Arsenal seem to have a kryptonite, and its name is Chelsea Football Club.
For the last few years Arsne Wenger’s Gunners have struggled to solve Chelsea, and it was no different with the two teams looking at opposite ends of the English Premier League table coming in to Sunday’s critical London derby.
Arsenal’s 1-0 loss marked the 9th straight without a win against Chelsea (6 losses, 3 draws) in EPL action.
With Arsenal needing a win to put itself back on top of the table and Chelsea needing the points to further break away from the relegation zone, it was the visitors who got the result needed.
Chelsea took advantage of a few Arsenal mistakes in the back and it led to the 1-0 scoreline, in part thanks to the Gunners playing nearly 75 minutes of the match with just 10 men.
Diego Costa became the pain he has been for EPL opponents the last few years, earning a red card on Per Mertesacker as he caught the Arsenal defender flat-footed and out of position on a run behind the defense.
Mertesacker fouled him en route to the goal and earned a red card in just the 15th minute, denying Costa what looked like a great opportunity to score.
He didn’t get an opportunity on the free kick, but did make Arsenal pay later in the first half. Costa lost a pair of defenders after a switched ball from left to right and the ensuing cross found him within feet of the net.
The result put Chelsea on 28 points and most importantly seven points clear of the relegation positions. The West London club has gone from brink of real relegation threat to near-certain safety and a win like this proves what little fear existed should now be gone for the Blues.
However, things are the exact opposite for Arsenal, who are now a club finding itself in a four-way dogfight for the EPL title.
The loss on Sunday puts Arsenal third in the table on 44 points, just two clear of hated North London rival Tottenham Hotspur and three points off league leading Leicester City.
After beginning the weekend at the top, Leicester City produced a victory and put pressure on Arsenal to match them if they wanted to stay atop the table. Instead, it was the same old story against Chelsea — play them well and have nothing to show from it.
Despite being down to 10 men, the Gunners didn’t sit back and absorb waves of attack. However, it still felt much like a floundering side, who got as much possession as a side with 10 men could, and just failed to take advantage of opportunities that were there.
Arsenal didn’t get much on goal, with just one shot on frame, but it did create plenty of other dangerous opportunities that could’ve easily turned this game around. The Gunners also went offensive with many of its second half substitutions, but the additions of Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain did little to change what seemed inevitable.
Simply put, Costa’s goal changed the attitude of these two sides and it was the one at the top of the table that shrunk against tough odds.
Arsenal could well find itself looking back at a game like this and wonder if it was the end of the road for its title hopes — an all-too-familiar feeling for a side that has just four wins in the last 11 years against Chelsea.
Clearly there are plenty of games left in what has been a crazy EPL season, but the fight at the top is so tight that any dropped points to other contenders could spell trouble to title hopes on any given week.