16 Conclusions on Arsenal 5-0 Chelsea: Odegaard, White; Caicedo and Mudryk humbled; Cole Palmer FC

Arsenal players Martin Odegaard and Benjamin White, Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino and defender Marc Cucurella

Chelsea can hijack all the transfers they want but without that Arsenal structure it is pointless. Mikel Arteta might have just put Mauricio Pochettino down.

1) The rush to declare the Premier League title race over was always preposterously impulsive. Arsenal and Liverpool losing on the same weekend Manchester City strolled to a comfortable victory made for a neat but entirely false narrative. Pep Guardiola’s side are not of the relentless 2019 run-in vintage and remain more likely than not to drop points in at least one of their tough final six games.

The onus is on the two chasers to keep themselves in a position to capitalise, and Arsenal have reacted in stunning fashion to a damaging three-game run which could have defined their season.

Seven more goals. Two more clean sheets. A four-point gap Manchester City will have to work incredibly hard to reverse again. Arsenal are still not favourites but this is proof of genuine growth: the sort of skid which immediately brought last season’s challenge to a crashing, crushing halt has been, as Mikel Arteta demanded, a mere “bump in the road” this time.

2) Fair play to Mauricio Pochettino for at least trying to make the best of a bad situation, but it is difficult to recall a manager quote backfiring quite so quickly or catastrophically as his inspirational speech in the build-up to this game.

It is a good challenge in case Palmer is not available for tomorrow. If I am a teammate of Cole Palmer in his position or a similar position, for sure I am going to be motivated to go there tomorrow and show this is Chelsea Football Club, not Cole Palmer Football Club.

Cue a resounding defeat in which the keeper who conceded five goals was their best player. What an incredibly damning and very possibly sack-worthy indictment of Pochettino’s absolute inability to inspire this inexperienced group. They certainly showed this is Chelsea Football Club, just not in the way the manager intended.

3) Pochettino cannot avoid blame either. True as it is that he has been asked to build on quicksand with poor tools and substandard materials, he has played a bad hand terribly on so many occasions.

Dropping both Thiago Silva and Trevoh Chalobah after their excellent performances at Wembley was as inexplicable as some of Axel Disasi and Benoit Badiashile’s defending in their stead. The manager made no changes until Chelsea were 4-0 down and the game was gone. And when he did call on his substitutes, the formation became an increasingly incoherent mess of about five defenders who didn’t know which positions they were supposed to be taking up, and four forwards who could not sustain any attacks because the dreadful Moises Caicedo comprised the entirety of their midfield.

It was a terrible starting line-up compounded by some awful mid-game changes. Chelsea had one shot in the 30 minutes after making their first substitution: the tamest of free-kicks from an ineffective Raheem Sterling.

It has been said about many a manager before, but while Pochettino is undoubtedly not the problem at Stamford Bridge, he has not come close to feeling like a solution either.

 

4) The degree to which Chelsea rely on a 21-year-old new signing in his first season as a regular starter at senior level is absurd. The manager didn’t even feel Palmer was a necessary purchase and he could easily have joined a different club in the summer.

Chelsea have spent more than £1billion to be mid-table with the worst defensive record in their Premier League history – and it would have been even worse if Manchester City decided to entertain offers for their saviour earlier in the summer.

That alternative timeline is unthinkably awkward for Todd Boehly and his executive friends because with Palmer they are dysfunctional but without him they are diabolical. It is an almost irresponsible burden to place on his shoulders alone, yet his teammates have specifically proven either incapable of or unwilling to share it; there is a laughable amount of work to be done and no clarity on where to even start addressing that remarkable absence of leadership and maturity.

 

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