Terry's inclusion in the Blues starting XI was always going to be a talking point, coming as it did only a day after he was found guilty by the FA of using racist language towards QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.
But the Blues skipper once again produced a calm and determined performance in front of a hostile Emirates Stadium crowd as his side withstood a late Gunners barrage to bank another vital three points.
"I think it was the right choice from my side to pick him," Di Matteo said. "He showed his leadership qualities and what a good defender he is for the team."
After the match Terry removed his boots and gave them to a young Chelsea fan in the away end.
"There’s always a lot of talk about the negative side of him, but he does a lot of good work as well," his manager added. "He gives a lot of boots away to young kids, and he does a lot of other positive stuff as well."
Chelsea often found itself stretched by a determined Arsenal team roared on by a raucous home crowd, but goals from Fernando Torres and Juan Mata secured a victory which keeps them top of the Premier League.
The creative trio of Eden Hazard, Mata and Oscar particularly impressed as they combined neatly in possession and worked hard out of it, and Di Matteo admitted he was happy with their progress.
"I’m very pleased with the performance, and I think we deservedly won," he added. "We played against a very good team but we came here with the intention of having the initiative and we did so, and we didn’t allow Arsenal to get into any kind of rhythm.
"We still have a lot of work to do. We’ve not been together for very long and that shows at times. It’s just a matter of working on the training ground and trying to improve.
"Mata seems to be back in very good shape. I think the little break we gave him has done him a lot of good.
"We planned it because he had a busy summer, going straight from the Euros to the Olympics, and if we didn’t give him a break it would have had an effect, but he is looking good.
"I’m really pleased with the way we played, and that gives the team a lot of confidence that we can play differently and change our style a little bit from last season."