Title race on?

One of the most well-worn football cliches says that “all fans want is for their team to give 100%”.


Giving 100% is the bare gruel that football supporters will accept. What football fans really want is for their team to give 100%, rise to a physical challenge, dominate a game from start to finish, play beautiful football, and be able to do all of that over a long-hated rival, away from home, in the midst of a title challenge. And most importantly, win.

Today, Arsenal did all of that.

From the start, Chelsea looked like they had read a certain script on Arsenal. It’s a story that says the Gunners don’t like it when teams press them, that getting touch-tight will cause Arsenal problems, and that the Arsenal players are soft and will wilt when challenged. Every time Bukayo Saka touched the ball Marc Cucurella shouldered him. When Cucurella wasn’t kicking Saka, they were double teaming him. Jesus was also give the same treatment, as was Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Ødegaard. Chelsea players swarmed Arsenal’s front line and midfield, trying to get under their skin.

It’s a script that even some of us Arsenal supporters believe. I will admit that many times it looks like Arsenal struggle with pressure. And just last week, PSV pressed Arsenal and then hit us with a few vertical passes to give us grief.

Early on, Chelsea wanted to do the same but Arsenal were just on their game. Little flicks over the heads of the pressing players, nutmegs that fell perfectly to a teammate, spins, dribbles, close control, and wonderful splitting long passes out of trouble. It was a masterful performance by Arsenal in every position on the pitch.

The referee also had a part to play: calling fouls when they were (largely) deserved. The Chelsea players were so frustrated that they resorted to calling arsenal divers but in reality, it was the Chelsea players who were just guilty of fouling, time and again.

Bukayo Saka once again was the focal point for the defense. And once again showed his true value, beating Cucurella time and again off the dribble. They had managed to largely keep him quiet through double and triple teaming him. And yet Saka, combined with Jesus’ tireless workrate off the ball, was the difference that turned the game.

Jesus had a half chance in the first half (Martinelli’s cross) but was unable to throw himself at the ball fast enough to get the diving header on target. But he never stopped taking on opponents, torturing defenders with his dribbles, dropping deep to collect, and harassing the Chelsea midfield. An in the 62nd minute, it was Jesus who won the ball back off the vastly experienced Silva. He pulsed forward, had a shot, and won a corner off the deflection. Little chili put in the corner and probably would have scored but Gabriel was at the far stick to put it away.

Cue the celebrations in front of the Arsenal supporters, both club and fans erupting in an orgy of joy. The fans deserved it as well. Throughout the match they were boisterous, exuberant, and sang the full 90 minutes. It was an atmosphere that Xhaka would later call “fucking unbelievable”.

Chelsea immediately subbed off Aubameyang, who’d been pocketed completely by Man of the Match, William Saliba. Saliba has been imperious for 24 months now but this was easily his best performance of the lot. Chelsea tried to get at him with what is left of Auba’s pace, he easily caught up each time. They brought on Broja for his height, Saliba battled him for every header. They ran small players at him and the one time a guy actually got past, he just caught up. And when they tried to get Saliba from the other side – with a cross in behind – he was there to clear the ball away. Saliba also beat them when they tried to trap him, was cool and calm in possession, and picked out numerous long passes to teammates to start the attack.

One game left until the World Cup and it’s against Wolves away. I expect Arsenal to stay top of the League until Boxing Day and we have to be considered title contenders if that’s the case.



  1. We just oozed confidence, I can’t remember us ever having so many players ready to take on their opponent and leaving them for dead. At points it felt like we had 6 or 7 cazorlas in the side. Benjamin and Willy were unreal.

  2. I hope we just play the kids vs Brighton in the Carabao. GIven the fixture congestion after the WCup, i would prefer a few midweeks/matches off to be mixed in there tbh. I dont’ root for us to lose ever, but i would be the least upset possible if Brighton won. THen we are fresher for Wolves, and less congested in the second half.

