Wenger's boys put to the sword at home
Arsenal 1 Chelsea 4:When there’s no trophy to play for, there’s only pride, but Arsene Wenger’s side were denied even that in their London derby this afternoon, by a ruthless Chelsea and their own wastefulness in front of goal. Chelsea’s 13th away win in the league secured third and further highlighted the difference between men and boys.
Uefa have yet to rule on the unacceptable over-reaction from several of the Chelsea players — most notably a foul-mouthed tirade by striker Didier Drogba — following their controversial midweek exit in the Champions League to a late Barcelona away goal.
There were no such flashpoints this afternoon as all of Guus Hiddink’s men kept their composure to weather early pressure from the home side before killing the game off with two clinical strikes.
Chelsea — who beat Arsenal to reach the FA Cup final at the end of the month — are now guaranteed automatic entry to Europe’s elite club competition once again next season, while Arsene Wenger must again guide his young team through qualification as another campaign finishes empty-handed.
The Gunners started with just leading scorer Robin van Persie in attack. Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor — who claimed both the team and himself had gone “backwards” this season following the Champions League defeat here to holders Manchester United — was left on the bench, and was booed by some fans when he came on.
Lukasz Fabianski was in goal, with regular number one Manuel Almunia — another player to call for experience to be added this summer — missing from the starting XI, understood to be because of an ankle problem rather than as any statement from Wenger.
Theo Walcott, who has just signed a new long-term contract, was full of running and fired over following a neat one-two with van Persie as Arsenal started brightly.
The England forward was put in again down the right side of the penalty area by Samir Nasri, but Petr Cech stood up well at his near post.
Abou Diaby should have scored when he shot wide after being picked out in the centre by Walcott, who then drilled an angled shot just wide from 18 yards following a surging run down the left by Diaby.
Chelsea finally managed an attack when former Arsenal defender Ashley Cole skipped away down the left and pulled the ball back into the path of Florent Malouda, with Kieran Gibbs — whose unfortunate slip against United proved so costly — making a timely block.
Another chance went begging for the home side when a free-kick was not cleared, and Diaby expertly pulled the high ball down — which Alex Song turned wide from three yards.
It proved costly as Chelsea snatched the lead on 28 minutes.
Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas was cautioned for showing dissent after he was ruled to have tripped Drogba. The Ivorian lofted the resulting free-kick into the penalty area and Alex headed the ball in off the underside of the crossbar, with Fabianski rooted to the spot as Arsenal conceded a first Premier League goal at Emirates in more than 13 hours.
Fabregas was then fortunate to stay on the field when he upended Malouda and received only a stern talking to from referee Phil Dowd.
As happened against United, Arsenal found themselves 2-0 down before they could respond.
Nicolas Anelka, once idolised by Gunners fans, picked up the ball just inside the opposition half and charged forward before riffling a shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Fabianski made a smart stop with his legs from Anelka during first-half stoppage time but it was 3-0 just four minutes after the restart as Arsenal hit the self-destruct button in defence again, when Cole’s cross from the left was put past Fabianski by the outstretched boot of Kolo Toure.
Cech saved from van Persie before substitute Nicklas Bendtner — fined after being photographed leaving a nightclub with his trousers down after the United defeat — headed a consolation goal with 20 minutes left.
Although the Gunners, who travel to Old Trafford for what could be a title party next week, went on to have a good spell, it was too little too late — and
Malouda tapped in Chelsea’s fourth from close range in the 86th minute after Anelka had struck the post following a counter-attack.