Arsenal moved back to second place in the Barclays Premier League after finally beating us for the first time since November 2008 with a 3-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium.
Defeats against Arsenal have been rare in recent years and this one was even harder to take as in truth we were the architects of our own downfall with a poor performance.
The Gunners have lost each of their previous five matches against us, but Alex Song put them ahead before half-time.
After the break quick fire strikes from Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott gave Arsene Wenger’s side a three-goal cushion. Going 3-0 down so soon in the second half set the tone for the rest of the game and we never looked likely to get back into it. Even though we reduced the deficit through Branislav Ivanovic there was no way back for Carlo Ancelotti’s team who have now taken just six points from their last eight league games – our worst run since 1998
Arsenal, beaten at Manchester United in their previous game, were positive during the opening exchanges. Robin van Persie almost collected Song’s chip into the box, but the ball bounced just ahead of the Dutch striker.
There was a warning from us with our first meaningful attack as Didier Drogba – with 13 goals in as many games against the Gunners – shrugged off his marker to drag a 20-yard shot wide.
Arsenal had a penalty appeal waved away when Florent Malouda looked to have made some contact with Van Persie at the edge of the box. Nasri’s 25-yard free-kick was on target, but held by Petr Cech. Walcott latched on to a long ball over the Chelsea defence, but just as he aimed to cut back into the area, his touch was poor and JohnTerry recovered to clear.
On 29 minutes, former Gunner Ashley Cole went into the referee’s book for tripping Walcott as he turned him on the right touchline. Van Persie was then put through into the left by Nasri but he snatched at his angled shot, which flew high and wide. Salomon Kalou was perhaps fortunate to receive only a yellow card after jumping in studs up on Gael Clichy.
Arsenal increased the tempo as half-time approached. Walcott scampered into the right side of the Chelsea penalty area and was blocked by Cech at the near post before the goalkeeper turned over Nasri’s chip which was looping into the top-left corner.
The Gunners finally made the breakthrough after 43 minutes. Jack Wilshere and Song exchanged passes on the edge of the area, with the Cameroon midfielder carrying the ball into the box. Paulo Ferreira slid in and tripped Fabregas, but Song had the presence of mind not to wait for a whistle and swept a low left-footed shot across goal and into the bottom right corner.
We made a change at the start of the second half as Ramires replaced John Obi Mikel.
Arsenal, though, had a two-goal cushion after 51 minutes.
Van Persie held the ball up 30 yards out, and, as he was closed down, Michael Essien’s challenge inadvertently pushed the ball straight to Walcott clean through on goal. The England winger dashed to the edge of the box, where he drew Cech before sliding the ball along to Fabregas and the Arsenal skipper made no mistake from 15 yards out.
We had little chance to recover, as Walcott smashed in goal number three just 90 seconds later. Walcott robbed Malouda and fed Fabregas, who repaid the favour by sending the Arsenal winger away down the right for him to slot a low shot into the bottom left corner.
Ancelotti had to do something, and sent on Gael Kakuta, replacing Malouda.
We snatched a lifeline after 57 minutes when Drogba’s free-kick floated through to the six-yard box, where it was nodded in by Ivanovic. Given Arsenal’s recent record of failing to hold on to winning positions we rallied a little, but it was always a case of too little too late.
We made a final change when Ferreira was replaced by Jose Bosingwa.
Arsenal weathered the storm as the match entered the final 20 minutes. Nasri could have done better when Kakuta’s misplaced back-pass presented him with the ball 10 yards from goal, but Cech was out quickly to block.
With 18 minutes left, Walcott was replaced by defensive midfielder Abou Diaby who made his first appearance since mid-October, before Chamakh came on for Van Persie. Diaby’s close-range effort was blocked by Frank Lampard and Kakuta’s bundled effort was ruled out for offside as the Gunners closed out for a long-overdue victory against us.
So this result leaves us six points adrift of league leaders Manchester United in fourth place, and with a tricky game tomorrow night against Bolton a desperate need to return to form after a nightmare six weeks in which we have not won a single Premier League match.
Gill Reeves CSG rep
Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea
A Song 44
04 Fabregas – yellow card (Rosicky 88)
14 Walcott (Diaby 73)
17 A Song
10 Van Persie – yellow card (Chamakh 76)
53 Szczesny, 18 Squillaci, 02 Diaby, 07 Rosicky, 23 Arshavin, 29 Chamakh, 52 Bendtner
03 A Cole – yellow card
19 Ferreira (Bosingwa 61)
08 Lampard – yellow card
12 Mikel (Ramires 46)
15 Malouda (Kakuta 56)
21 Kalou – yellow card
22 Turnbull, 17 Bosingwa, 38 Van Aanholt, 43 Bruma, 07 Ramires, 46 McEachran, 44 Kakuta