‘Tremendous Havertz no longer Arteta’s vanity project’

Kai Havertz celebrates with Arsenal teammate Declan RiceGetty Images

Arsenal have asked the question in the most emphatic manner as Chelsea were swept aside with embarrassing ease. It is now up to Liverpool and Manchester City to provide the answer.

If the Gunners shared the nagging doubts that resurfaced about their character – “bottle” to use the vernacular – after a short, recent slump, they were banished by a virtuoso performance that left Chelsea humiliated at an exuberant Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal’s 5-0 win put them three points ahead of Liverpool and four ahead of Manchester City, not to mention delivering a plus-56 goal difference that pretty much provides the buffer of an extra point.

They have played one more game than Liverpool and two more than City but scoreboard pressure counts at this point and Arsenal are ahead on that measure.

Mikel Arteta’s side wobbled in the 2-0 loss to Aston Villa in their last home league game, the pressure, tension and anticipation of going into that match having just seen Liverpool lose against Crystal Palace at Anfield earlier seemingly overcoming them.

And the subsequent timid Champions League quarter-final exit to Bayern Munich raised the spectre that Arsenal were about to “choke” in the manner that agonisingly consumed them at the final fences of last season’s Premier League race.

The response, a battling win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday followed by this champagne show in front of their own celebrating fans, should put to bed any suggestions that it could be a lack of character that will undermine Arsenal in the run-in.

And to make the night even better for Arteta, it was one of his summer signings that has been the subject of so much scrutiny who underlined his growing status as something of a talisman – a player bought from this humbled, dysfunctional Chelsea.

Havertz ‘was tremendous’ – Arteta

Kai Havertz celebrates his goal

Getty Images

Kai Havertz is making fools of those – well me, actually – who labelled him an “Arteta vanity project” when he struggled to identify his place in the team earlier in the season.

Even in the first half here, Havertz’s languid style infuriated a small number of Arsenal fans, but not for long as by the end his name was echoing around amid the celebrations, the German even being serenaded loudly after the final whistle.

His two goals either side of the hour snuffed out the unlikeliest of prospects, a Chelsea comeback, his second goal a thrilling high finish after one of those glorious passes Martin Odegaard produces with such wonderful regularity.

The elegant Havertz is suddenly becoming something of a lucky charm for Arsenal. He has scored in 11 games this season and the Gunners have won them all.

Arteta told BBC Sport: “His overall contribution in every phase of play was tremendous. When you add the two goals he scored and some of the link-up play that he had in big moments, it was a great performance.”

Arsenal were never in serious danger of spoiling that record against a Chelsea side whose performance gave mediocrity a bad name. One young fan watching Mauricio Pochettino’s team subside brandished a banner reading: “I don’t want your shirt. I want you to fight for ours.”

Safe to say he will have returned home sorely disappointed. It is a harsh word but in this case accurate. Chelsea’s second half display was gutless.

For the hosts, it was an occasion free of the nerves that riddled them in the loss to Villa, a night when the party pieces could come out and confidence could be even further bolstered before the seismic north London derby at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

Games like this, at this stage of the season, are so often tight and settled on fine margins and details. Not here as Arsenal ran riot in the face of Chelsea’s non-existent challenge.

Their performance ticked every box Arteta would have wanted before the game and then some, apart from maybe missing chances that might have put their goal difference even further out of sight.

Small quibbles on a night that was pretty much perfection before the scenery moves to Goodison Park and the Amex Stadium on Wednesday and Thursday.

Over to you Liverpool and Manchester City.

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