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Man City boss Pep Guardiola plays down importance of Old Trafford games in title race

Arsenal reinvigorated their hopes of finishing in the Premier League’s top four with a deserved 2-0 victory over London rivals Chelsea.

First-half goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny sealed the victory for Unai Emery’s side as Maurizio Sarri’s Blues suffered a fourth defeat from their last nine league fixtures.

Here we assess both sides through a Report Card of Saturday’s clash at the Emirates Stadium.

THE GOOD 

For Arsenal

Lacazette’s technique – There will be few finer examples of forward play than in Lacazette’s delicious opener. With every touch the jaw lowered before smacking the floor when he finished, it was that good. The Frenchman’s first touch from Hector Bellerin’s nothing cross killed the ball dead, his second allowed him to turn toward goal, the third made room, his fourth – with minimal backlift – cut the ball high into the net from tight on the corner of the six-yard box. Every touch and turn was precise, like watching the intricate brushstrokes of a real masterpiece. A wonderful goal to add to his sumptuous strike in this season’s draw with Liverpool.

For Chelsea

Luscious Luiz – No this isn’t a note about his flowing locks but rather his pretty passing. He is legitimately the best passer of the ball out of the back. It’s the main reason Sarri reintroduced him into Chelsea’s XI and it’s a legitimate one because there were fine examples of his range against Arsenal. It’s been a feature of their play all season, of course, but against the intensity of the hosts’ press, it was a weapon for Chelsea. One such pass should have ended with a goal in the first half as he placed a perfect ball from wide left to right, yawning the pitch apart to enable Pedro the opportunity to narrowly loft an effort wide. It was pure art, even if Chelsea’s defending was largely ugly.

THE BAD

Arsenal

Bellerin’s injury – Amid the cacophony of joy in the Emirates Stadium, a ghostly hush in the second half punctured the air as Bellerin collapsed in agony. The Spaniard was making his first appearance in a month, yet having only just returned from injury, he looks set for a much lengthier spell on the sidelines after excruciatingly damaging his knee against Chelsea. The footage suggested a grim looking ACL snap. Bellerin is justifiably one on the more popular players at the club and his energy from right-back is fundamental to Arsenal’s play. He’s enjoyed a fine season, losing him put a real dampener on the result from an Arsenal perspective.

Chelsea

Chelsea can’t keep up – You can’t say everything was bad, but it was pretty much everything. Chelsea were underprepared from the first seconds of the clash as Arsenal smothered them high up the pitch. Sarri practically ripped through pages of his book such was the ferocity of his note taking throughout the first half and had his side mirrored his aggression and purpose, they might have had a chance. But they really struggled to match Arsenal’s energy all over the pitch and paid for that. Sarri will likely require a new notepad, and perhaps some fresh talent after this pointless performance.

Chelsea's Italian head coach Maurizio Sarri

Chelsea’s Italian head coach Maurizio Sarri

TACTICAL TALKING POINT 

Arsenal’s resoluteness

Defensively Arsenal have been gunned down on far too many occasions this season – the nadir arriving late in December at Liverpool – but you cannot fault the protection on Saturday. They reduced Chelsea to one shot on target and physically dominated them – a fist-pumping Sokratis after a thunderous challenge typified their strength. This was just their fourth clean sheet of the season but their understanding of Emery’s system was essential. He was right to leave Mesut Ozil out and operate with a 4-4-2 diamond which allowed his two DMs to cover the pushed up full-backs. An intense pressing system necessitates for uniformity and that collective energy strangled Chelsea.

GRADES

Arsenal – A

Probably their most complete performance of the season. Firepower in attack and a shield at the back. A superb display from every man.

Chelsea – D

The players don’t really seem to suit Sarri-ball and the teams Chelsea play against appear to enjoy it. Time for some new ideas from the Italian?

####Credit to Sport360####