In pictures: Arsenal v Chelsea
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Arsenal’s sobering defeat at the hands of Chelsea will have left Mikel Arteta with plenty of food for thought as he looks for a rapid solution to the club’s desperate lack of form. The Gunners have failed to take a single point from their first two Premier League matches of the new season, with a lacklustre 2-0 loss at newly-promoted Brentford preceding Sunday’s result at the Emirates Stadium.
The days of Arsenal going toe-to-toe with Chelsea for titles and silverware appear to be long gone, with their latest clash serving as a stark reminder of the gulf in class between the two sides at present.
The visitors were in control from start to finish, with new signing Romelu Lukaku facing very little difficulty in terrorising Arsenal’s back four.
The likes of Pablo Mari and Rob Holding found themselves unable to answer the questions posed by the towering Belgian, who opened the scoring with a close-range finish after just 15 minutes.
Reece James doubled Chelsea’s lead as half-time approached to hand the Blues all three points and condemn Arsenal and their under-fire manager to another disappointing result.
Arteta’s side were also toothless in attack, with Gabriel Martinelli struggling to lead the line and Emile Smith Rowe seeing his creative influence strictly limited in the middle of the park.
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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second-half introduction sparked a minor upturn in fortunes for the Gunners, but their collective effort was nowhere near enough to rescue a point or even a consolation goal.
Nicolas Pepe was arguably his side’s worst performer on the day, with the Ivorian merely a passenger for a large part of the match.
He took no shots, created no chances and struggled to impress on set-pieces, with just one of his nine corner kicks successfully meeting the head of a team-mate.
Pepe arrived in north London for a fee of £72million back in the summer of 2019 and has utterly failed to justify his status as Arsenal’s record signing in the years since.
Although he cannot be blamed for the lapse in defensive concentration that allowed James to run through and score Chelsea’s second goal, for example, Pepe’s showing on Sunday was another frustrating instance of the 26-year-old letting the game pass him by.
His performance against the Blues drew plenty of similarities with those often produced by former Arsenal winger Theo Walcott.
The 32-year-old was often criticised for a lack of end product during his time with the Gunners and will be remembered by many as a player that was unable to realise his true potential in a red shirt.
He was not a bad player for the club by any means, but was fairly inconsistent and failed to offer a great deal in matches where he and his team-mates were not getting the rub of the green.
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Pepe still has plenty of time to become an important player for Arsenal, but it seems as though he could be heading in the same direction as Walcott if things go unchanged.
Like his predecessor, Pepe has shown flashes of brilliance on occasion and played a hugely influential role at Lille prior to his Premier League move.
However, his recent performances have also been plagued with an inability to make things happen and a lack of consistency, which are both problems that need to be addressed if he is to assert himself as a major part of Arteta’s plans in the years to come.
It remains to be seen whether Pepe will emerge as a key man for the Gunners before the end of the campaign, with plenty of work to be done for Arteta’s side to stand any chance of pushing for European football next season.
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