Chelsea found the perfect cure for their European misery as the Blues won 4-1 against Arsenal to guarantee a top-three finish. Guus Hiddink's side arrived at the Emirates Stadium still smarting from their controversial UEFA Champions League exit to Barcelona, but first half goals from Alex and Nicolas Anelka followed by a Kolo Toure own goal and Florent Malouda's late effort helped salve the wounds from their 6 May defeat.
Although Chelsea's biggest victory at Arsenal since 1970 mathematically keeps their title challenge alive, it also seals a place in next season's UEFA Champions League group stages and condemns Arsenal to fourth place and the pressure of a qualifier, potentially against a formidable opponent from Italy, Spain or Germany.
Nicklas Bendtner got one back for Arsenal, but defeat capped a miserable week for Arsene Wenger's team, who lost their 21-match unbeaten run in the league five days after being brushed aside by Manchester United. Hiddink had resisted the temptation to take Didier Drogba out of the firing line following his rant at referee Tom Henning Ovrebo in the aftermath of Barcelona's last-gasp victory. Wenger was less forgiving to Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who was dropped after another lacklustre display against United.
Arsenal's Theo Walcott raided down the right dangerously in the early stages, forcing Petr Cech into action when he met Samir Nasri's astute pass with a close-range shot that the Chelsea keeper parried for a corner. Walcott was at the heart of an equally incisive move that should have led to the opening goal.
Nasri turned to pick out Walcott and his low cross was perfectly weighted for Abou Diaby. But with just Cech to beat the French midfielder scuffed tamely wide. Diaby tried to make amends as he teased Alex with a powerful run and cross that gave Walcott a clear sight of goal, but poor finishing let the hosts down once again as Walcott side-footed wide.
Those misses came back to haunt Arsenal as the Blues snatched the lead completely against the run of play. It was a moment of controversy involving Drogba that produced the 28th minute goal. He went down easily under pressure from Cesc Fabregas, earning the Arsenal captain a booking when he protested Drogba had dived.
From the resulting free-kick, Drogba curled over an inviting delivery that Alex, climbing above Mikael Silvestre, met with a powerful header which beat Lukasz Fabianski via the crossbar. Chelsea had become the first side to score a league goal at Arsenal since Robbie Keane struck for Liverpool in December.
Fabregas's frustration poured out and he was fortunate to escape a second booking for a lunge on Malouda moments later. There was worse to come as former Arsenal forward Anelka increased Chelsea's lead in the 39th minute. Taking possession just inside the Arsenal half, Anelka made a surging run towards the penalty area and, with the Gunners defence backing off, he lashed a fierce swerving strike past Fabianski.
Chelsea's sheer size and power had worn down Wenger's more fragile talents and the visitors scored again in the 49th minute with the assist coming from another former Gunner. Ashley Cole, taunted as usual by the home fans, made a forceful run down the left and, when he crossed into the penalty area, Toure diverted the ball into his own net.
Bendtner provided a brief respite from the gloom in the 70th minute when he rose to power Bacary Sagna's cross past Cech. But Malouda put the seal on Chelsea's day - and Arsenal's heaviest Emirates defeat - when he tapped-in after Anelka's shot hit a post in the 86th minute.