Per Mertesacker’s 18th minute dismissal for pulling down goal ward bound Diego Costa proved the turning point in Sunday’s match at the Emirates.
Soon afterwards, Costa scored the only goal of the match after volleying home an excellent cross from Branislav Ivanovic.
The win set Chelsea on their way to a sixth win over the Gunners in nine meetings, excluding the Community Shield – the other three have been drawn – and Hiddink’s only criticism of his players could be that they failed to find the killer second goal.
Cesc Fàbregas was outstanding, setting the tempo in midfield and impressing with his poise and vision while Willian was also dangerous.
Arsenal’s regrets centered upon the red card and Wenger blustered about the decision from the referee, Mark Clattenburg, as having been “quick and harsh”. Yet he was simply angry that his team had been forced to confront such streetwise opponents with 10 men for so long. It made for what he suggested were exceptional circumstances and deepened the sense of regret.
Wenger felt that Chelsea might have been there for the taking had his team retained 11 players but the visitors were comfortable even before Mertesacker’s dismissal, with Oscar and Willian working Cech.
Wenger had made the decision to sacrifice Olivier Giroud for Gabriel Paulista – the replacement defender that he needed – and, if the Emirates crowd did not like the substitution, Giroud was even less happy.
The striker gestured with his outstretched arms and initially dragged his heels as he made his way off, until Flamini came across to chivvy him along. Mertesacker and Giroud would be spotted in their club suits
But the 1-0 defeat left Arsenal in third place, three points adrift of surprise leader Leicester and behind Manchester City on goal difference.
Sunday’s early kickoff in England saw Swansea ease its relegation problems with a 2-1 away win at Everton in the first match in charge for Italian coach Francesco Guidolin.