As the Chelsea team trudged off the Emirates Stadium pitch on Saturday evening, there was a sense of shock at the comprehensive nature of their defeat in this London derby.
Arsenal strolled to an easy 3-0 victory, outclassing their rivals in every department, whilst laying down a marker for their Premier League title challenge.
— Darren Lewis (@MirrorDarren) September 26, 2016
Here, we take a look at three key areas in which manager Arsene Wenger tactically out-thought his opposite number Antonio Conte.
Pace in the attack
The Gunners’ front-four against Chelsea consisted of Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi and Alexis Sanchez.
Whatever you think of these players as individuals, there is no denying that they bring speed and dynamism to the Arsenal side, allowing the team to play a high-tempo pressing game and break quickly on the counter-attack.
When matched up with the Chelsea back line of Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta, the gulf in pace was frightening.
To further complicate matters, the four attackers were constantly switching positions, leaving the Blues’ defence with no-one to man-mark.
— Goal (@goal) September 24, 2016
This is how Arsenal need to play at home; they must inflict their style on the opposition and be proactive, not reactive, in their tactical approach.
Diego Costa will have rarely endured a quieter game than this in his Chelsea career to date – his one notable contribution being a yellow card for dissent late in the second half.
The Spaniard was bullied out of the game by Arsenal’s centre-backs, Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny, who didn’t shirk from the physicality that the Spaniard usually thrives on.
Diego Costa has had just 2 touches in the Arsenal penalty area today. 0 in the second half.
Lack of service. pic.twitter.com/xTDiMrm3PG
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 24, 2016
Both are mobile and comfortable on the ball, but it is the physical edge that has been lacking at the Emirates for some time, and these two showed that they will not shy away from the dirty work when it needs to be done.
If they can remain fit (and this is always a big question at Arsenal) then the team may finally have a central defensive pairing worthy of a serious crack at the title.
The Gunners’ midfield proved too much even for the superhuman N’Golo Kante to deal with on Saturday.
With Ozil and Santi Cazorla playing centrally and Walcott, Iwobi and Sanchez each taking it in turns to drift inside, the French holding man was overrun as he looked to plug the holes in front of his defence.
Nemanja Matic was operating in a more advanced role as Chelsea looked to establish a foothold in the match, but his absence left Kante frequently exposed.
EXPOSED: Kante displays a shocking lack of effort after being ruined by Ozil https://t.co/O5NHMY5JaX
— Metro Sport (@Metro_Sport) September 24, 2016
The former Leicester City enforcer’s frustration was evident at 2-0 down, when he lunged into a tackle on the edge of Arsenal’s area, only to be turned easily as the home side broke away to score their third.
Kante looked thoroughly annoyed with how the game was panning out, and was criticised by many spectators for not making the effort to track back for Ozil’s goal.
On the flip side, this was a performance full of energy and commitment from Arsenal, but the challenge will be replicating this intensity over the course of a season.
After a number of false dawns at the Emirates, fans are demanding a serious crack at the title this year.
Wenger’s contract expires in the summer and his future is yet to be decided, but maybe this team can give him a perfect goodbye.