Willian and Batshuayi torment Arsenal as Chelsea enjoy dominant pre-season win in China
Richard Jolly reports on the all-Premier League pre-season contest that saw the Premier League champions run out comfortable winners.
Eight weeks late, 5,000 miles away and with rather less at stake, Chelsea belatedly produced the sort of dominant display that was expected in the FA Cup final.
A friendly in Beijing was a reminder of eviscerations of Arsenal in rather more meaningful matches, though scarcely revenge for May’s upset at Wembley.
It was a demonstration of why they became champions, even if the destroyers in chief were men who had bit-part roles last year. Willian deputised adeptly for the injured Eden Hazard and struck once. Michy Batshuayi produced an eloquent riposte to the signing of Alvaro Morata and scored twice, even if his arguments never quite seem persuasive enough to win Antonio Conte over.
Willian was the exception at Stamford Bridge, excelling in Chelsea’s traumatic 2015/16 season but struggling to replicate that form in the title-winning year. His focus was understandably affected by the death of his mother. He lost his place to Pedro.
The early indications, however, are that the Brazilian could make a flying start to the forthcoming campaign. He had already scored a hat-trick against Fulham. A fine finish in China followed, a reward for a series of purposeful, well-timed runs deep into Arsenal territory.
Batshuayi was another odd man out: three of last summer’s four signings became pivotal members of Conte’s side. He actually averages a goal every 48 minutes in the Premier League and scored the goal that clinched the title but was granted a solitary start. The suspicion is that the Italian would happily loan out the underused Belgian if he had enough other strikers.
In the meantime, however, Batshuayi supplied two emphatic finishes and would have had a hat-trick had a first-half effort not been disallowed for offside. It was nevertheless an indication of his predatory instincts. He adopted a shoot-on-sight policy, and a couple of early efforts were tame, but persistence was justified.
One theory is that Conte does not believe he possesses the all-round game of Morata and the now exiled Diego Costa, but he supplied Willian for the opener with a deft turn and precise pass.
With Morata and Antonio Rudiger yet to link up with their new colleagues and Tiemoue Bakayoko injured, Chelsea began without any summer signings.
Yet it enabled them to show the cohesion of a group accustomed to playing with each other. Eight were automatic choices in the title-winning side, and while Conte ended with a youthful second-string team with the game won, the starting XI provided testament of his desire to win.
In contrast, Arsene Wenger’s was a more experimental line-up. Chelsea have exposed Arsenal’s naivety before. They did again, even if it was more excusable. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, used out of position as a right-sided centre-back, coughed up possession to gift Willian an early chance. Cohen Bramall, who was playing non-league football for Hednesford Town and working in a Bentley factory before Arsenal signed him in January, was dispossessed by the irrepressible N’Golo Kante for the second goal.
Neither rookie is likely to start the season in the team. For each, it is part of their education. But for Per Mertesacker, a totemic figure in the FA Cup final, a troubled outing in a fragile defence was an unhappy rematch with Chelsea.
The margin of defeat would have been heavier but for new recruit Sead Kolasinac, who made a goal-saving challenge on Kenedy. The other arrival, Arsenal’s record signing Alexandre Lacazette, was both upstaged by Batshuayi and deprived of service in his 45-minute outing.
Olivier Giroud came off the bench, but his diminishing status seemed reflected when he was accidentally left off the teamsheet. Only Aaron Ramsey threatened a goal before the 18-year-old Donyell Malen struck the post.
And Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain faced Chelsea. Mooted as a target for them, it will be intriguing if he lines up on the opposite side in two weeks’ time when the Community Shield proves their third meeting in as many months. Chelsea looked readier for it.
Updated: July 22, 2017 07:13 PM