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Dublin: 6 °C Wednesday 25 April, 2018

Same old Arsenal and more Sunday Premier League talking points

Plus, Everton were their own worst enemy again as they were beaten by Swansea.

1. Same old Arsenal

SPEAKING AHEAD OF today’s game with Chelsea, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said the following:

“We have shown since that last game that we can do it and that we can face big fights.

“We have improved on that front. But we have to combine the fighting spirit with a relaxed attitude and a controlled attitude.

“We have to be controlled. Discipline is very important.

“We can master and control our own behaviour, so what is important is that we focus on us.”

And indeed discipline did prove to be very important in today’s match with Chelsea, but unfortunately for Wenger, Arsenal came up short in that regard not for the first time.

Per Mertesacker became the seventh Arsenal player in the Premier League history to be sent off against Chelsea — the Gunners have more red cards against them than any other club — after committing a rash early challenge on Diego Costa to prevent the striker running through on goal.

It was a moment that changed the game and Arsenal never looked likely to win the match thereafter, as Chelsea nervously emerged with their fourth victory in the past six league matches with Arsenal.

And despite Wenger’s insistence that his side have changed their ways, there was a sense of déjà vu about this afternoon’s game at the Emirates, as the Gunners ultimately cracked amid the pressure of a big match.

Consequently, you are left wondering whether Arsenal have really improved much at all this season, or perhaps their current standing just three points off the top of the table is more a reflection of their rivals’ considerable drop in standard of late.

2. Everton their own worst enemy again

Everton v Swansea City - Barclays Premier League - Goodison Park Everton's John Stones looks dejected following his side's defeat. Source: Martin Rickett

Once again, Everton were their own worst enemies as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat to Swansea at Goodison Park today.

The Toffees produced an inept, lethargic display that caused the home crowd to get on the team’s backs early on.

The hosts’ woe was epitomised by John Stones doing his best to dispel rumours of an alleged £50 million price tag put on the England international, with a woefully underhit backpass, which led to the penalty for the visitors’ first goal.

The performance summed up Everton’s season in many respects, as a phenomenally talented squad, by Premier League standards, were let down by silly defensive errors.

Roberto Martinez will therefore need to rectify the poor form of Stones and his coterie of underachievers at the club soon — 12th place is simply not good enough for a side with the Toffees’ quality, and the Spanish manager is likely to come under pressure if results don’t improve imminently.

3. Fabregas and Costa starting to look back to their best

Beating Arsenal at the Emirates today was arguably Chelsea’s best result of the season so far. However, the win could not be described as a ‘convincing’ one.

Even against 10 men, Guus Hiddink’s team looked overly cautious and pragmatically held on to their advantage rather than genuinely attempting to consolidate it.

That said, there were positives for the Blues. Diego Costa scored his sixth goal in six games (under Mourinho, he managed only four in 20 earlier this season), highlighting his improvement in recent weeks with an opportunistic strike, just after Mertesacker’s dismissal, on 23 minutes.

Similarly impressive was man-of-the-match Cesc Fabregas, who completed 66 passes and was unlucky not to win a penalty amid an influential display from the 28-year-old midfielder against his former club.

After the game, Fabregas told Sky he was “nearly” back to his best, and it was hard to disagree based on today’s display.

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Paul Fennessy

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