  3. It’s ingrained into the gooner psyche to worry about injuries and fatigue. We’re too scarred by history, too used to seeing talented young players literally kicked out of the game. It’s happening again with Saka. Somehow the PiGMOL have got it into their collective tiny minds that he’s a diver and can therefore be kicked freely without consequence. Of all the pigmol stupidities visited upon us this has to be one of the most egregious.

    Arteta is more Pep than Wenger with regards the league cup. City see the value in winning this trophy, tbh they can afford to and not even miss a Premier League beat. If we are to have even the slimmest chance at the title we have to be almost perfect, our margins are miniscule but I think we have to try. That’s why I’d go very second string vs Brighton, we do need a trophy, just not this one.

  4. Quoting one’s self is like third person references, but what the heck 🙂

    I wrote this about Martinelli 1 weeks ago

    “….what about our 2 young wide forwards? What is Martinelli’s ceiling? Did he just pip someone (Raphinha?) for a seat on Brazil’s plane to the world cup? I’d say he has, but I’m just a biased gooner”.

    Half right. they’re both going to Qatar. We talk a lot about Saka and Jesus, but Martinelli has probably/arguably been our best forward to date.

    Tim Vickery, who covers Brazilian football: “Gabriel Jesus was always in, while Martinelli has given the coach sleepless nights. I was with the coach two or three weeks ago, after Arsenal beat Liverpool & Martinelli, in the coach’s words, was the best player on the field”.

    Congrats, Gabriel 11.

    1. Happy for Martinelli to be called up for the Selecao. I was surprised Gabriel-the-defender did not make it, I would have thought he was one of the better Brazilian defenders playing today, or is that just my Gooner-bias?

  5. Wow, I am buzzing! That was one of the best 1-0 wins I’ve ever seen. Chelsea have their issues but they are still formidable at home and have lots of top players, many of whom have given us fits down the years and/or are used to dominating us. Not today. Joe Cole apparently said before the game that Chelsea are on a different level to Arsenal. Arsenal proved him right. As Robbie Earle said, that was a 1-0 hammering.

    The other Robbie said that this is not just some run and that this version of Arsenal is here to stay. I think he must be right. We are not dependent on 1-2 top individuals who will get poached by City or Barcelona or United. We are not getting lucky goals against the run of play or riding an unsustainable streak of opponents missing big chances against us. If anything, our dominance has not been rewarded enough, particularly with respect to the number of goals scored, as supported by Tim’s excellent discussion of big chances above.

    The team’s depth has been criticized in recent games, but with the returns of El-Neny and Zinchenko, that department suddenly looks much more rosy too. Watching Zinny in the 1st half reminded me of how much we missed him. He’s this team’s control rod, the tempo setter, the orchestrator and deep midfield playmaker, not to mention ridiculous press resistant close control skills. That’s an ingredient we have been missing, as pointed out by Devlin on the last thread. His presence just ticks our dominance on the ball up one more notch.

  6. Pure domination. Chelsea were demoralized and frustrated by the end – and I couldn’t have loved it more!

    Another signpost of our progress happened for me yesterday. I found myself getting annoyed with Ramsdale whenever he went with a long ball from a goal kick. I now associate it with depriving me of an opportunity to watch us slice through a press. The 1 touch passing, the movement, the patience and confidence we show are such a joy to behold. How dare he? Contrast that with the abject terror I felt with Cech, Mustafi et al when we opted to play out. Just trying to savor every minute.

  7. That game was simply glorious. The one touch pass and movement, the high press, the courage on the ball and the strength in defence show the belief that has grown in this group of players and really do make us contenders again. Add in the ability to trade shithousery for shithousery and we are serious contenders. Partey, Jesús, Saliba and Xhaka were magnificent while Saka and Martinelli just kept coming back for more and the rest weren’t far behind. However we simply must not lose any of that sextet for any significant period in the second half of the season if we are to win this title so short runs in the forthcoming despicable WC or long spells on the benches of Qatar, please.

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