Duro Ikhazuagbe with agency report
A rejuvenated Arsenal recorded an important Boxing Day 3-1 victory over Chelsea to end their seven-game run without a win in the Premier League and ease the pressure on boss Mikel Arteta.
Two first-half goals set the platform for the Gunners’ first top-flight win since 1 November.
Alexandre Lacazette sent goalkeeper Edouard Mendy the wrong way from the penalty spot and Granit Xhaka curled in a superb free-kick 10 minutes later to put Arteta’s side in control.
Bukayo Saka’s cross then dropped into the top corner early in the second half to put the game beyond the visitors.
Tammy Abraham scored from close range to make it a nervy final five minutes for the hosts and Jorginho then saw his weak penalty saved by Bernd Leno.
But it was an otherwise lacklustre performance by Frank Lampard’s side, who missed the chance to go second.
It was a well-deserved victory for Arsenal, who climb to 14th and will hope any talk of a relegation battle is now behind them.
It has been an arduous couple of months between Premier League wins for Arsenal boss Arteta but, on the first anniversary of his first game in charge of the Gunners, his side delivered arguably one of the most important victories of the Spaniard’s tenure.
Five months ago, Arsenal and Arteta were celebrating winning the FA Cup against their London rivals, only to watch the title-chasing Blues invest £200m on new players while the Gunners spent Christmas in their lowest league position since 1982.
Arteta made six changes to the side beaten by Everton last time out in the league and trusted in youth with 19-year-old pair Saka and Gabriel Martinelli and 20-year-old Emile Smith Rowe.
He was rewarded with renewed energy and, despite there appearing to be minimal contact when Reece James fouled Kieran Tierney in the box, Lacazette made no mistake from the spot to deservedly put the hosts in front.
Xhaka, back in the side following suspension, found the top corner with his free-kick soon after and when Saka’s attempted cross dropped over Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy into the net, Arteta must have felt his luck was changing.
Martinelli forced Mendy into a low save after a smart move down Arsenal’s left and the Blues stopper was relieved when Lacazette failed to capitalise on his mistake.
Mohamed Elneny struck the bar as Arsenal threatened to add to their tally before Chelsea’s late reprieve, but the Gunners held on for a first win in the Premier League since they beat Manchester United at Old Trafford almost two months ago.
New West Brom boss Sam Allardyce suggested the Gunners are one of their relegation rivals this week but Arteta will hope this victory proves the catalyst to propel them up the table.