Chelsea are now comfortably ahead of Arsenal in the race for the top four, but their performance was anything but comfortable as they struggled past Newcastle in Saturday’s late kick-off.
Goals either side of half-time from under fire forwards Pedro and Willian were enough to secure the three points necessary to heap further misery upon Unai Emery’s Arsenal side, following their third loss in five away games against West Ham United earlier in the day.
Chelsea were out of blocks quickly and raced ahead within nine minutes as Pedro latched onto David Luiz’s ball in behind to lob the onrushing Martin Dubravka. As quickly as they started the game, however, Maurizio Sarri’s men soon enough sank into their typical air of ponderous complacency, gifting Newcastle a route back into the game through static off the ball movement, which allowed the Magpies to man-mark all over the pitch. Ciaran Clark was to be the man to make Chelsea pay when he headed in unmarked from a corner with five minutes of the first-half to play.
Despite persistent criticism of his end product, and rumours of him leaving for Barcelona, Brazilian winger Willian proved his quality to restore his side’s lead when he cut in from the left-hand edge of the box to curl the ball in off the post.
Relief was hanging in the air come the final whistle as Chelsea created very few chances to put the game beyond doubt, hanging on to move six points clear of Arsenal.
Here’s how we rated the Blues after the game.