Chelsea certainly know how to put a dampener on Arsene Wenger’s celebrations as his 1000th Arsenal game ended in their record defeat against us
The league leaders sprinted out of the blocks on a sunny but cold early afternoon, Samuel Eto’o and Andre Schurrle putting us 2-0 up after only six minutes.
The lead was doubled by half-time, Eden Hazard slotting a penalty and Oscar netting, the first of those also resulting in an Arsenal red card, Kieran Gibbs erroneously sent-off when Oxlade-Chamberlain should have walked.
With a lead such as our 4-0 one at the interval, sides can find it hard to maintain the impetus in the second period but there was no such failing on this occasion, with Oscar and substitute Mohamed Salah completing the derby damage. The victory was also the biggest for Chelsea under Jose Mourinho’s management.
It was all change in the double pivot area of Chelsea’s midfield, with Nemanja Matic back having been ineligible for the Champions League and David Luiz returning, with Ramires banned and Frank Lampard on the bench.
Eto’o was the spearheaded with Schurrle joining Oscar and Hazard as the attacking midfielders behind him. Willian was suspended. The defence was unchanged for the seventh game running.
Arsenal’s fitness concerns over Tomas Rosicky proved unfounded so they were unchanged from their derby win at Tottenham last weekend. Kim Kallstrom, injured since he moved to the Emirates on loan in January, was on the bench.
With first in the league taking on third and the side with the best home record hosting the side with the best one away, Chelsea and Arsenal will have both been determined to stamp their authority on this game right from the off. It made the start to the game both open and lively.
Szczesny came for a low ball and just made contact before the alert Eto’o could and Schurrle was hauled up by a close offside call. Then Petr Cech had to dive low to keep out a shot from Olivier Giroud who had escaped through the middle of Chelsea’s defence onto a straight pass. The Frenchman will have regretted not getting more power on his effort.
It was already action-packed, but then the game exploded Chelsea’s way. Arsenal were open at the back as the Blues countered, Schurrle carrying the ball deep into the Arsenal half. Eto’o was overlapping on the right and took the pass back onto his left foot before beautifully curling the ball beyond the keeper from just inside the area.
That was with only four minutes gone, and with just two more played, Chelsea were two ahead.
Schurrle turned from supplier to scorer, left in space as Matic passed forward and finding the far bottom corner with a crisp shot from the edge of the area, with question marks over Szczesny’s lack of a reaction to the right-foot shot. It was the German’s seventh goal of the season.
‘Arsene Wenger, we want him to stay,’ sang the thrilled Chelsea crowd, a refrain that was soon repeated after Chelsea went 3-0 up on 16 minutes.
It hadn’t been all plain sailing for the Blues. Eto’o was lost to what appeared a muscle injury after only nine minutes, but his replacement, Fernando Torres, was involved in the next goal.
He took a Hazard pass into the area and returned it to the Belgian whose shot beat the keeper and was heading into the net until Oxlade-Chamberlain bizarrely decided to dive and save it with his arm.
Even more bizarrely, having taken time to reach the conclusion it hadn’t been a Szczesny save, the match officials then sent off Kieran Gibbs, the full-back clearly disgusted by the mis-identification.
Hazard made no mistake with the penalty.
One man down and 3-0 down, what could the Gunners do from here? After a few more minutes, Wenger brought on Vermaelen for Podolski and reduced his numbers up front.
Chelsea’s task was to keep possession, make our title rivals run about, and patiently wait for more chances.
David Luiz’s deflected shot was well saved after the ball was won by him and Matic on halfway, and Schurrle had a strike, also deflected, that Szczesny pouched.
The fourth goal that surely put the result beyond all doubt came four minutes from the interval – Oscar the man on the spot to divert Torres’s low centre into the roof of the net from close range, after the Spaniard had made the most of yet another swift Chelsea counter-attack down the right.
Even the most optimistic of Chelsea fans coming into this hugely important game can’t have been dreaming of enjoying the half-time break quite so much.
It took a save from David Luiz after a rampaging run from Torres to prevent the lead being further extended just a minute after the restart. Arsenal were readjusting after two half-time substitutions, leaving no further cover for injuries. Flamini and Jenkinson were now added to the dam against the blue tide.
Arteta was booked for a pain-inflicting foul on Azpilicueta before on 60 minutes, Cazorla came the closest for Arsenal with a shot across goal after Chelsea had left space. Mourinho was quickly on his feet. He wanted his side to step it up again.
David Luiz lifted a ball over to Torres who beat offside and gave Oscar the chance to shoot. It was creeping under the bar before the keeper got the faintest of touches to it, missed by the ref who awarded a goal-kick.
Oscar’s shot that made it 5-0 on 65 minutes again reflected badly on Szczesny, the Arsenal keeper getting plenty of hand on a hopeful shot from 20 yards out but failing to keep it out, and he mishandled a Torres shot only seconds later with David Luiz closing fast.
In between those incidents, Mohamed Salah replaced Oscar and within four minutes the Egyptian had his first Chelsea goal. Making a rapid run in behind the Gunners’ beleaguered backline, he was found by a peach of a pass by Matic and drilled the ball low past Szczesny before being engulfed by all his team-mates.
The game was doing our goal difference a power of good and Schurrle went close to adding a seventh goal late on. There was even time for a couple of scrambles and blocked shots inside the Chelsea area, but nothing was going to spoil the perfect story of this top-of-the-table London derby.
Wenger’s 500th game had been defeat here too – on that occasion 1-0 to a Chelsea team on the way to the title. The manner of this latest victory will keep optimism high in this part of London.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; David Luiz (Mikel 70), Matic; Schurrle, Oscar (Salah 66), Hazard; Eto’o (Torres 9).
Unused subs Schwarzer, Kalas, Lampard, Ba.
Scorers Eto’o 4, Schurrle 6, Hazard 16 pen, Oscar 41, 65, Salah 70.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny (Jenkinson h-t), Gibbs; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Flamini , Arteta (c); Rosicky, Cazorla, Podolski (Vermaelen 22); Giroud.
Unused subs Fabianski, Kallstrom, Gnabry, Sanogo.
Sent off Gibbs 15
Booked Arteta 51
Referee Andre Marriner