Chelsea’s remarkably simple 2-0 victory over Arsenal isn’t and shouldn’t be a surprise anymore. The only true learning point from a wider standpoint from the game is that the level of simplicity and inevitability that surrounded the game is but a small glimpse of the mountain of evidence that proves how far these two old London rivals have become separated.
Whereas Chelsea have remained typically chaotic and explosive, both in the off field fiasco’s and so called ‘circuses’ and also their fiery managers that have lead them to almost laughable success on the pitch.
It is a sign, a compliment and a warning that true rivals should heed that Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel’s stroll on the Emirates field was such a one sided affair, yet everyone expected it to be so. Here is what we did learn from perhaps the easiest derby day Tuchel will experience (though Patrick Viera and Crystal Palace put forward their own strong application for this very award just last week)
Tuchel’s tricky Blues aren’t tricky, but robotic as victory over Arsenal proves
Thomas Tuchel’s robotic consistency that he has implemented into all of his Chelsea players is staggering and it’s scary. The Premier League might only be two weeks into the new season but Chelsea have laid down a marker, perhaps one that was already there at the start of the season, but they are moving and motoring already.
They haven’t exactly proved a point. Beating Arsenal, especially this Arsenal, is expected and the comfortable formality of large parts of the game went perfectly to script. Even the dominance of Lukaku and James, two standouts on a all-round splendid display, were both talked about before a ball had been kicked.
Tuchel’s Chelsea already seem to strike fear into teams before the games start. The confidence that is flowing, the trust that is bubbling and showing, Chelsea are a team in peak flow and it doesn’t feel like they’ve started.
Lukaku was always going to score goals for this side, Mount and Havertz were always going to be the suppliers. The biggest learning point (if you can even call it that), is that Chelsea’s inevitability is just that. Inevitable. The squad is demonstrating elite, world class levels of performance and it is doing it without breaking sweat.
Tuchel shows tactical superiority over Arteta and Arsenal
Mikel Arteta’s tactical victories over Tuchel (and Chelsea) in the past two years are well documented, not least by The Atheltic’s Liam Twomey who aptly covered this issue prior to the weekend’s game. However, perhaps once again unsurprisingly, Tuchel got one back over Arteta and his Chelsea players massively hit back in almost arrogant and angry response to those Arsenal players that dared boast of any previous victory.
Chelsea had the air of a team that walked out to the Emirates stadium to kill any dreams, rob the bank and then get away with their crimes without question. It worked. Largely due to the tactical naiveity of Arteta who, without the injured Ben White, faced up to Chelsea foolishly with a four man defence.
With Reece James having the freedom of the Emirates right flank to himself and Lukaku dragging the Arsenal defence, midfield and substitutes bench with him, Mount and Havertz were left laughing with the space afforded to them. The silky German, who is so good at creating his own unbeknown space and gliding unrecognised into it, didn’t have to try. He must hardly have believed what was unfolding in front of him. Was it a trap? It was too easy. Like taking food from a child, Chelsea’s best operators were allowed acres to produce in.
In a tactical break down, lots of this can be pinned on Lukaku’s aura. The Belgian commands the respect and attention of centre backs and the midfielders that stop the supply, this in turn appeared to frighten the brain cells out of Arsenal.
Whether Tuchel really did have to plan this out or whether it just played out how he, both sets of fans and pretty much everyone else in world football would have expected is unknown. Either way, Chelsea had their gunless Gunners worked out from the start.
The trusty trio: Havertz, Mount, Lukaku
The glee on Blues supporters faces when they saw a front three of Havertz, Mount and Lukaku would have been unrivalled. Like a dream that you never thought could come true. Last season Chelsea had to wait until January before there was a starting lineup with Christian Pulisic, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech in action, that game ended in a 3-1 demolition handed out by Pep Guardiola’s rampant Manchester City. This time it was different.
The right tools in the right hands? Perhaps.
With the front line of Chelsea possessing so many weapons, their armoury with this trio alone looks daunting for all sides, without even touching on the ludicrously assembled bench that they can call upon for the pace of Werner or Pulisic.
If Lukaku isn’t getting the ball to feet then he will attract, no, demand the attention of defenders and midfielders alike. This opens up holes for Havertz and Mount to float in and out of and strut on the pitch in areas they shouldn’t be allowed to breath in.
Lukaku can go inbehind, so can Havertz and his long, lucid strides, Mount is sure to be waiting at the base of this attack, waiting to unleash a cutting ball through. If Lukaku is involved then he has the technical and physical ability to bulldoze through defences, leaving gaping holes and remnants of his long gone victims and their positions.
With the height of Lukaku and Havertz there is also a direct option to play not through a press, but out of it via a longer, searching ball to his body or even in behind.
To say Chelsea’s first choice front three isn’t dangerous is an understatement. When you add in the multiple avenues of attack then it becomes almost unstoppable.
Box to box Kovacic
Chelsea’s midfield options for the season has been covered greatly in the past week. With Billy Gilmour on loan and Declan Rice seemingly unattainable this summer, Tuchel has just three genuine central midfielders.
Jorginho and N’Golo Kante, both of whom are up for UEFA’s Player of the Year award, are the settled and possibly most solid of the partnerships. However, with Kante’s fitness not necessarily a concern but a cause to rest and rotate more than is optimal, Mateo Kovacic, the new number 8 in the team, has started both league games this season.
The Croatian put in a second underrated performance in a row as he partnered Jorginho on Sunday and it was his impact in the build up for Chelsea’s first goal that grabbed the attention. His perfectly position and paced clipped pass to James helped set up Lukaku’s second debut goal.
Kovacic, now a four time Champions League winner, is still coming under scrutiny for his impact as a box-to-box midfielder. For this role he is remarkably poor in both boxes, but his work in between them is almost unrivalled. His Eden Hazard-like ball retention and dribbling has been highlighted as a key component of Tuchel’s press resistant Chelsea.
His solid showing against was proof once more that he can be a brilliant asset to the side. His error prone, lack of defensive awareness and discipline will continue to mark him out as a midfield weak link when defending though. A better team than Arsenal, and one that relies less on solely Smith-Rowe might have taken advantage.
As it now becomes nine years since Chelsea’s current captain was signed for an admittedly forgettable and largely underwhelming £7 million, his place in club folk law and legend is assured. The little Spaniard has won all but the Club World Cup since joining and is still revered as one of the best one-on-one defenders in world football.
His performance against Arsenal was the timely reassurance that some fans needed that just because Azpilicueta is soon to turn 32, he isn’t done winning or indeed pulling his team to victories.
Though Arsenal offered little threat with a disjointed attack that rests on the shoulders of the mercuriously inconsistent Nicholas Pepe, the versatile defender was confronted by Emile Smith-Rowe. Arsenal’s only jewel in a battered crown.
Hardly a performance for the ages, Azpilicueta was as solid as anyone could imagine. Highlighting his frightening understanding of personal and team positioning, Azpilicueta was also making his first start of the season and replaced Trevoh Chalobah who has done all he can to remain in Tuchels first team plans for the rest of the season.
Azpilicueta, like Thiago Silva, might see a drop in gametime this season however, the number and intensity of matches this season will undoubtedly lead to a role that isn’t covered by the term ‘rotational option’. Azpilicueta is still captain and deservedly so, he will play the role on and off the field as captain and is still sure to get the minutes to back this up. His performance against Arsenal was proof for those that needed it, though nobody should at this point, that he is still more than good enough to maintain his place in Tuchel’s squad and Chelsea’s history.
Written and edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)
Follow us on: