LONDON (AP) — Arsenal’s surprising title challenge in the Premier League shows no signs of slowing down.
If anything, a 1-0 win at Chelsea on Sunday only underlined that this Arsenal team may be the strongest in years.
Gabriel’s second-half goal was enough to keep Mikel Arteta’s team top of the league table after a performance that was more dominant than the scoreline might suggest.
The Brazilian center-back was on hand to steer in a corner from Bukayo Saka in the 63rd minute at Stamford Bridge against a toothless Chelsea side.
“From the start to the end, I think we deserved to win today,” Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka said. “We were the much, much, much better team today. We are so happy that everything is going well at the moment.”
Really well, in fact.
This was Arsenal’s 11th win in 13 league matches and lifts the Gunners back atop the standings, two points ahead of Manchester City, which had taken the overnight lead with a last-gasp win against Fulham on Saturday. It also sends an even stronger message to City that Arsenal is likely to be their main challenger for the title this season after adding this result to previous victories against Liverpool and Tottenham.
For Chelsea, though, it was another disappointing performance that will add to pressure on manager Graham Potter, especially coming off a 4-1 loss at his former club Brighton last week.
“We huffed and puffed, I think, but you could see the difference in the two teams in terms of confidence, in terms of points they’ve got, in terms of structure and working together,” said Potter, who took over Chelsea in September following the sacking of Thomas Tuchel.
“We are not in a fantastic moment as we speak. As much as it is not nice to say, Arsenal deserved to win the game and were the better team overall, so we have to take that and use it as motivation to improve.”
Arsenal was in control for most of the game and could already have been ahead by the break had Gabriel Jesus not extended his goal drought to a ninth straight game in all competitions by spurning the best chance of the first half by heading wide from close range.
Chelsea, meanwhile, rarely threatened even after falling behind — although a driving rain that fell for the last 20 minutes turned the end of the game into more of a slog. Former Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, facing the Gunners for the first time since leaving the club for Barcelona in January, was kept quiet until he was taken off just after the opening goal.
Arsenal was on the front foot for most of an up-tempo first half, but couldn’t force a save from Chelsea goalkeeper Eduoard Mendy. Ben White shot narrowly wide from just inside the area in the 10th minute, Gabriel Martinelli curled a long-range strike just off target in the 17th and Jesus had a shot blocked by Thiago Silva after stealing the ball from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and dribbling into the area in the 20th.
Jesus then spurned the best chance in the 29th when he couldn’t connect with a cross from Martinelli, glancing a header well wide.
Chelsea rarely threatened until Kai Havertz ran onto a ball in the area in the 34th but could only force a routine save from Aaron Ramsdale.
In the end, it was a defender who broke the deadlock.
Saka’s corner evaded a host of players as it bounced in the area before it was turned into the top of the net by Gabriel.
Saka had a chance to double the lead in the 68th but blasted well over the bar from a difficult angle.
Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard also spurned a good chance after being sent through on goal by Jesus on a quick counterattack, lifting his shot high after cutting inside.
That didn’t matter in the end as Arsenal is now one game away from going into the World Cup break with a lead in the standings as the club chases a first Premier League title since 2003-04, when the “Invincibles” went unbeaten.
“I was really impressed,” Arteta said of his team’s performance. “We are a young team, but we showed a lot of maturity today, a lot of composure, a lot courage to play on this stage the way we have played.
“That’s easy to say but actually very difficult to do. I think the boys were absolutely phenomenal today.”
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