The Blues overcame a poor first-half, to score four goals past Unai Emery’s side.
Maurizio Sarri’s men began with the game on the back foot, as the Gunners put tremendous pressure early on. However, it was the Blues who had the final say in the game as they thrashed their opponents for 4-1, thanks to a second-half tactical masterclass.
Arsenal started with an unusual 3-4-1-2 formation that saw Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles playing on the flanks making use of the entire breadth of the field. As wing backs, the duo had to do all the running for the team, providing as options in attack and equally in defending.
Thus, shifting to 5-3-2 while defending gave extra support for the three-man back line of Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal, as the wing backs dropped down deep. While attacking too, the wing backs surged forward and acted as makeshift wingers to make dangerous runs and put down crosses inside the box where Alexandre Lacazette was ever-present.
Lacazette and World Cup winner Ozil couldn’t prevent Arsenal from collapsing to Chelsea
All this worked pretty well for Unai Emery as his tactics seemed to work early on in the game. Arsenal looked deadly in the first quarter of the game as they very nearly found themselves an opener when Granit Xhaka pulled a towering shot from about 30 yards which brushed the wrong side of the crossbar.
However, as simple as the functioning of their formation sounds, it made life difficult for the Gunners as soon as Chelsea got a foothold of the game. The wing-backs on whom they were banking often found themselves out of position and the three-man defence line struggled to contain Chelsea’s attackers.
In contrast to Emery’s tactics, Sarri implemented a much simple strategy. Starting with a traditional 4-3-3, the Italian relied on his attacking troika of Eden Hazard, Pedro Rodriguez and Olivier Giroud up front. To his delight, the trio tuned in perfectly as they unleashed a superb attacking display as soon as the second half began.
In fairness, the Chelsea midfielders were far from being their best but the one job they successfully nailed was to silence Mesut Ozil– Arsenal’s only creative option in the attack. Jorginho had a major role to play as he often went off the radar to kill the Gunners’ counter attacks.
Meanwhile, the Blues’ attackers finally found the right track as short and direct passing saw them take the opposition defenders by surprise. Quickly adopting a direct gameplay, Chelsea began attacking right from the centre.
And as they found their opening goal – a brilliant header by Giroud from a rather odd position, all hell broke loose for the Gunners. By that time, Chelsea had gained a strong foothold in the game and began dominating a helpless Arsenal.
Eden Hazard scored two goals, in probably his last Chelsea match
At the hour mark, a brilliant passage of play by Hazard resulted in Pedro doubling their lead. The way Arsenal’s strategy had collapsed, it was always coming for them and minutes later, Chelsea scored another one.
Maitland-Niles, who had already created problems for the defence earlier, brought Giroud down inside the box with a silly push in the back. Hazard, who was already wreaking havoc in the attacking third then coolly slotted the ball in from the spot as a helpless Petr Cech looked on.
It was then that Emery brought on Alex Iwobi for the struggling Lucas Torreira and what an introduction the Nigerian was. Minutes after coming on, Iwobi scored a stunner from outside the box to give his side a ray of hope.
At that time, the Gunners still had the potential to turn the game around and taking into consideration the many astonishing European comebacks this season, no one could have denied the possibility of it.
However, just when the fans thought they were in for a thrilling comeback, Real Madrid-bound Hazard once again hit the back of the net, killing all their hopes for the night. Again it was all down to the swift passing between the Chelsea attackers that had rewarded them.
This was yet another excellent passage of play by the Blues’ which saw an exchange of magical one-touch passes during the build-up, as a helpless Arsenal defence looked on.
This was the Sarriball that Chelsea fans were talking about. This was the Sarriball that Chelsea demanded all the season. It all finally came down to when it mattered the most as the Blues’ brought home the Europa League title and ended the season on a high.