x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Gunners blow race wide open

The Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has said his London neighbours were lucky to win after TV replays show that Robin van Persie's first goal was offside.

Robin van Persie, right, was Arsenal's saviour.
Robin van Persie, right, was Arsenal's saviour.

London // They lack consistency, but their class remains intact. Arsenal also required a form of courageousness, as Arsene Wenger pointed out afterwards, in recovering to get out of Stamford Bridge with a 2-1 win on Sunday. The Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has said his London neighbours got lucky. A dispirited Scolari even depicted the referee Mike Dean and his assistants as dullards for failing to deem offside Robin van Persie's equalising goal around the hour mark.

"I want only after tomorrow that he looks at the TV, and the referee and the linesman see they are wrong, and say they are sorry," Scolari said. "That is all I want, because they were not good and made a mistake." No amount of finger-pointing and outrage will bring back this match for Scolari. This has not been the best of weeks for Chelsea. An unseemly 0-0 draw against Newcastle ran into Europe, where they were fortunate to escape from Bordeaux with a 1-1 in the Champions League. Some indifferent results have been played out against the backdrop of alleged sporting skullduggery. The suspended Didier Drogba has apparently had tea with Inter Milan representatives, while inferring he is going through the worst period of his career.

Chelsea have sustained only two defeats in the Premier League, but tellingly they have come against sides from inside the top four. Liverpool departed Stamford Bridge with a 1-0 win in October. Chelsea appeared to be on easy street when Johan Djourou scored an own goal in 31 minutes. But the Dutch player Van Persie blew their house down with two goals in three minutes. He converted Denilson's pass, and swivelled to thump a shot beyond Petr Cech in 62 minutes. It was a turning point in the game, and could yet be a meaningful moment in the league.

Arsenal were staring down a barrel at the interval of this match, facing dropping 13 points behind the leaders of the Premier League and, on the cusp of December, probably out of the running for the championship. They are lurching violently in this campaign, one week getting overrun by Manchester City the next wasting Chelsea. While Arsenal got a win of this, what Wenger takes out of such a profitable afternoon must be a moot point.

Wenger must feel slightly vexed when he considers some zany goings-on this season. Arsenal have overcome Manchester United and Chelsea, yet managed to scatter points in several barmy defeats. "It was a fantastic win. We've had a bad period in the league and we were 1-0 down, and still won in style," said Wenger. "We can have belief after beating Manchester United and now Chelsea away. That shows we have potential and character."

How Fulham, Hull and Stoke have managed to down Arsenal this season is beyond belief, yet they are back within seven points of Chelsea, and should feel reinvigorated. @Email:dkane@thenational.ae