Lukaku stars on debut as Chelsea walk over Gunners at the Emirates.
After picking apart Crystal Palace in last week’s opener, Chelsea’s first away game of the new season was another London derby. Thomas Tuchel’s Blues made the short trip to North London, taking on Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal.
Despite being the league’s biggest spenders in the transfer window thus far, the Gunners have looked lacklustre in both pre-season and their opening game.
Arsenal saw defeat last Friday as they faced new boys Brentford at the Brentford Community Stadium. The London club knew that facing the Champions of Europe was no easy task – especially given the fact that they had a variety of first-team players on the sidelines.
The Gunners entered the game without defender Gabriel, alongside Thomas Partey, Eddie Nketiah and Héctor Bellerín – who all missed the game with respective injuries. Additionally, Alexandre Lacazette and Ben White was also absent following their contraction of COVID-19.
However, the main talking point of the game was the return of Romelu Lukaku – who started for the Blues in one of three changes for Thomas Tuchel’s side. The Belgian was looking to make an immediate impact at his boyhood team, having re-joined for a club record fee seven years after his departure.
Despite an early attempt on goal from Emile Smith Rowe, there was a relatively slow and steady start to the game. It was Thomas Tuchel’s side who took control, easing their way into the match by dominating possession.
The Blues were able to put their mark on the game early as they took the lead within the opening 15 minutes. Despite making his debut for the club over a decade ago, it was the returning Romelu Lukaku who scored the goal on his second debut for the club.
The move stemmed from the Belgian, who held the ball up before switching play to Mateo Kovačić. The Croatian then played a brilliant ball out wide to Reece James, who sliced the ball across the face of goal for Lukaku to tap home the opener.
Both James and Lukaku continued to excel as the first half continued. On the 22nd minute, the full-back was in space again with both Lukaku and Mason Mount as options. James managed to then find his England teammate, who saw his attempt deflected wide for a corner.
The visitors were regulating the game well, remaining on the front foot and weathering each and every Arsenal storm. On the 30th minute, another Reece James cross was an inch or so away from finding Lukaku for a Chelsea second.
However, just four minutes later Reece James found the back of the net himself. Thomas Tuchel’s side were cruising at the Emirates, tearing the Arsenal backline to shreds.
The talking point of the last few minutes was an Arsenal penalty appeal, as Bukayo Saka collided with Reece James inside the Chelsea penalty area. Immediately, referee Paul Tierney waved play on – with VAR later supporting his decision.
The Gunners ended the first half strong, hoping to carry their momentum into the final 45 minutes.
As expected, the second half began with Arteta’s side on the front foot. Bukayo Saka was involved once again, this time forcing Mendy into action from distance. There was also a chance for a third at the other end, as Mason Mount dragged his shot just wide from the edge of the area just wide.
The best chance for Arsenal arrived just before the hour mark. Defender Rob Holding was given a lifeline for to keep his team alive, but failed to convert what was almost a free header from inside six yards.
Three minutes later, Chelsea’s back three stepped up which allowed substitute Aubameyang to chase a long ball over the top. The striker looked set to be in on goal, but Mendy was quick off his line to keep his chances of a clean sheet alive.
Despite Arsenal’s oppurtunities, the Blues still looked dangerous and capable of scoring a third.
On the 76th minute, Mason Mount’s cross was met by Lukaku, who saw his header palmed onto the crossbar as Leno pulled off a breath-taking reflex save. The Belgian was left stunned, as he looked to have converted his 317th career goal.
The game from here was then wrapped up by Tuchel’s side, who secured all three points at the Emirates.
After the whistle:
Not only did Chelsea look like they had a few more gears left in them, but they also looked capable of scoring more than two goals in the game. The Blues was in control from start to finish, looking secure in every position on the pitch.
Additionally, the signing of Lukaku looks to have had a huge impact on the team. Not only have Chelsea secured a proven goalscorer, but they also have the services of a man who can create too through his strength to hold players off and lay-off.
As for Arsenal, the Gunners look a mess at the back with a shortage of creativity going forward. Anything but a victory against West Brom on Wednesday night isn’t going to be good enough for Mikel Arteta – especially with a trip to the Etihad looming next weekend.
Next up for Chelsea is a trip to the Anfield next Saturday.
Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea.
- Lukaku (15’).
- James (35’).
BBC Sports player of the match:
Kai Havertz (Chelsea).
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Leno, Cédric, Holding, Marí, Tierney (66’); Lokonga, Xhaka ©; Pépé, Smith Rowe, Saka (61’); Martinelli (79’).
- Subs: Aubameyang (61’), Tavares (66’), Balogun (79’).
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta ©, Christensen, Rüdiger; James, Jorginho, Kovačić (72’), Alonso; Mount (82’), Havertz (90’); Lukaku.
- Subs: Kanté (72’), Ziyech (82’), Werner (90’)
Arsenal (35%) vs Chelsea (65%).
Arsenal (6) vs Chelsea (22).
Shots on target:
Arsenal (3) vs Chelsea (5).
Arsenal (9) vs Chelsea (8).
Arsenal (10) vs Chelsea (4).
- (credit | BBC Sport).
- (credit | Sky Sports Football).
Written by Ryan Bellenie @BellenieSport.