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Chelsea’s indignity laid bare: Even children do not want their shirts

Young Chelsea supporter - Chelsea's indignity laid bare: Even children do not want their shirts
A young Chelsea supporter made a polite request to the players – but it would appear the message did not get through

Around halfway through the second half here, as the Chelsea defence disintegrated in the most humiliating fashion, a young supporter held up a banner in the away end. “I don’t want your shirt,” it read. “I want you to want to fight for ours.”

As a single image, and as a collection of words, it said more about this disastrous Chelsea performance — and this shambolic campaign — than any of the five goals Arsenal struck at the Emirates Stadium. Not just because of the blunt nature of it, and not just because a child so young was holding it. But also because, evidently, it was made in advance.

Clearly, that boy and his family knew what was coming. How damning is that? What does that say of this team, and the lack of faith they have generated? What does that say of this £1 billion project, and all of the players who have signed those near-decade long contracts?

To think, there have been times in recent weeks when it seemed as if Chelsea were beginning to build something of substance. The 4-3 win over Manchester United, the 6-0 win over Everton. Even in defeat by Manchester City at the weekend, there were signs of promise.

‘No structure, no cohesion, no organisation, no edge’

This embarrassment at the Emirates makes a mockery of those suggestions of progress. Chelsea showed none of the qualities that are required against a team of Arsenal’s class. No structure, no cohesion, no organisation, no edge.

Their game-plan, it seemed, was to effectively roll the dice and hope it landed in their favour. It was end-to-end from the first minute, with blue shirts running in all directions. High stakes, high risk. At times in the first half, the unusual nature of their approach seemed to perplex the Arsenal defence, who looked genuinely vulnerable on a few occasions.

But most of the time, Arsenal were simply cutting through. They are devastating when they have space to run into, which is why almost every opponent works hard to deny it to them. Chelsea, it became clear within just three minutes, were not interested in taking that same approach.

Mikel Arteta’s side created chance after chance, producing shot after shot. In the first half alone, Arsenal had 13 shots on goal — the most efforts they have ever had against Chelsea in the opening 45 minutes of a Premier League game. They could have scored with four of them, if not more.

Half-time was Mauricio Pochettino’s opportunity to steady the ship, to calm things down and build some sort of structure. He either would not or could not, neither of which reflects well on his management or his squad.

From a Chelsea perspective, it was with grim inevitability that Kai Havertz proved to be so instrumental on the night. Havertz, of course, was one of the players sold to fund the acquisition of the new lot. As the German ran through to score Arsenal’s third, and then calmly slotted the fourth, it was not even worth asking the question about which team was on the better end of that deal.

Kai Havertz - Chelsea's indignity laid bare: Even children do not want their shirts
Kai Havertz scored twice against his former club – who failed to mention him by name on their social media posts - Action Images /Matthew Childs

Laughably, Chelsea’s official social media channels did not even mention Havertz by name. When Ben White scored his two goals, Chelsea credited him on their X account. For Havertz’s efforts, they said “goal to Arsenal” and “goal to the Gunners”. You can add pettiness to the club’s list of faults on the night.

Would Cole Palmer have made a difference here? He might have provided some composure and class on the ball, but not one reasonably minded Chelsea supporter would think he alone is the solution.

Palmer’s presence would not have stopped White strolling in to score twice, unmarked. Palmer’s presence would not have stopped Enzo Fernandez moving away from Havertz, rather than to the ball, when the German scored the fourth. Palmer’s presence would not have stopped Nicolas Jackson shooting wide after beating Gabriel Magalhaes.

The result means that Chelsea have now conceded 57 goals this season, the most in their Premier League history – and they still have six games remaining. This was their biggest ever defeat by Arsenal, and their heaviest defeat in a London derby since a 6-0 loss to Queens Park Rangers in March 1986.

It was, in other words, a night of historically bad proportions. The fallout will be intense, and the questions of Pochettino will rain down like hailstones. In his press conference he spoke about inconsistency, and none of his words were more accurate than these: “When we have bad days, we are so bad.”

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