Youngsters deliver for Arsenal as scrutiny shifts to Lampard

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Arsenal's Bukayo Saka, second left, celebrates after scoring his sides 3rd goal of the game during their English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates stadium in London, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020. (Andrew Boyers/ Pool via AP)

With his job increasingly on the line after an alarming start to the season, Mikel Arteta placed his faith in Arsenal's kids to get the team out of trouble.

They delivered for their under-pressure manager.

Powered by two 19-year-olds — Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka — and a 20-year-old in Emile Smith Rowe making his first start in the Premier League this season, Arsenal produced its best performance in some time to beat Chelsea 3-1 and lift some of the gloom over Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Arteta had billed the coming week, starting with the visit of Chelsea, as a “crucial” period that would determine which direction Arsenal was heading this season.

There was even some mischievous talk by Arsenal's rivals and critics of Arteta's team being in a relegation fight, given that it had lost five of the last seven league games — drawing the other two — to slip to 15th in the 20-club league.

A first league victory in nearly two months was vital, therefore, to boost Arsenal players' fragile confidence — even if it only lifted them into 14th place.

“We needed that. We needed to give the fans something,” Arsenal defender Kieran Tierney said. “It's something to build on.”

It took 90 minutes for the scrutiny that was hovering over Arteta to drift toward his Chelsea counterpart, Frank Lampard.