Chelsea Win Europa League in Style

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar June 5, 2019 16:49

Chelsea Win Europa League in Style

By Satish Sekar in Baku’s Olimpiya Stadionu © Satish Sekar (May 29th 2019)

Destroyed

Arsenal’s dreams of a trophy and Champions League football were dismantled in a clinical second half display by Chelsea in the Europa League Final in Baku. Despite Arsenal having far more at stake, and competing well in the first half – a Granit Xhaka pile-driver and a penalty claim by Alexandre Lacazette, which failed to impress Italian referee, Gianluca Rocchi, and VAR too, being the highlights – Arsenal were dismantled in the second half, almost exactly half of it to be precise.

Eden Hazard confirmed that he would be leaving Chelsea shortly after the final whistle, but did so with a Man of the Match performance. He scored a brace and contributed an assist too before departing early to a great reception from the crowd after 89 minutes.

The winner was, however, scored by former Arsenal favourite, Olivier Giroud after 49 minutes – a brave diving header to meet Emerson Palmierri’s cross from the left wing, beating Laurent Koscielny to the ball. It eluded former Chelsea and Czech legend, Petr Čech at his near post.

Čech was reduced to tear at the final whistle. He had done well, but Arsenal’s defence were awful and their much-vaunted defence all but toothless. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw a good opportunity come to nothing after an excellent block by Andreas Christensen – the Gabon striker was offside anyway.

Different Class

Just over ten minutes after Giroud’s goal, Pedro Rodríguez doubled Chelsea’s lead – Hazard got the assist. Ainsley Maitland-Niles tripped Giroud in the area after 64 minutes and Hazard made it three from the penalty spot by Hazard before Arsenal could muster a response.

Tellingly, it came after Mesut Özil was jeered from the pitch by Arsenal fans, enraged by another anonymous display. He departed to chants of ‘What a waste of money’ and was replaced by Joe Wilcock.

Fellow substitute Alex Iwobi briefly threated to make a match of it by pulling one back with an excellent effort after 69 minutes, but everything about it bar the finish was scrappy. Granit Xhaka’s free-kick from the left led to a bout of ping-pong before the ball broke to Iwobi outside the area.

Iwobi struck it sweetly to the opposite corner, giving Kepa Arizabalaga no chance. It didn’t matter. Hazard quickly restored order with Chelsea’s 4th. A one-two with Giroud on the left wing gave Hazard the opportunity to say his goodbyes to the Blues after seven years in style, beating Čech to his left.

There was still time for Wilcock to squander a glorious chance, but he is young, and needs time and opportunity to develop. It was, however, a costly loss.

Maurizio Sarri has at last on his first trophy. He confirmed that Hazard had told him earlier that he wanted to leave. He also said that he wanted to stay at Chelsea, and that there would be negotiations later. It will be a season of firsts completed at the weekend as either Jürgen Klopp or Mauricio Pochettino will break their European duck in the Champions League Final in Madrid.

 

Unfazed

Despite being taken apart by Chelsea in a devastating 23-minutes spell which exposed the frailty of Arsenal’s football, their lack of depth and invention when it mattered, their treble Europa League-winning coach, Unai Emery, remained defiant at least in terms of its effect on transfers.

With no Champions League football for a fourth season, and no trophies in the former Sevilla’s coach first season at the Emirates, Arsenal are at best a work in progress, and even that is in doubt.

Transfer Effect

Emery was asked by us if the defeat would affect the prospects of attracting new players to Arsenal after missing out on the Champions League again. His straight-bat answer will convince only those inclined to believe there are no cracks in Arsenal’s armoury.

“Maybe, Emery said, “but I think we are a big team. I think Arsenal is a big name in the world of football. A lot of players want to play here. We are in one process and we need, in this process, to be strong in our idea, to be strong in our way.

“I don’t know our targets for next year, but the club is working to improve and do everything in our way.

Without Champions League income and a reported budget of just £40m, without funding through sales, there are little options, but to rely on youth. They have talented players waiting in the wings like Wilcock, but without major revamping and spending where appropriate, Arsenal look destined for more struggles.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar June 5, 2019 16:49