Mikel Arteta’s opening act at the Emirates Stadium was an act of grittiness and fluency that has largely deserted them so far this season.
The first half hour from Arsenal was bristling with pace and purpose as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang capped their dominance with an expertly taken header from close range as Chelsea were made to look ragged and sluggish.
The 3-4-2-1 system that worked a charm against Tottenham was ineffective and gave Arsenal overloads in midfield as Mesut Ozil’s influence lifted the whole team. The first third of the game was a new Arsenal. It was an Arsenal already imbued with a sense of duty to put a shift in and put up a fight in a London derby under the leadership of a manager who knows what standards are expected of the 13-time English champions.
Arsenal’s sense of revival was unfortunately short lived as Chelsea dominated the remainder of the match with a change in shape with the introduction of Jorginho.
Chelsea’s inability to take a foothold in midfield and subsequent failure to apply pressure in the final third was glaringly obvious as Arsenal won most of the second balls and looked much more threatening in transition and possession. A change to 4-3-3 allowed Jorginho to wrestle back control of the game as Chelsea settled into a rhythm in their passing, as the Italian was truly magnificent throughout the game.
It may have started with a simple splitting of the centre halves and getting the team going with his conductor-like short passing at the base of midfield, but it evolved further throughout the game into dictating the tempo of the match as Chelsea dominated the ball in the second half, and importantly, controlled the game on their terms.
As has been the case for much of the season, Jorginho was also ever present in breaking up attacks with his intelligent positional nous and expert timing of challenges despite some hairy moments. His yellow to stop Alexandre Lacazette on a dangerous break was a clever one to take for the team, but it was the foul on Matteo Guendouzi that could have cost Chelsea the game.
Referee Craig Pawson’s decision not to caution Jorginho for the second time may have been influenced by the dissent shown by Lacazette, which comically lead to the Frenchman being booked himself, but nonetheless Jorginho seemed to have created his own luck with his man-of-the-match display.
He would, of course, go onto score the equaliser for Chelsea after Bernd Leno’s howler and shift the momentum entirely to the west Londoners for the remainder of the game as Tammy Abraham sealed the win with a brilliant counter-attacking goal.
It is so rare to find a player in the modern game that can influence a game from midfield as profoundly as Jorginho did at the Emirates, especially when coupled with a complete tactical change in system in the 34th minute of a game.
This is because Jorginho is a throwback of a player in the mould of Paul Scholes, Andrea Pirlo and Xavi, who could single-handedly bring composure and control in possession for their respective teams. The former Napoli man may have minimal recovery pace, strength and an unusual Mr Bean-like gait that makes you question his athletic and aerobic capacity, but he is a unique talent that is bringing a cerebral approach to the holding midfield position in the Premier League.
Jorginho is a dying breed as the modern game’s emphasis on pressing demands physically robust players more than ever with less emphasis on the subtleties and cunning of a more intelligent midfield player. His ability to breathe new life into a Chelsea team that posed little threat in possession nor on the counter was aided by debutant Tariq Lamptey, whose energy and pace sparked Chelsea.
Lampard must be commended again for his tactical acumen and boldness in his substitutions as Chelsea overcame the almost non-existent threat in wide areas once Lamptey and Callum Hudson-Odoi were brought on. Their lack of attacking quality at fullback continues to be their Achilles heel.
On another day this could have ended entirely different for Chelsea as their first win away to Arsenal in nearly four years was certainly down to a slice of good fortune. Arsenal were were plucky enough to be in the contest for the majority of the game. However, their gradual retreat into the edge of their own box with the withdrawal of Mesut Ozil meant their attacking intent faded, and with it their right to win the match.
Chelsea, on the other hand, showed admirable character and resilience to edge out a tight contest that was inspired by the all-action display from Jorginho, who is becoming a talismanic figure in Frank Lampard’s attacking, possession-based and tactically fluid Chelsea team.