Arsenal fans given little to cheer on Emirates return as Chelsea FC play brittle Gunners off the park

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Arsenal have waited over 500 days to have a packed Emirates Stadium, but this match with Chelsea was not the homecoming they would have been dreaming of.

The atmosphere before kick-off was one of optimism; by half-time, the cheers had turned to jeers.

Truth be told, they were justified after a miserable first half in which Arsenal were overrun and conceded two goals. At times, it really was men against boys and the way Romelu Lukaku dominated Pablo Mari highlighted that.

The Belgian got Chelsea’s first goal and he was a thorn in Arsenal’s side all day. Reece James, who was given the freedom of the right side of the Emirates, got the second after 35 minutes and at that point you feared for Arsenal.

This was a Gunners side shorn of regular first-team players, with injury, illness and even visa issues denying Mikel Arteta the chance to field a full-strength side.

That, however, will be little comfort to the Arsenal fans tonight, who had to watch their team be played off the park in their own backyard.

They will have some grievances that Bukayo Saka was not awarded a penalty in the first half when he clashed with James, and Rob Holding missed a great chance after the break, but other than there was little for Gunners fans to cling to.

The gap between Arsenal and Chelsea was known before this game, with Chelsea arriving in north London as European champions and with £97.5million Lukaku starting upfront, but it was reinforced over the course of this 90 minutes.

 (PA)
(PA)

Arsenal are miles away from Chelsea and, on this evidence, it could be a painful road to get back to the top.

The journey will be made easier when the likes of Ben White, Martin Odegaard, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Thomas Partey return, but until then challenging times lay ahead. Arsenal’s next Premier League match? A trip to Manchester City next Saturday.

Mari has torrid time against rampant Lukaku

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Mari won’t be the last player to feel the wrath of Lukaku, but either way he will want to forget this game in a hurry. The Spaniard was dominated by Lukaku all afternoon, who used his strength to bully Mari.

The first goal typified the dominance Lukaku had as he received the ball into his feet, fending Mari off with ease. The Belgian then spun and raced into the box, brushing Mari off on his way through. Lukaku tapped the ball home from James’ cross and Mari could only watch on the from the floor.

Lokonga rare bright spark

There were not many positives for Arsenal to take from this defeat, but the performance of Albert Sambi Lokonga was one. The midfielder did well against Brentford last week and he was bright against Chelsea too.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Lokonga constantly demanded the ball and never once did he stop trying to get things going. He outperformed the more senior Granit Xhaka alongside him and, when Thomas Partey returns, Lokonga may fancy his chances of partnering him.

He has added some much needed dynamism to Arsenal’s midfield and looks like an astute signing so far. His solid home debut was a small crumb of comfort for Arsenal after losing this north London derby.

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