A ruthless Chelsea stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League to a massive 12 points with a dominating 3-1 win over derby rivals Arsenal in a lop sided game at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
While Tottenham Hotspur can cut their lead back to nine points if they beat Middlesborough later on in the day, Antonio Conte will be purring as with 14 games remaining, they are miles ahead of the chasing pack at the moment.
The last time the sides met, Arsenal humbled the Blues 3-0 at the Emirates in September, with Conte switching to a 3-4-3 formation ever since.
And that Emirates clash was a key point in both sides seasons, with Chelsea going from strength to strength after that deflating loss. Arsenal, on the other hand, have faded miserably as hopes of a title challenge have now well and truly been put to bed.
Arsene Wenger was serving a four-match ban after being punished by the FA for pushing a match official in Arsenal’s win over Burnley in January and he was watching on from the directors box.
He wouldn't have approved of his side’s display over the 90 minutes, as their arch-rivals were just too good in every quarter and thoroughly deserved the win.
Flying wing-back Marcos Alonso opened the scoring in slightly controversial circumstances for the hosts in the 13th minute, heading in from close range after Diego Costa’s superb header had come off the bar from a right-wing cross. The Spaniard showed superb desire to get to the ball and managed to flatten Hector Bellerin so badly in the process, that the Arsenal full back was deemed to be too dazed to continue. Gabriel Paulista replaced Bellerin almost immediately but the visitors never managed to recover from the early deficit despite controlling possession in the aftermath.
Chelsea were content on hitting the Gunners on the break, threatening several times to double their lead and wrap the tie up but somehow the teams went into the interval level.
In fact, Arsenal had two chances to get back into the tie with first an unmarked Paulista sending in a powerful header straight at Thibaut Courtois in the 38th minute, a shot any Premier League keeper could save. The second came in first-half injury time, with Mesut Ozil completely free after some good work by Arsenal in the Chelsea box, but the German’s shot was too weak to beat Courtois, as the Belgian keeper smothered the ball comfortably in the end.
Had the visitors perhaps taken any of their chances, the finals suorline may well have been different but as things panned out, Chelsea tightened their ship at the back and utterly dominated the second period.
Eden Hazard, often criticised for not showing up in the big games, scored a brilliant goal to double Chelsea’s lead in the 53rd minute, bamboozling the likes of Laurent Koscieny with a weaving run and finish. Costa’s knock down header found Hazard with some distance from the Arsenal goal yet the Belgian was undeterred as he shook odf Francis Coquelin before tying Koscieny in knots and finishing well past Petr Cech to score his 10th league goal of the season.
The Blues didn't take their foot off the pedal as they pressed for another goal and they were rewarded when Cech’s calamitous clearance found substitute Cesc Fabregas instead of an Arsenal defender. The ex-Gunners midfielder calmly lobbed Cech from the edge of the box to really put the icing on the cake for Chelsea as they were now sure of a third win in four games.
Olivier Giroud pulled a goal back for the visitors in the 91st minute, but it was too little too late as a Arsenal side led by the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil disappointed yet again in a must-win game.