The Gunners beat Chelsea 3-1 on Boxing Day and earned their first Premier League victory since defeating Manchester United 1-0 on November 1.
The full-time whistle celebrations told their own story.
Arsenal’s 3-1 victory against Chelsea was more than three points for Mikel Arteta and his players; this was a turning point, a ray of light to dispel what has been two months of almost persistent twilight.
The Gunners may still be 14th and just six points out of the relegation zone in the Premier League, but now they can approach games against Brighton and West Brom over the next week with a sense of optimism that has been lacking since the summer. .
Arteta, meanwhile, can breathe a little easier now that the pressure he had built up after a seven-game losing streak in 10 league games has lifted.
The Arsenal manager under fire has had his decisions questioned almost every time as results have plummeted over the past two months, but against Chelsea he was right.
Maybe Willian and David Luiz helped him miss the game due to illness, but he was still brave enough to give Emile Smith Rowe his first start in over a year in a front row that also included Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Alexandre Lacazette.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was back in shape after injury, but the club captain remained on the bench.
And among them Smith Rowe, Saka and Martinelli gave Arsenal the kind of offensive intent that Arteta’s team has been missing all season.
From the first whistle, there was rhythm, movement and creativity from the attack line and Chelsea never looked comfortable. For months Arsenal have been slow and lethargic in attack, but this was the opposite.
Martinelli’s return has made a huge difference, we saw him against Manchester City in the middle of the week before he was forced to leave due to injury, but Smith Rowe was as impressive as the young Brazilian here.
Playing behind Lacazette at No. 10, the 20-year-old demonstrated why so many Arsenal fans have been demanding that he start having more playing time in the Premier League.
His clever move in the final third kept the Chelsea defenders dragging out of position and allowed players like Martinelli, Saka and Lacazette to benefit.
The playmaker finished the game with an assist and he really should have scored himself, but was slow to react and failed to convert Hector Bellerin’s cross in the first half after a clever break from Arsenal.
The hosts were lucky against Chelsea, especially when a Saka cross floated over Edouard Mendy to make it 3-0 and joined Lacazette’s penalty and Granit Xhaka’s fabulous free kick in the first half.
But they earned their good fortune with the way they approached the game, and this should now be the plan for the second half of the season.
The older players stepped up when needed and the younger ones provided the energy and enthusiasm that made a difference moving forward.
Arteta will know that there is still a lot to do and there are still many problems to be solved in his squad, especially when Willian and Luiz are back in shape. But this victory will have taken a weight off him.
Understandably there were some nervous moments towards the end and things could have been very awkward if Bernd Leno hadn’t avoided Jorginho’s penalty in injury time after Tammy Abraham made it 3-1.
But this was a deserved victory for Arsenal, one that Arteta hopes can kick off his season and send them into 2021 with a new sense of faith.
source: – target