Mikel Arteta watched his Arsenal side return to the top of the Premier League table with victory over Chelsea before insisting he would not let his players’ heads drop.
The Gunners were eight points clear last month but had fallen behind Manchester City following a four-game winless run, a run that ended with a comfortable 3-1 win over the embattled Blues.
Captain Martin Odegaard netted twice before Gabriel Jesus wrapped up the win before half-time, as Noni Madueke’s first league goal was mere consolation for Frank Lampard’s visitors.
Despite his recent run, Arteta had refused to rule Arsenal out of the title race and this victory gave them a two-point lead, although they have played two more games than City.
The Spaniard admitted he did not want to see morale drop after a painful defeat at City last week saw his lead vanish.
“Four games to go, we’re on top right now,” he said.
“We can’t do that (drop our heads), be where we are after 10 months against the team we’re fighting against, be there and have the chance to be the best, we have to enjoy it and embrace it, maximize the opportunity we have. because we don’t know what will happen.
“We wanted to have a very different approach to the game, and we did that from the start.
“The team has returned to its best level. We wanted to show that we had that fire in our stomachs. I could see that in the last few days, and we prepared well for the game.
“Mentally we arrived in the right frame of mind and with the right energy level. Everything worked out for us, which is important.
“We have had a couple of difficult weeks with very different matches, with a lot of emotions involved. We’re back at the top of the league, let’s see what happens.”
While it was a night to remember for skipper Odegaard, it was one his predecessor will quickly want to forget. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started for Chelsea for the first time since facing the Gunners on November 6, but he lasted just 45 minutes before being substituted after nine touches, four of which were kick-offs.
Arteta was full of praise for Odegaard and the example of the Norwegian international.
“He has 14 goals this season, his contribution to the team, his leadership, I am very happy with him,” he added.
“It has been exceptional for us, his contribution every day. I think he’s done that (set the tone) on many occasions. What Martin has done this season deserves a lot of credit.”
Chelsea have now lost all six games under interim head coach Frank Lampard, who believes his players are “too good” as they remain in the bottom half of the table.
“We weren’t good enough,” he admitted.
“We were too good to play against them, too passive. In possession we weren’t playing balls on his pressure, or winning second balls.
“Chelsea have been very successful for 20 years at national level and in the Champions League, at the moment we are not in that position.
“But from the moment I got here, it’s been clear that we’re too good as a team.
“We can’t change things overnight, but we better get there fast because we have another game this weekend and games to come.”