Arsenal lifted their awayday blues with a 3-2 Premier League victory at Cardiff.
Shkodran Mustafi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – with his 150th goal in the top five leagues of European football – twice gave the Gunners the lead before Alexandre Lacazette settled matters nine minutes from time.
Victor Camarasa and Danny Ward grabbed equalisers as Cardiff scored their first goals since returning to the Premier League – but Arsenal held on for only their second away league win in 2018.
Mesut Ozil was restored to the Arsenal line-up after missing the first win of the Unai Emery reign.
Ozil sat out the West Ham success amid reports of a training ground bust-up with his manager, who insisted the Germany midfielder had simply missed the game through illness.
Lacazette started his first game under Emery with Aubameyang deployed on the left of the attack and supported by Ozil and Aaron Ramsey, the Welshman back at his first club.
Emery’s determination to play from the back saw goalkeeper Petr Cech put under huge pressure in the opening minutes.
Cech was closed down on two occasions before presenting Harry Arter with a clear opportunity that the on-loan Bournemouth midfielder was unable to take.
There was similar confusion at the other end when Ramsey’s effort was pushed out by Neil Etheridge and Mustafi poked the rebound over.
But Arsenal were almost immediately ahead as Mustafi lost his marker, Sol Bamba, at Granit Xhaka’s corner to head home powerfully for his first goal since March.
Bruno Ecuele Manga’s mistake almost allowed Nacho Monreal to double the advantage but Cardiff were full of endeavour and there were plenty of moments to provide encouragement for that elusive goal.
Ward just failed to connect with Bobby Reid’s cross in front of goal and Reid also sent an acrobatic overhead kick over before Lacazette served warning of his threat by striking the Cardiff post from 20 yards.
The goal Cardiff craved came in the second minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half.
Xhaka needlessly gave away possession and Camarasa, the Spanish midfielder on loan from Real Betis, ended Cardiff’s 315-minute wait for a league goal by reacting quicker than Monreal to Joe Bennett’s cross.
Arsenal attempted to reassert their earlier authority after the break as Cardiff were penned back.
Lacazette shot over with his back to goal and Mustafi almost profited from another set-piece.
The pressure told after 62 minutes when Lacazette touched Ozil’s pass onto Aubameyang and the Gabon forward found the bottom corner of Etheridge’s net from 20 yards.
But Cardiff were level eight minutes later when Sean Morrison beat Ramsey in an aerial mismatch from Joe Ralls’ free-kick.
Morrison intelligently directed the ball towards Ward and his header beat the desparing Cech and went in off the far post.
Cardiff were sensing a famous win at that point – but substitute Lucas Torreira soon set up for Lacazette to score his first goal of the season with a thumping near-post finish.
London life has brought out a softer side in Maurizio Sarri that few, in Italy at least, ever believed existed.
The English press thought they were getting the third instalment to a feisty trilogy starring Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.
But, try as they did to rattle him with fair questions about a rap sheet including his abusive tirade at then Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini, Sarri presented a humble face. Grave, even. The message being that the past had been left in Napoli.
There is little sign that the façade is ready to crack. If Claudio Ranieri is the grandfather everyone would love to have then, at his most genial, Sarri has at least given off the impression of a friendly uncle.
Some Italian journalists though remain sceptical. As one put it, while it is surprising how quickly Chelsea’s players have adapted to his style of football, that the 58-year-old has maintained pristine PR so far is almost incredible.
The simple explanation is that Sarri has had no cause to unsheathe his knives just yet. Four Premier League games, four wins, little scrutiny, little pressure.
You won’t find a bad word about him from his players, either – liberated from the claustrophobia under Conte with the high press and quick passing in the attacking third.
BUT WAIT A MINUTE …
The good times will end. Sarri admitted as much himself after Saturday’s victory over Bournemouth. And if you’re reading the tea leaves then a familiar fuzzy shape emerges – David Luiz.
Conte’s fourth-choice centre-back has been installed as Sarri’s premier defender, and has remained so despite the comical interludes in some otherwise superb Chelsea performances.
Kalidou Koulibaly learned the art of Sarrismo defending at Napoli and once called his former coach a ‘scholar’ such is his knowledge of the game. The only studying Luiz has demonstrated so far is his Master’s degree in ball-watching.
Caught out of position numerous times in the helter-skelter win at Arsenal, his lack of spatial awareness for Joselu’s equaliser against Newcastle was vintage David defending.
Even the Bournemouth game could so easily have turned out differently if not for Callum Wilson’s awful finishing. Wilson had his head in his hands by the time Luiz realised he was out of position. While his partner Antonio Rudiger will never be the Lothar Matthaus of his generation, at least he has the safety valve of his physicality. There is nothing safe about Luiz.
Sarri though thinks he can tutor Luiz, and may even be under the impression that the Brazilian simply has not had enough time to digest his myriad requests.
To break down Sarri’s philosophy in layman’s terms a defender is taught to defend the ball, not the man. In open play that means constantly checking position to shut down passing lanes and compact space. From dead-ball situations that means zonal marking.
Luiz had the chance to pick the brains over some of the best defensively astute coaches in football in Mourinho and Conte but has remained a clumsy, meme-worthy maverick.
What chance Sarri corrects habits of a lifetime? There is some value in his ability on the ball and Sarri admires such attributes in his defenders for his lightning-quick transitions. Being so susceptible in defence, however, is too steep a price to pay.
It is why Sarri must make his first bold move, or at least admit his mistake, and bring Andreas Christensen back in from the cold.
Maybe the ugly error that Christensen made in such a high-profile game against Barcelona last season – needlessly passing across the goal and allowing Lionel Messi to intercept – is nestled in the back of his mind.
It was the biggest error in perhaps a handful during a year that saw the 22-year-old break through and become one of Conte’s most trusted enforcers.
Clearly he cannot have blown away Sarri on the training ground yet, but it is worth noting that last term the Dane completed a team-leading 96 per cent of his passes in the Champions League. It’s just that one particular pass of that errant four per cent was so costly.
Even if he did undergo Sarri-induced growing pains there is more sense developing a player of the future than teaching an old, slightly rabid dog in Luiz new tricks.
The alternative is opening the chequebook in a market that has seen Virgil van Dijk move for £75 million and nearly tempt Manchester United into parting with at least £60m for Harry Maguire off the back of one World Cup. Manchester City also paid around £50m a piece for potential in John Stones and Aymeric Laporte. What, then, is Christensen worth?
Well, at least a very strong look. Sarri should pre-empt a disaster and get rid of his class clown for a potential star pupil, otherwise we’ll soon find out exactly how grumpy he can get.
Following a difficult start to the campaign and a chaotic pre-season in which Pogba had to deal with several jibes from Jose Mourinho, the rumours have not gone away that the France World Cup winner could depart.
Reportedly, Pogba is ready to force a move out of Old Trafford amid suggested interest from the Old Lady – the club he won four consecutive Serie A titles with between 2012 and 2016.