Alexis Sanchez took advantage of Gary Cahill’s error to race clear and lift a composed finish over Thibaut Courtois after 11 minutes, and Theo Walcott completed a brilliant move to steer in Hector Bellerin’s pass three minutes later.
Mesut Ozil then left N’Golo Kante trailing to expose Chelsea on the counter-attack and steer home Arsenal’s third five minutes before the break, after an exchange with Sanchez.
It was little more than damage limitation for Chelsea after that as they fell to their second league loss in a row as rampant Arsenal moved third in the table.
Arsenal, for all Chelsea’s obvious frailties, were simply untouchable from back to front in a magnificent first 45 minutes that revived memories of their finest days.
The Gunners showed pace, skill, pressed Chelsea into submission and probed weaknesses ruthlessly in the manner of a team at the top of its game.
Arsenal’s fans, so often frustrated and having already expressed their discontent at home this season, left Emirates Stadium with a spring in their step and sharing the optimism expressed by manager Arsene Wenger.
He wrote in his programme notes: “We feel as though we are on the way up.”
This was a performance that spoke eloquently on behalf of Wenger’s theory – with the proviso Gunners fans have heard this talk before only to be disappointed.
This, however, was a magnificent exhibition of power, pace and end product, from the skills of Sanchez and Ozil in attack to the lightning speed and tackling of Bellerin at the back.
It was as complete an Arsenal performance as they have delivered for some time. Now can they build on the platform laid by this brilliant 90 minutes?
Chelsea looked an old and jaded side when faced with Liverpool’s intense, aggressive approach at Stamford Bridge last week, their first loss under Antonio Conte.
This was, arguably, an even more harrowing experience and a stark illustration of the job the Italian must do to revive Chelsea.
Conte will know the pressures that come with managing under demanding owner Roman Abramovich, but the man who impressed so much in charge of Juventus and Italy must be given time to address so many problems.
Chelsea still rely so heavily on 35-year-old captain John Terry, out injured here, while elements of the side that looked so strong winning the title the season before last are crumbling.
Branislav Ivanovic had a miserable game but it was even worse for England defender Cahill, who was responsible for Sanchez’s opener and also involved in an arm-waving spat with Courtois after a breakdown in communication in the second half
Kante does not have the energy and support he had in midfield at Leicester City, with Nemanja Matic laboured and Cesc Fabregas off the pace and substituted. The hero of last season’s title win was left trailing in Ozil’s wake for Arsenal’s third.
Eden Hazard has regressed again while Diego Costa’s only serious contribution was to conduct another war against the world.
In other words, Conte has a large job on his hands.
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