You had to rub your eyes to believe it. The current Premier League champions, Chelsea, losing three-nil against the team, Arsenal, who had finished last season in third place. It was a role reversal of immense proportions. Chelsea played like Arsenal of last season, committing silly defensive errors while Arsenal played like Chelsea of last year, full of vigor, creativity and confidence. Chelsea managed to pull one back, but it never seemed that Carlo Ancelotti’s men had what it took to salvage a point from this match. Arsenal was unstoppable.
The big question, though, is where do both teams go from here?
Arsenal supporters and players will have little time to bathe in the afterglow of victory. That’s because the next match for the Gunners is Wednesday when they travel to Lancashire to play Wigan Athletic on a chilly night at DW Stadium. Roberto Martinez’s squad shouldn’t provide Arsenal with too much to worry about, despite their important 2-1 away win versus Wolves this past Sunday, but it’s vital that Arsenal doesn’t ruin an emphatic victory against Chelsea by following it up with losing points against either Wigan, or in its subsequent league matches against Birmingham City (away), Manchester City (home), West Ham (away) and, again, Wigan (home). On paper those matches seem very encouraging in terms of how many points Arsenal can pick up even against Manchester City. But Arsenal have stumbled before.
Chelsea, meanwhile, are in need of massive reconstructive surgery. The way Chelsea played Monday night summed up their woeful situation. Their few goalscoring opportunities came from set pieces. John Obi-Mikel, Santos Ramires and Gael Kakuta looked out of their depth. Michael Essien and Florent Malouda made uncharacteristic schoolboy errors. John Terry and Frank Lampard were ineffectual. Chelsea look like a team that no longer believes they can win anything this season.
They’ll soon be put to their test over the next few weeks when they play Bolton (home) on Wednesday, followed by league matches versus Aston Villa (home), Wolves (away), Blackburn (home), Bolton (away) and Sunderland (away). Similarly to Arsenal, these are all matches on paper that Chelsea should win. But given Chelsea’s dire situation of lacking self confidence and self belief, any of these aforementioned teams could cause Ancelotti’s team trouble.
In addition to worrying about how Chelsea will close the gap between themselves and United, they also have a white hot Tottenham Hotspur just one point behind them. It seems that Chelsea is getting hit from all sides right now. From above, below and internally within their own team as the side has imploded. Whether they have what it takes to fix themselves, we’ll have to wait and see and take it game by game. For a team who started the season on fire, playing like a machine and looking unstoppable, they’ve changed so much that they’re not even recognizable anymore.