Arsenal still lacking mental strength, says Neil Humphreys
Wenger's flops still lack mental strength to win title
Arsenal's defeat had such a weary sense of predictability.
Everyone saw the Chelsea victory coming. This wasn't the twist at the end of The Sixth Sense, where the little boy sees dead people all the time.
This was the Emirates Stadium, where exasperated Gunners fans see the walking dead all the time.
Arsenal once again demonstrated that they are a glossy facade in search of a spine.
Against minnows, they can be the most artistic of terminators; relentless, counter-attacking machines that will not be stopped until at least three different members of the first 11 have found the net.
Against opponents with a little resistance, however, they melt like that character in Terminator 2, leaving nothing but a puddle of liquid metal to step over. Heavy artillery isn't required to clean them up, just a mop and bucket.
Manager Arsene Wenger went on, and on, about Diego Costa's monstrous presence yesterday morning (Singapore time), claiming that the Spaniard had conspired to get two Gunners sent off in consecutive games.
Costa can be an irritating spectacle at the best of times and was heavily involved in Gabriel Paulista's sending-off in September and Per Mertesacker's red card yesterday.
But if Costa was an insufferable cretin in the Stamford Bridge encounter, he could hardly be blamed for Arsenal's troubling lack of backbone at the Emirates.
Wenger (above) plays the victim's broken record in a transparent attempt to silence another, more damning indictment of the club's stuttering progress.
The man in the mirror remains their most terrifying opponent. Self-doubt isn't merely an occupational hazard in crunch games in the Gunners' dressing room. It's a way of life.
In recent years, battles between Chelsea and Arsenal have taken on the complexion of Mike Tyson's earliest heavyweight title bouts. Contests were conceded in the tunnel. It was defeat by eye contact.
For most of the season, the Blues have made tremendous progress in their efforts to put on the most calamitous title defence in history.
They painted a masterpiece last May and then invited a dozen chimpanzees into the exhibition - all wearing Chelsea jerseys - and handed them tins of paints and instructed them to do their worst.
Arsenal, on the other hand, were busy going about their annual business of convincing those naive folks who really should know better by now that they finally had the mental fortitude to beat the big boys and finish on top.
But they don't.
Mertesacker, like Wenger, had no complaints. The German centre back's red card was thoroughly warranted. He wasn't up for the fight.
Costa, the unapologetic force of belligerence, stalked the Gunners' brittle back four like a school bully hanging out in the canteen and waiting to steal the new kids' lunch money.
Despite the popular perception that Arsenal are fully equipped to win the weakest title race in EPL history, they still lack a defender to handle a striker of Costa's brutish strength. They do not boast a forward to rival his totemic qualities either.
They might in time. Their dash for the summit depends on how quickly Alexis Sanchez returns to full fitness.
Nevertheless, the old flakiness remains. Arsenal's tendency to make a mess of the floor, rather than opponents, hasn't been fully eradicated and perhaps derives from the top.
Wenger obviously needed to recalibrate his formation after Mertsacker's red card, but the manager's decision to remove Olivier Giroud was met with derision.
The shock was palpable. Arsenal were a man down, but the score was 0-0 with the best part of 70 minutes still to play in front of a home crowd.
But Wenger removed his only natural target man, a resurgent striker with nine goals in 10 games, and effectively waved a white flag. The decision came across as defeatist.
Chelsea went ahead a minute later, through Costa, naturally. Arsenal rarely looked like scoring.
Wenger's post-match complaints inadvertently came across as whiny. He focused on Costa kicking sand in his players' faces, rather than address the more embarrassing, underlying failing.
Those bullying boys in blue are always kicking sand in Arsenal's faces.
The Gunners haven't scored against Chelsea in 572 Premier League minutes. The assumption was that Wenger couldn't beat Jose Mourinho, but the reality is simpler. He just can't beat Chelsea.
Too much testosterone isn't good for Arsenal's sensitive souls. The muscle men can still overwhelm Wenger's thinkers.
In just over two weeks, Leicester City will visit the Emirates. Unlikely heroes Wes Morgan, Daniel Drinkwater and particularly N'Golo Kante would do well to borrow from Chelsea's physical template.
The Gunners might have finally learnt to win ugly this season. But they're not yet ugly enough to win the title.
Arsenal have been shown more red cards against Chelsea than they have against any other EPL opponents.
The Gunners have won just three of their last 23 league games against the Blues.