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CHAMPIONS League holders Chelsea beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates on this afternoon as defensive frailties once again cost Mikel Arteta’s side dearly.
A Tammy Abraham strike on 71 minutes, after Hector Bellerin lost possession, sealed a morale boosting victory for the Blues.
On a sunny afternoon in north London, the winner came in front of 25,000 fans, the largest attendance in N5 since the Covid pandemic struck in March 2020.
Earlier, Kai Havertz had put Thomas Tuchel’s side 1-0 ahead in the first half, prior to Granit Xhaka’s second-half header levelling for the Gunners.
In an open match punctuated by a raft of substitutions, including double figures made by Chelsea, the visitors dominated for long spells, as Hakim Ziyech hit Bernd Leno’s far post after a low angled drive in the box early on.
Chelsea grabbed their opener in the 26th minute when diminutive German Timo Werner fed colleague Havertz after being faced with Pablo Mari.
Havertz showed his class, while underlining Chelsea’s command of the game, by finding space in the box to fire powerfully past Leno to make it 1-0 to Chelsea.
Emile Smith Rowe provided a first-half highlight for Mikel Arteta’s side when he struck Edouard Mendy’s left-hand post after a low drive, following good work by Thomas Partey.
However, the Ghanaian was replaced late in the first half by Xhaka after picking up a knock.
No wonder when speaking afterwards, Arteta insisted the Swiss midfielder would not be leaving, saying: “Granit is going to stay with us. He is a key member of our squad.”
New £50 million signing Ben White made his bow after the interval, replacing Rob Holding in the centre of defence.
The former Brighton defender immediately impressing when heroically blocking Ziyech’s shot on the line to prevent the Blues from doubling their lead.
White’s contribution meant that long-term AS Roma target Xhaka equalised for Arsenal on 69 minutes, through his powerful header in a crowded box which beat Mendy to make it 1-1.
Yet parity did not last long. Three minutes to be precise as Chelsea showed their quality by pressing the Gunners backline while trying to play out from the back.
The home side, unsettled by the pressure, saw replacement Bellerin ceding possession to the Blues, who saw rumoured Gunners transfer target Abraham slot home past Leno to make the 2-1.
It was instructive that given Arsenal’s blind adherence to naively building from the back, Chelsea’s total number of passes after the game stood at 527, in comparison to the Gunners’ 419.
There was controversy when substitute Joe Willock thought he had equalised late on when his shot crashed down from the underside of the bar, but with no goal line technology in use for this pre-season clash, Arteta’s men were doomed to defeat by a lively Chelsea side.
Next up for Chelsea is a midweek home clash against Tottenham, before the Gunners travel to the new White Hart Lane next Sunday to complete the tri-team Mind Series.
With the new Premier League looming, Arsenal boss Arteta has plenty to think about.
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