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Chelsea trip up Arsenal again

Costa was the game-changer for Chelsea yet again. Photo: Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images
Costa was the game-changer for Chelsea yet again. Photo: Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images
Costa was the game-changer for Chelsea yet again. Photo: Catherine Ivill – AMA/Getty Images

Arsenal squandered a chance to go to the top of the Premier League as Diego Costa proved to be an itch that just doesn’t go away, giving Chelsea a 1-0 win at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners never recovered from Per Mertesacker’s 18th-minute sending off, the red card waved by referee Mark Clattenburg after the defender fouled Costa as the striker raced clear. Costa, revitalised after Jose Mourinho’s departure, scored the winner five minutes later to make it nine Premier League games without defeat for Chelsea against Arsenal.

Arsenal, on the other hand, believed the game had already been lost at the red card. Manager Arsene Wenger decided to pull off match-winner Olivier Giroud and bring on defender Gabriel as compensation. It was this lack of positive intent from the management that undid Arsenal, especially when a win would have put the the Gunners back on top.

As it stands, Arsenal are third on the table, with Manchester City second, and Leicester City on top with a compfortable three-point cushion.

Arsenal frustration

Arsene Wenger proved yet again that Chelsea are his bogey opponents, having never won against the Blues in their last eight Premier League games. Even without Jose Mourinho, against whom Wenger has a ‘lost five drawn six out of 11 league games’ record, Arsenal couldn’t scratch a win.

It was the same old story: Fans and players equally frsutrated as Chelsea held on for yet another win. There was plenty of spirit and determination on the pitch but, without Giroud, Arsenal’s play lacked bite. While the result will scarcely undermine Arsenal title ambitions, the manner of the defeat may yet play a role in how Wenger’s men bounce back during the rest of a hectic month.

Costa revival

Meanwhile, Diego Costa is on a dream run ever since Mourinho left the club. Widely believed that it was his poor form and attitude that led to the sacking of ‘The Special One’, Costa has managed to regain that mix of marksmanship and menace that made him so significant in last season’s Premier League title win.

Costa’s near-post finish from Ivanovic’s delivery was his sixth in eight games since Mourinho left – and it was not just that quality that helped Chelsea look much more like their old selves.

He got under the skin of Arsenal’s players and fans, although he could hardly be blamed for his involvement in Mertesacker’s red card when he was unceremoniously bundled over as he tried to race clear.

Costa departed to the resounding jeers of Arsenal’s fans and cheers of Chelsea’s supporters when he was replaced by Loic Remy after 68 minutes – job done and proof Hiddink’s side are so much more effective when
the Premier League’s pantomime villain is on song.

Sanchez key

Having talked about the lack of warriors in Arsenal’s line-up, one look at Alexis Sanchez back in action shows how he can fit the bill.

The huge roar that swirled around the Emirates when he emerged after 57 minutes to replace Joel Campbell was not simply out of a growing desperation as Arsenal struggled against Chelsea – it was a signal that so much of the rest of the Gunners’ season rests on the shoulders of the world-class Chilean.

It was his first appearance since sustaining a hamstring injury at Norwich City on 29 November and it was understandable he looked a little rusty, but the strength, perseverance and sheer force of will to influence a game were still in evidence in this cameo.

This was a major setback for Arsenal’s title hopes – but the return of Sanchez confirms all is not lost if they keep him fit.

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