There was a time, just briefly during the Premier League era, when Chelsea
and the sub-plot of Jose Mourinho going head-to-head with Arsene Wenger, was
the defining confrontation of the season.
Good players certainly remain on both teams but, for a compelling illustration
of why Manchester and not London is now the indisputablecapital of English
football, a recording of this match would suffice.
Yes, Chelsea eventually did just enough to scrape past an Arsenal team lacking
both quality and basic fighting spirit but the way they almost let slip a
two-goal lead for the second time in six days was characteristic of
also-rans rather than eventual champions.
Familiar problems were evident, not least in the form of Fernando Torres but
it was still critical for Rafael Benitez to record what has been only his
second win at Stamford Bridge since replacing Roberto di Matteo in November.
An added bonus for Benitez of Frank Lampard scoring in the 16th minute was
that even the usual chants for Di Matteo were forgotten.
Chelsea were on the front-foot from the very first minute when they had a
plausible penalty appeal waved away after Abou Diaby appeared to man-handle
Oscar to the floor. With Ramires and Lampard dominant in central midfield
and Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard all initially interchanging to mesmerising
affect further forward, it quickly looked like a matter of time before
Chelsea went ahead.