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Emery's Ramsey masterstroke breathes new life into Arsenal's top-four hopes

20:23 GMT 19/01/2019
Aaron Ramsey Arsenal 2018-19
The Welshman marked Jorginho out of the game as Arsenal impressed with their intensity in a fully deserved and vital 2-0 win over Chelsea

Arsenal manager Unai Emery admitted before Saturday's crunch Premier League clash with Chelsea that defeat would kill his side's hopes of a top-four finish.

However, the Spaniard's Aaron Ramsey tactical masterstroke has breathed new life into them, with the versatile midfielder offering a bittersweet reminder of his many attributes in a crucial 2-0 victory.

A positive result was required for the Spaniard's side following last weekend's disappointing defeat at West Ham and while Mesut Ozil started on the bench, the creative spark that the Gunners lacked at London Stadium took just 14 minutes to show itself against the Blues.

Hector Bellerin threaded the ball through to Alexandre Lacazette and the Frenchman made no mistake with a thumping finish which flew past Kepa into the roof of the net, giving the hosts a lead they fully deserved after creating an abundance of chances in the opening stages.

Only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (six) has scored more goals in Premier League London derbies this season than Lacazette (five) and it's clear that the Frenchman savours and excels in hard-fought games.

Indeed, his intensity, harrying and constant pressurising of opposition defences have already endeared him to the Arsenal faithful to such an extent that faint boos could be heard among the supporters when he was hauled off in the second half by Emery, with the hosts two goals to the good thanks to Laurent Koscielny's header/shoulder.

The man of the hour, though, was undoubtedly Aaron Ramsey, a player who has already agreed to join Juventus this summer when his contract expires.

With a deal worth €7 million a year, the Welshman will become one of the highest paid players in Serie A when he moves to Italy.

However, while some players may have allowed themselves to be distracted by future fame and glory, Ramsey remains as committed as ever before to helping Arsenal in the here and now, as he underlined with a sterling performance that saw him mark Chelsea playmaker Jorginho out of the game.

The Italy international makes Maurizio Sarri’s side tick but if if you stop Jorginho, you stop Chelsea – and that’s exactly what Ramsey and Arsenal did at a freezing cold Emirates Stadium.

Emery had stated on the eve of the game that Eden Hazard was among "the top five players in the world” but he failed to make any contribution note in this game thanks to Arsenal's determined and dogged defensive work.

Marcos Alonso came close after hitting the woodwork but Sarri’s side were lethargic and struggled to contain a rampant Arsenal side who played with the kind of intensity Emery has demanded since he was appointed as head coach last summer.

Bernd Leno kept his second clean sheet of the season, Arsenal’s fourth in the league, while Sokratis celebrated winning a sliding tackle on Willian with the kind of celebration you see after someone has scored a 90th-minute winner.

The Greek defender has made a significant improvement to the back four this season and, just like Lacazette, his passion is another reason why the fans have taken to him so readily.

With this most spirited and merited of victories, Arsenal are now level on points with in-form Manchester United and just three behind fourth-placed Chelsea. The battle for Champions League football will be desperately hard-fought.

So, while Ramsey's performance against Chelsea will only intensify the fans' frustration that he is leaving in the summer, they will at least take comfort in the fact that they will be able to count on him right until the end.