Football: Given the woefully inconsistent form shown by Rafa Benitez’s men, it’s difficult to predict how Chelsea will fare for the remainder of the season.
The Spaniard’s side emerged victors from this London derby and are now six points behind second-place Manchester City, though Arsenal could have easily taken something from this match.
First-half goals from Juan Mata and Frank Lampard were enough to see off Arsenal, who deserved to be behind after a poor display.
The visitors looked much better after the break, pulling a goal back through Theo Walcott, but Chelsea held on for the victory and condemned Arsenal to their second successive league defeat.
Benitez, who has come under pressure in recent matches — in particular from supporters who remain against his appointment — was praised his players. He said: “They put in a great effort and showed great character.”
Chelsea took the lead with just over five minutes of the match gone, through Mata. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, however, was furious with referee Martin Atkinson for not spotting a foul on his midfielder Francis Coquelin in the build-up.
Chelsea extended their lead on 16 minutes when Ramires was hauled down in the penalty area by Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Lampard cleanly tucked away the spot-kick to give Chelsea a comfortable margin, which they could have extended before half-time.
Arsenal’s players began the second half looking positive and much sharper than before the interval.
Their perseverance was rewarded on 58 minutes when Walcott put them back into the match. The forward ran onto an accurate through-ball from midfield Santi Cazorla before powerfully finishing past Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.
“We came out with a different spirit and attitude in the second half,” said Wenger. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t come back.”
Chelsea had chances themselves to extend their lead, in particular through substitute Demba Ba late on, but were able to see out the remainder of the match.
Chelsea have a gruelling set of four away games in 10 days starting on Wednesday, when they travel to Swansea City for the second leg of their League Cup semi-final.