Arsenal smash Chelsea after using the dark arts as ghosts come back to haunt Pochettino | Football | Sport

Arsenal emphatically displayed the gulf between themselves and Chelsea by hammering their London rivals 5-0 at the Emirates Stadium. Former Blues forward Kai Havertz and defender Ben White struck second-half braces to add to an early strike by Leandro Trossard. Express Sport picks out five talking points.

Arsenal adopt the dark arts

Arsenal have become smarter and snider in 2024-25 – and that is no criticism. The very best Premier League teams have adopted the dark arts to great success and an Arsenal team previously criticised for being too soft are merely following that precedent.

William Saliba held off and pinned Enzo Fernandez to allow Ben White to stay onside and score his first goal of the evening after half-time. It was just enough of a legal action for the goal to stand.

And before Havertz’s first goal, Gabriel appeared to foul Noni Madueke but VAR allowed the strike to stand. “I think Gabriel loses control of it. It’s a foul all day. That is a free-kick. Gabriel takes the ball and Gabriel brings him down. How much more of a free-kick are you wanting?” Asked a bemused TNT commentator Ally McCoist.

But it is the toeing of that disciplinary line that has maintained Arsenal’s title challenge this year.

Three ghosts come back to haunt Chelsea

Kai Havertz scored twice and Declan Rice excelled for Arsenal. It was a case of what could have been for Chelsea.

Havertz was sold by the Blues last summer, with the German often ridiculed at Stamford Bridge. His goals in the second half of Arsenal’s season have kept them in touch with Manchester City and Liverpool. Two goals against his former club took him to 11 Premier League strikes.

Rice, meanwhile, was infamously released by Chelsea aged 14 and went on to develop at West Ham before becoming the most expensive British signing last summer at £105m. Every bit of that price tag was money well spent, with Rice pivotal to his team’s form this season.

And then there is Mykhaylo Mudryk, the struggling Chelsea winger who Blues officials were desperate to snatch from the clutches of Arsenal in the transfer window of January 2023. The north Londoners, knowing they had missed out on an £88m deal, turned to then-Brighton forward Trossard. The Belgian winger, who opened the scoring, has proven to be the far better signing with Mudryk failing to make a mark at Stamford Bridge.

‘Earliest-ever’ Man of the Match award

While Havertz and White grabbed the headlines, it was Martin Odegaard who engineered the Arsenal victory. The Norwegian was back to his best after a tough couple of weeks, and naturally, the Gunners benefitted from his best performance in a while.

Odegaard’s sumptuous through-ball to Havertz sent the forward on his way to score his first – and Arsenal’s third – of the evening. An all-action display meant Arsenal’s captain was at the heart of everything good his side achieved in the game.

McCoist quipped on commentary in the 73rd minute that he was prepared to award his “earliest-ever” Man of the Match award to Odegaard. He later joked that White could score another three goals and the gong would still go to the former Real Madrid playmaker. Ultimately, it was a pretty safe bet.

Arsenal maintain pressure on Man City

Arsenal climbed to the top of the Premier League but Manchester City remain in control of the title race with two games in hand. All the Gunners can do to stay in contention is continue to win their matches.

And they did so against Chelsea with minimal fuss. Nicolas Jackson caused William Saliba some minor issues but when presented with his best chance of the game, the Blues forward covered his face instead of heading home. The moment emphasised the difference between the two teams.

Cole Palmer-less Chelsea are ordinary

This was an uphill battle from the moment Chelsea named a team that did not feature Cole Palmer for just the second time since his switch from Man City. When Pochettino’s side have succeeded, Palmer has generally been key.

Without the attacker, Chelsea looked toothless and lacked a link between defence and attack. They resorted to hopeful balls into the channels for Jackson to chase.

What that says about £215m pair Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo is an entirely different dilemma for Pochettino. Just as the Argentine appeared to place Chelsea on the right track with last week’s 6-0 win over Everton, it was another two steps back for the West Londoners.

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