5 things you may have missed as Lukaku goal inspires Chelsea to Arsenal win

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Romelu Lukaku marked his return to English football in style as Chelsea recorded a comfortable 2-0 win over Arsenal to climb to the top of the Premier League.

Th £97.5million signing from Inter Milan arrived with the pressure of being able to solve the Blues’ problems in front of goal after Jorginho finished as their scorer last season.

And it took just 14 minutes for the 28-year-old to repay the faith shown in him after returning to the west London club.

It was a hammer blow for Arsenal, having dominated the opening stages with some energetic football. But there was more misery to come when Mason Mount set up Reece James to make it 2-0.

Boos reverberated around the Emirates Stadium at the half-time whistle and the optimism shown in the early moments of the game had quickly evaporated.

Arsenal responded in the second half with an improved display but with no change on the scoreline as the hosts slumped to defeat.

Here are five things we missed from the Emirates Stadium…

Time running out for Arteta

The last thing Mikel Arteta needed after a dismal defeat at the hands of Brentford was to face the European champions Chelsea, who are becoming something of a colossus under Thomas Tuchel.

But the opportunity to beat their London rivals and win back some support while doing so would have tempted Arteta into going all out for the win.

The Spaniard may be on borrowed time but the board’s backing with £140million says more than the results. Still, it will be a test of their faith in the 39-year-old if there are more results like this.

There was fight from the players, who still believe that they can turn things around. The rise of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe shows Arteta does have something about him as a coach.

Arsenal did not play badly against Chelsea. But when the Premier League standings are finalised at the end of the season, no one will care. If they are in the bottom half, which does not look out of the question based on current performances, the board certainly will.

If things were bleak under Unai Emery, they could be about to get worse before they get better with Arteta at the helm.

The board will need to decide if the situation can still improve from what they have seen from the last 20 months.

But with no points on the board and fixtures against Manchester City and Tottenham coming soon, the sand granules in the hourglass may have already passed through for Arteta.

Lukaku ends hoodoo

The Belgian’s record against Arsenal did not point to a devastating show in front of goal, with just two goals in 15 league appearances.

His last strike against the Gunners came in the 3-1 defeat at the Emirates in the 2016-17 season. He had also never scored in the Premier League for Chelsea in his 12 previous appearances,

But with a £97.5m move from Inter Milan and 24 goals last season in the Serie A, the 28-year-old is at the height of his powers and a different play altogether.

Still, it perhaps represented a bad omen for the striker when, in the warm-up, he fired one of his first efforts high into the stands in front of The Clock End.

Partnering Kai Havertz in attack, the Belgian hardly got a touch in the opening 10 minutes as he adapted to being back in the Premier League for the first time in two years.

But all he needed was one moment to make his mark. Just 14 minutes into his debut, Lukaku dragged out his marker Pablo Mari, laid it off to Mason Mount and spread it wide to Reece James.

Lukaku still had to get into the box and tussled with Mari to get there, but the sheer power and desire to get on the end of James’ inch-perfect delivery was telling.

That passage of play certainly drew similarities with the great Didier Drogba and Diego Costa, and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville was spot on in labelling it “classic Lukaku”.

If there was any doubt whether the former Manchester United striker was a changed man from his Old Trafford troubles, he quickly showed them just how they wrong they were.

Tuchel’s minor switch

Thomas Tuchel very rarely, if ever, deviates from his favoured 3-4-3 setup at Chelsea. As the old adage goes, why fix something that’s not broken?

But in the German’s eyes, nothing is ever protected from change if it’s for the greater good and in order to accommodate his main man Lukaku, he switched things up slightly.

Tuchel had started the season with a front three of Mason Mount, Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic. But while the former was retained, Werner dropped to the bench and Pulisic was out after contracting Covid-19.

Havertz returned to the frontline and instead lined up alongside Lukaku as a two-man partnership, rather than three. Mount was then given the opportunity to roam between midfield and attack.

But in essence, the Blues had a clear gameplan — to use Lukaku as their target man and allow Havertz and Mount to feed off him.

It worked a treat in the first half with the ex-Inter man bullying the Arsenal defence, while Havertz and Mount trotted around the Emirates pitch with the freedom of the city.

Some critics had questioned how Tuchel would fit in all of his star-studded attackers but it seems has found a way without losing the potency and solidity from their favoured 3-4-3 setup.

Kante absence goes unnoticed

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Considering the pace and fluidity that Chelsea moved with when they advanced forward, and how organised Tuchel’s men were when defending, it was easy to miss the absence of a certain name on the team sheet.

Just like in the 3-0 win over Crystal Palace, N’Golo Kante was omitted from the squad due to injury. But if it is a credit to Chelsea, the Frenchman was not missed by his team-mates.

If there was a weakness for the Blues, it was through the middle. Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic are quality operators on the ball, but not so much off it. Kante, meanwhile, is arguably the best in the business.

Tuchel made it his mission to swamp the midfield with as many bodies as possible to force Arsenal out wide, and did the same when they attacked — James and Marcos Alonso had a lot of the ball.

By the time the Frenchman was brought on for some priceless minutes to build his fitness, the game was all but won at 2-0 on 70 minutes, pointing to the frightening level of squad depth at Stamford Bridge.

Xhaka captain again

Memories are short in football.

It was not too long ago when Granit Xhaka’s career at Arsenal was left in tatters after responding furiously to boos and chants from the Arsenal fans during a match against Brighton. But he apologised and ended up salvaging his career.

It definitely was not long ago that the Switzerland midfielder was poised to join Jose Mourinho at Roma in a £15m deal, only for the deal to fall through.

And now, after committing himself to the club with a one-year contract extension, Xhaka has been handed the captain’s armband, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench.

The 29-year-old is one of their longest-serving players in the squad and given that he rarely misses a match, on paper he looked like a worthy candidate.

He put his body on the line after just three minutes to block Reece James’ curling effort and soldiered on like any leader would.

But there will be some Arsenal fans uneasy with how a midfielder who has continuously flirted with the exit managed to convince his manager he is worthy of the captaincy.

  • Premier League
  • Chelsea FC
  • Arsenal FC
  • Mikel Arteta

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