Diego Costa. The striker’s powerful header sailed into the air off the crossbar and Alonso, somewhat controversially, outmuscled Hector Bellerin to nod the ball past a hapless Petr Cech.
A controversial goal, as Alonso’s right arm caught the face of Bellerin, sending the right back crashing to the ground and forcing his substitution, with Gabriel Paulista having to take his place.
Foul or not though, Chelsea, naturally, began to take control of proceedings in west London. The Blues’ creative forwards started to fashion chance after chance, with Pedro, Hazard and Costa lively in the attacking third.
But it was Arsenal who should really have been the next to score. Gabriel rose highest to connect with a cross from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain half an hour into the clash, but the defender’s effort was straight at Thibaut Courtois and, ultimately, a comfortable stop for a goalkeeper of the Belgian’s stature.
It seemed only a major team talk at half-time could spark life into the soulless side of Arsenal at the moment. But Wenger’s troops returned to the pitch without the urgency required of a side in desperate need of three points to silence those questioning their status on England’s stage.
And less than 10 minutes after the restart, almost the entire Gunners team was left humiliated by an outstanding run from Hazard, beginning in his own half.
The Belgium international collected the ball from Costa’s headed knock down in the centre circle, before skilfully easing his way past Laurent Koscielny and shrugging off the challenge of Francis Coquelin. His feet proved too quick for the Arsenal defenders to keep up with in the box and he was able to send a low effort past Cech to double Chelsea’s lead.
The Gunners need to up their game hugely to suggest they could yet deliver a shock in the title race, but their performance showed few signs of improving.
And on hand to complete the win for Chelsea was none other than former Arsenal captain Fabregas.
Cech, in poor form recently, disastrously attempted a clearance, and the ball fell straight to the Spaniard who, with an empty net to aim for, calmly lofted the ball over the former Blues ‘keeper to make it 3-0 five minutes from time.
Giroud, late on, got one goal back for the Gunners, heading into the back of the net having been left unmarked in the box, but it was really too little, too late.