Chelsea defeated Arsenal 6-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday in a game most significant for Kieran Gibbs being sent off by referee Andre Marriner for a handball actually committed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
On the occasion of Arsene Wenger's 1,000th game in charge of the Gunners, there was much optimism that his side may be able to close the gap on table-toppers Chelsea to one point.
It's written in the stars. Wenger's 1000th game, beating Chelsea, the first time they'd have ever lost at home with Josè as manager. 🙏— Lucas Thurgööd (@LucasThurgood) March 19, 2014
But it was not to be. Jose Mourinho's Chelsea romped to their win and look more and more likely to claim the league title.
Trailing 2-0 within the first seven minutes, Arsenal's problems were exacerbated when Oxlade-Chamberlain threw a hand at an Eden Hazard shot. Marriner gave a penalty and then rightly issued a red card. However, he dismissed the wrong man, and Twitter reacted appropriately—bemused, bewildered and amused:
Ref Marriner looked to be receiving duff advice in his earpiece. What's the 4th official for? Oh yes, banter, and getting people to sit down— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) March 22, 2014
Easy mistake... pic.twitter.com/pBpmh6EsBM— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) March 22, 2014
Despite this horrendous gaffe, the result can hardly be disputed, with the Blues on a different level to a poor Arsenal side.
Goals from Samuel Eto'o, Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle, Mohamed Salah and a double from Oscar saw Chelsea stretch their lead at the top to seven points from second-place Liverpool.
And they deserved their win, as the stats from the game showed:
Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal FT. Shots: 21-12. Possession: 51%-49%. Key passes: 11-7. Take-ons: 7-11. Tackles won: 8-12. Clearances: 27-25. #CFCvAFC— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 22, 2014
Chelsea scored more goals today (6) than Arsenal had shots on target (5). pic.twitter.com/ein2T2zWha— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 22, 2014
The result means that Arsenal look to be falling off the pace in the title race and may have to target winning the FA Cup if they want to claim their first piece of silverware since 2005.
Most aggravating for Arsenal fans will be the fact that they do not seem to be able to beat the other title challengers, as The Guardian's Daniel Taylor pointed out:
Arsenal fans walking out here. Aggregate score in their combined matches at Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool now 16-4— Daniel Taylor (@DTguardian) March 22, 2014
It was an inauspicious result for Wenger on this landmark occasion and one that will need to be examined closely.