The most significant aspect of Arsenal’s triumph over Chelsea

The most significant aspect of Arsenal’s triumph over Chelsea

Nobody was talking about Arsenal as they hit upon a run of four successive domestic victories, but they made sure that people started paying attention with their performance in extending that to five.

The Gunners exorcised close to five years of unrelenting misery in Premier League combat with Chelsea, going nine meetings without a win and failing to score in the most recent six, by thrashing the 2014/15 champions 3-0 at the Emirates.

It was a result proving that Arsene Wenger’s men really can not only defeat but thoroughly outclass some of the best teams in the division when they go head to head, a reminder that was needed after they won just two of their ten clashes with their supposed Big Six foes last term despite finishing second.

Their position in the table still isn’t spectacular – though third, they are a point behind Tottenham and a full five behind flawless pacesetters Man City, and the Premier League winner betting odds tell a similar story, with them trailing the Citizens, Liverpool and Man Utd as 9/1 fourth favourites.

All of those sides being tipped up for the title are finding the net with ease, much as Arsenal did against Chelsea, with the leaders firing 18 times, the Reds 16 times and the Red Devils 12 times – each averaging out at twice per game or more, much like the north Londoners on 15.

What they aren’t so skilled at is keeping the opposition quiet, with Liverpool yet to do so in six top-flight attempts this season and both Manchester clubs shutting out only one opponent apiece, with both of their victims being bottom-half adversaries in Bournemouth and Hull.

Nacho Monreal was part of the defence that shut out Leicester and Chelsea
Nacho Monreal was part of the defence that shut out Leicester and Chelsea

Wenger’s backline by contrast, despite a long-term injury to Per Mertesacker and not adding new centre back Shkodran Mustafi until the very end of the window, have achieved two clean sheets already, and in pressure scenarios against the past two champions Leicester and Chelsea.

In a campaign where everyone is accomplished in attack, yet there are very few truly resilient defences, this ability to silence even the finest forwards in the country could be a decisive weapon in Arsenal’s favour.

The two examples cited above aren’t isolated successes either, as the Gunners have boasted one of the least porous rearguards in the Premier League in each of the last two seasons, being breached 36 times in 38 fixtures in both 2014/15 and 2015/16.

With clean sheets becoming an increasingly rarer commodity – of the other 15 top-tier sides in action on Saturday, Bournemouth were alone in earning one – it could be a more valuable trait than ever before.

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