With shades of their visit to Old Trafford, Arsenal were once again utterly outclassed when they took on Chelsea but came away with the scoreline showing only a narrow 2-1 defeat.
The game could barely have started worse for Arsenal, with the Gunners falling behind quickly after Cesar Azpilicueta lofted a ball into the area for Juan Mata, who took a brilliant touch before smashing the ball past Wojciech Szczesny. The visitors were incensed that no foul was given after Francis Coquelin was fouled in the build-up by Ramires.
Arsenal had little time to mope, as an explosive start continued to yield chances for both teams. Santiago Cazorla's longe-range effort was kept out by Petr Cech, before Szczesny was called into action to halt an Eden Hazard solo run. With Arsenal's defence looking by far the shakier, however, it was the home side who gained the next big chance. Ramires got into the area past the AWOL Bacary Sagna, who was enduring a torrid game, and was brought down by Wojciech Szczesny. The Polish keeper was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card, but his team were soon additionally punished by Frank Lampard, who converted the penalty to make it 2-0 and put real fear into Arsenal hearts.
Despite Fernando Torres' continued anonymity, Chelsea were still running riot thanks to the direct runs of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Ramires, with the Arsenal full-backs in particular completely unable to cope. Chelsea had two more big chances before the half ended, but both were blazed over - the first from Ramires, who simply walked past Sagna with ease before hitting a wild effort over the bar, and the second from Torres, on whose attempted half-volley the less said the better.
Arsenal's players were out early for the second half, and they seemed to come out with some renewed intent, although were still second-best at first. With play stopping and starting through minor injuries, the Gunners managed to gain some control over the game and on 58 minutes they had an unlikely reward, Santi Cazorla releasing Theo Walcott, who darted into the centre and finished smartly to give Arsenal hopes of getting something from a game that could have been a lost cause after half an hour.
Chelsea's introduction of Demba Ba in place of Fernando Torres was a clear sign of intent to grab their third goal to finish Arsenal off, and the Senegalese striker almost completed his mission instantly, rounding Wojciech Szczesny after beating the offside trap, but Thomas Vermaelen was well-positioned to clear his goalbound effort off the line.
After Chelsea were rightly denied a penalty for a handball by Bacary Sagna, Arsenal resumed a relentless assault on the home side's goal for the last few minutes, in a turn of events that would have been unforeseeable at half-time. A fine counter-attack was wasted when Olivier Giroud bafflingly shot from range, before a series of Arsenal corners almost created chances for Giroud and Walcott, but in the end the Chelsea defence held firm.
The Blues will be relieved to get the win out of the way, but there must be serious question marks over their home form now - they were very close to capitulating as they did against Southampton, against a team that they should, not could have been out of sight of at half-time. Arsenal's spirited second-half performance aside, today was a result they gained nothing from except the knowledge of the ever-increasing gap between them and their rivals.