Havertz and White score two each as Arsenal crush Chelsea in boost to title hopes

Chelsea were unable to live with Arsenal’s pace, technique and desire in the second half

Premier League: Arsenal 5 Chelsea 0

All that Arsenal can do is win, turn up the heat, ask the question of Manchester City, the defending Premier League champions, who retain control of their destiny in terms of this season’s thrilling title race. But how Mikel Arteta’s team won and the message could not have been any clearer. If City are to slip, Arsenal will surely be there to capitalise.

One of the images of a devastating evening was provided by a young Chelsea fan, who held up a cardboard sign towards the end. “I don’t want your shirt. I want you to fight for ours,” it read. That stung. Then again, Chelsea’s players had stunk out the stadium.

Arsenal stepped on the accelerator and they simply scorched away. Their half-time lead was only 1-0 despite periods of remorselessness; massive chances, too. When they lengthened their stride during the second half, Chelsea were reduced to rubble, unable to live with Arsenal’s pace, technique and desire.

Kai Havertz was excellent, scoring twice, but he was surely eclipsed by the Arsenal captain Martin Ødegaard, who drove his team in some style. Leandro Trossard had scored the first and, with Ben White chipping in with the other two from right back, it was a nightmarish evening for Chelsea. All eyes now turn to Liverpool’s visit to Everton on Wednesday before City go to Brighton on Thursday.


It had been difficult to ignore the high-profile absentee when the teamsheets dropped. Mauricio Pochettino took great offence when Pep Guardiola referred to his Tottenham as “the Harry Kane team” but he had problem in challenging his Chelsea players to show they were not “Cole Palmer football club”. Palmer, who Guardiola has called “the decisive player of the season” was missing through illness.

Arsenal made the perfect start, the home support, palpably fired up, able to celebrate another important contribution from Trossard. The move for the breakthrough was fired by a one-touch passing sequence that involved Bukayo Saka, Havertz and Thomas Partey and, when Declan Rice drove up the inside right, Chelsea were stretched.

Rice drew in Alfie Gilchrist, who started in place of the injured Malo Gusto, and slipped the ball to the overlapping Trossard. He took a touch before beating Djordje Petrovic at the goalkeeper’s near post. It was too easy.

Pochettino had seen White open up his back four after just 30 seconds, giving Havertz a clear run on goal, although the centre forward had strayed marginally offside. By the 10th minute, the Chelsea manager was on a war footing, adopting an aggressive stance in his technical area, raging at the efforts of his players to stem the red tide. Moments earlier, Havertz had tried and failed to find Rice when gloriously placed inside the area to shoot. The pass was on; Havertz just did not execute it.

Nicolas Jackson got away with one when he trod on the top of Takehiro Tomiyasu’s foot – the derby passions raged – and Arsenal certainly brought the pace and intensity in the first 30 minutes; Saka and Ødegaard the twinkle toes and threat.

Arsenal had a spell in front of goal leading up to the half-hour mark that was dizzying to watch so goodness knows how the Chelsea backline must have lived it. Somehow they survived. Rice banged one shot high after a wonderful spin away from Enzo Fernández while Havertz extended Petrovic. Havertz would also see a shot deflect off Axel Disasi and slam into Petrovic’s face at close quarters. It went down as a big save, although quite how much Petrovic knew about it was unclear.

Chelsea fought hard to kick out footholds and they did have their moments in the first half, even if the first couple felt like ports in the storm. Disasi almost got a touch to a Benoît Badiashile flick-on following a corner; Jackson stormed up the left and saw his cutback hit Gabriel Magalhães and kiss the outside of the post.

Jackson asked questions with his searing pace but his end product was erratic. When Conor Gallagher crossed on 42 minutes, he had a free header only to misjudge it, the contact with the ball coming more off his hand. Moments earlier, Marc Cucurella had seen a shot blocked by White, Fernández guiding wide on the rebound. Arteta fought an internal battle with his emotions and he felt them bubble over in first-half stoppage-time when he was booked for complaining about Trossard’s yellow card challenge on Cucurella.

Arsenal needed a second goal because despite their dominance, Chelsea had retained a puncher’s chance. Arteta sent his players out early for the second half and it was not difficult to guess his watchwords to them. Intensity, impact. How they delivered, Ødegaard seemingly on a one-man mission to make the difference.

The captain was behind the burst that simply overwhelmed Chelsea. Arsenal created chances, clear ones, and missed them. Rice shot too close to Petrovic; Havertz was denied by the goalkeeper after a sumptuous Ødegaard pass. They did not panic. They had the scent of blood in their nostrils; conviction, too.

The second followed a short corner, worked between Saka and Ødegaard and, when Rice’s shot hit Gallagher, White finished coolly. Enter Havertz. Chelsea had legitimate claims for a foul by Gabriel on Noni Madueke but there was no decision, Ødegaard simply releasing Havertz, who brushed Cucurella aside and slammed home.

It was a gruesome watch for Pochettino and everybody connected to Chelsea, Havertz languidly rolling home the fourth under no challenge shortly after Jackson had missed from point-blank range. Did White mean to chip into the far corner for number five or was it an attempted cross? Nobody in red cared. – Guardian