Here was a team made of many young players while their captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was named on the bench. Having won just once in their last 10 Premier League games, the Arsenal faithful must have had measured expectations before the game against Chelsea.
However, once the game kicked off, it was evident that Mikel Arteta had done his homework and was right in picking these youngsters for such a big game.
Pablo Mari was named alongside Rob Holding at centre-back and Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith-Rowe played as an attacking trident just behind lone striker Alexandre Lacazette.
Arsenal youngsters come to Arteta’s rescue
Arteta’s boldness eventually paid off as his experimental side were 3-1 winners on the night at the Emirates. Lacazette, Granit Xhaka and Saka scored for the Gunners while Tammy Abraham scored a consolation goal for Chelsea.
The Spaniard has been under pressure after seeing all his progress from earlier in the season stall. While it is understood that his job was never on the line, his decision to play Arsenal’s young guns was brave.
Saka has been Arsenal’s best player this season and Martinelli showed his class against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup last week despite just returning from injury. Smith-Rowe is highly-rated and has already shown what he’s capable of in the Europa League.
To start these youngsters in a crucial game against a big club like Chelsea required a special kind of boldness. Arteta, though, had no problem doing that and the youngsters did not let him down.
Now, the question will be whether to keep them in the team or return to playing his more experienced players. In all honesty, some of the senior players in the squad have been underwhelming so far this season.
A turning point for Arsenal?
The win against Chelsea has done very little to change Arsenal’s position in the Premier League table as the Gunners are still in 15th place. However, it has undoubtedly lifted the mood and confidence at the Emirates.
After weeks of bad performances, this is exactly what Arteta and Arsenal needed. Their season could begin from here and this win can be a turning point for the club.
"It's a really big win for us. We were really disappointed with the results - not so much the performances. Our players were suffering, our fans were suffering,” Areta told Sky Sports after the game.
"It doesn't get any better than winning a London derby against Chelsea on Boxing Day. Hopefully, this is a turning point. I know they can play at this level. We know how good Chelsea are, but in big moments in the game, we were the better team," noted Arteta.
Beating Chelsea is a big deal, especially following Arsenal’s poor run of form in recent weeks. However, the Gunners are still a long way from the top six and must now build on this win to turn their season around.Published 27 Dec 2020, 22:53 IST