Stamford Bridge really is starting to feel like home. On Sunday, Arsenal marched onto Chelsea’s turf, once again in need of a win in order to retake first place in the Premier League. A 63rd-minute goal from Gabriel proved to be the winner. But the 1-0 scoreline belied a dominant display in which the Gunners thoroughly controlled the match and were rarely threatened by the hosts. Below are five Hits and one Miss from a statement victory.
As he has been repeatedly this season, the young Frenchman was once again imperious on Sunday. Against Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Saliba looked downright comfortable, preventing the Gabonese striker from getting on the end of moves and effectively marking out of the game. When tasked with defending Armando Broja, Saliba played the offside trap well and easily dealt with the Albanian’s physicality. To put a bow on such a stellar performance, the young defender went on a mazy run down the right flank later in the match, putting in a cross that almost led to a goal. William Saliba is one of the best defenders in the Premier League. It’s really that simple at this point.
Partey delivered a commanding performance in the center of the pitch on Sunday. Chelsea made the mistake of giving the Ghanaian time and space on the ball, and they paid the price for it. Partey routinely interrupted and ended Chelsea attacks, preventing Graham Potter’s men from threatening often. On the ball, he pulled the strings and finished with 93% pass accuracy. He was key to Arsenal’s control of the match, and is key to the way Mikel Arteta’s men play.
Zinchenko has also proven to be massively important to Arsenal’s game plan. The Ukrainian returned from a calf injury on Sunday, slotting right back in at left back. As supporters have gotten used to seeing, Zinchenko tucked into midfield next to Partey, helping overload the center of the pitch. His presence on the field led to Arsenal exerting more control over proceedings in possession, and also introduced an increased level of technical quality. Arsenal have done decently in Zinchenko’s absence, but Sunday was a reminder that the former City man takes the Gunners up another level.
The midfielder was instrumental in marshalling his side to victory. It was not his best performance, but in the final minutes of the match, Xhaka showed that he provides a savvy aggression that is a hallmark of championship sides. He knowingly wound up Chelsea players, inviting a scuffle from Trevor Chalobah while refraining from engaging and drawing complaints from Jorginho as the referee blew for full time. As Arsenal inched closer to a victory in their house, Xhaka took it upon himself to add insult to injury. He bullied the opposition, which is encouraging to see as Arsenal continue to chase the Premier League title.
Yes, he occasionally is a hothead. Sometimes he makes mistakes. But Gabriel continues to prove why he walks into the Arsenal XI week in and week out. In the rare moments Chelsea put the Arsenal goal under pressure, Gabriel was dominant in his defense of the team’s clean sheet. At Stamford Bridge, he also demonstrated his other key talent: his goalscoring ability. The Brazilian latched onto Bukayo Saka’s corner and tucked home the winner, scoring his second goal of the season and giving Arsenal another crucial three points to return them to the top of the table. In the low-scoring sport that is football, a defender like Gabriel who can score relatively routinely is invaluable. Tite would be foolish not to bring him to the World Cup.
After spending the week leading up to the match making himself the center of attention, Aubameyang flopped pathetically against his old team. Despite his “nothing personal” advert and whipping up a narrative about getting back at Arteta, Aubameyang failed to affect the match in any significant way. He only managed eight touches throughout his time on the pitch, finishing with no goal contributions and a yellow card for a poor tackle on Ben White. Instead of showing the world that Arsenal were wrong to let him go, he demonstrated exactly why they did.
Sham writes and podcasts regularly about The Arsenal, and once was licensed to officiate wedding ceremonies in the District of Columbia. He can be followed on Twitter @dopegooner.