Arsenal shrugged off their recent poor form to clinch a vital 4-2 away win over local rivals Chelsea in the Premier League on Wednesday (20 April). The latest London Derby was a thrilling clash that saw as many as four goals in the opening 45 minutes.
In the absence of Alexandre Lacazette, 22-year-old striker Eddie Nketiah netted a brace to become the unexpected hero for Mikel Arteta's side. The English forward found the net in both halves, while Emile Smith Rowe's first-half goal and Bukayo Saka's late penalty secured the points for the Gunners.
Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea did not go down without a fight, though. They hit back to level the score twice through Timo Werner and Cesar Azpilicueta in the first-half. However, poor defensive errors from Andreas Christensen and Azpilicueta gifted Arsenal three crucial points.
Despite dominating possession (68 percent), the Blues were outplayed by Arsenal. The Gunners attempted more shots (14 to Chelsea's 12) and hit the target more frequently. Most importantly, the win kept their hopes of qualifying for next season's UEFA Champions League alive.
Arteta's side have moved level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, with both sides currently on 57 points from 32 games. However, Spurs' superior goal difference (+18) gives them a narrow edge.
On that note, here are five talking points from a riveting game at Stamford Bridge.
#5 Arsenal and Chelsea were clinical in an all-action first-half
The two teams were lethal in the opening 45 minutes as they combined to find the net with all four of their shots on target. Chelsea had more of the ball but the game was remarkably open, scruffy and filled with errors.
Nketiah opened the scoring after a horrible mistake from Christensen in the 13th minute. Nearly five minutes later, Werner equalized thanks to a deflection that left Aaron Ramsdale with no chance. It was the German forward's fourth goal in as many games and took him to 11 for the season.
Ten minutes after Werner's strike, Smith Rowe restored Arsenal's lead with a sumptuous low finish after a lightning-quick counterattack from the visitors. Five minutes later, the Blues hit back again as Azpilicueta took advantage of Nuno Tavares' lack of awareness. The Spaniard nipped ahead of the Portuguese full-back and finished Mason Mount's cross.
#4 Romelu Lukaku failed to make the most of his chance and was booed off by the Chelsea supporters
The biggest piece of news ahead of the game was Tuchel's decision to hand club-record signing Romelu Lukaku his 13th league start of the campaign. The Belgian forward, who arrived from Inter Milan for £97.5 million last summer, replaced Kai Havertz in the Blues XI.
However, Lukaku had a night to forget and appeared to be well off the pace. He barely had a sniff at goal and struggled to get into the game at all. His movement and work rate off the ball was non-existent and he looked like a player short of confidence and fitness.
The Belgian could not add to his tally of 12 goals across competitions for the Blues and was hooked off in the 60th minute. The Stamford Bridge faithful were not disappointed to see him depart and did not hesitate to express their displeasure with his display.
#3 Eddie Nketiah defied expectations to steer Arsenal to victory
Wednesday's London Derby saw 22-year-old striker Nketiah make just his seventh start of the ongoing season. Prior to the fixture, he had scored only five goals for the Gunners in the EFL Cup this campaign while making just one league start. He hadn't scored in the Premier League this season before Wednesday's match.
However, with Lacazette on the bench, the Englishman stood up and delivered a crucial brace. He scored a goal each in both halves to lead Arteta's side to a win. Interestingly, Nketiah had failed to find the net in his last 16 league games, with his lean patch stretching all the way back to the 2020-21 campaign.
The striker is out of contract this summer and has been tipped to leave the Emirates on a free transfer. Irrespective of what happens in a few months' time, Nketiah will be fondly remembered by Arsenal fans. Especially if they manage to finish in the top-four this season.
#2 Chelsea were undone by individual mistakes at the back
With all due respect to Arsenal, who were brilliant, Chelsea were the architects of their own downfall against their bitter rivals on Wednesday. Tuchel's side gifted the Gunners two goals after committing avoidable individual errors.
Christensen was the early culprit as the Danish centre-back played a terrible backpass that sold Edouard Mendy short. Nketiah comfortably chased down the loose ball and found the net with a low finish.
In the second minute of stoppage time and 3-2 down, Chelsea pushed for a late equalizer. Cedric Soares led a tame Arsenal break and seemed to be going nowhere before hitting a hopeful cross into the Blues' box. With only Saka lying in wait, Azpilicueta made the baffling decision to wrap his arms around the English forward and pull him to the ground.
Referee John Moss had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Saka sent Mendy the wrong way to seal the deal for Arteta's side.
#1 Arsenal bounced back from their poor run of form to keep the UEFA Champions League race alive
Coming into the London Derby, the odds were stacked against Arteta's men. The Gunners had suffered defeats in each of their last three Premier League outings. The upcoming fixtures painted a bleak picture, with games against Manchester United, West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur yet to come.
It was a real possibility that defeat against Chelsea would have dealt a crippling blow to Arsenal's aspirations of finishing in the top-four. However, the morale-boosting win means the Gunners' dream of qualifying for next season's UEFA Champions League is still very much alive.
The job, however, is not done. As mentioned earlier, Arsenal and Tottenham are neck-and-neck. The North London derby on 12 May at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium could very well decide which team qualifies for the Champions League.
Before that meeting, though, Arsenal must face Manchester United and West Ham. Both these teams are also fighting to keep their own Champions League hopes alive. We are at the stage of the season where a single defeat could have enormous consequences.
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