Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side went five points clear at the top of the Premier League on Sunday after a comfortable 2-0 win at home to Arsenal.
While pre-match observers had made Chelsea favourites, it was nonetheless somewhat surprising to see the ease with which Mourinho’s side finished up with the three points, and although there is much to celebrate for the Stamford Bridge faithful, for the away team there is much to be concerned about.
Much of the pre-match talk centred on the fact that Wenger had failed to beat Mourinho in any of their previous games; was this the moment when the Frenchman finally got one over on his Portuguese counterpart?
The answer to that question could not have been a more unequivocal ‘No’. Chelsea was always in control on Sunday afternoon, and the gulf in class between the Blues and the Gunners could not have been starker. The question is: how long are Arsenal fans prepared to be a distant second-best to the Premier League elite?
Despite enjoying more possession and having more attempts at goal, Arsenal were never in danger of upsetting the odds on Sunday, and that fact must concern Wenger as much as it worries the fans.
After all, Arsenal is no longer the purse-tightening side that had a new stadium to pay for – their investment in the last two years has been formidable by anyone’s standards (except perhaps Manchester United), and yet they still don’t seem able to truly compete. Players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have clearly been brought in to try and bridge the gap. But on Sunday’s showing, the gap seems to be widening, not closing.
Chelsea though, are surely the Champions elect. In Diego Costa they have a most startling talent, and the adopted Spaniard’s ninth goal of the season was yet another example of how clinical the striker can be. As important, though, has been the impact of Cesc Fabregas; the former Arsenal midfielder claimed his seventh assist of what has been a truly magnificent debut season for him so far.
It is in the case of Fabregas that Wenger has much to answer for. As widely documented, Arsenal had first refusal on their former captain in the summer. Perplexingly, Wenger turned that opportunity down.
On paper, it isn’t hard to see why Wenger decided against re-signing Fabregas. In Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil, Arsenal has three very talented midfielders; and one supposes that Wenger did not want to upset the applecart by adding Fabregas to that mix.
The trouble is that football is not played on paper. On grass, Fabregas has been fabulous, and only an idiot would fail to concede that the Spaniard would not have improved Arsenal’s performances immeasurably. Not only that – by signing him, Wenger could have ensured that he was not procured by any immediate rivals.
As it is, Chelsea has the most on-form midfielder in the division and the best centre forward. Unless something goes horribly wrong, Mourinho will win his third Premier League title this season. Arsenal, one feels, will end up as also-rans yet again.