José Mourinho has rarely looked so enthused since his return to English football. The Chelsea manager had watched his team hassle, harass and humiliate local rivals and direct contenders for the title and his delight at the substitute Mohamed Salah's immediate reward on springing from the bench provoked a far more manic celebration even than usual. The Portuguese's brisk departure down the tunnel with normal time still ticking down was apparently born of a desire to telephone his wife with news of the result. When a victory resonates this momentously, such urgency seems more justified.
That the leaders had reserved their most brutally emphatic display of Mourinho's stewardship – new or old – for Arsène Wenger's 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal will, privately, have left him gratified, though the victorious team could delight more in their own strengths than their rivals' shortcomings. The temptation is there to suggest this contest was warped by Kieran Gibbs' dismissal on the quarter-hour, a case of mistaken identity that should have seen Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sent off instead if his deliberate handball from Eden Hazard's attempt was to be considered a denial of a clear goal-scoring opportunity. But in truth the ball looked to be going wide and the game was already over by then.
The hosts had swarmed their visitors from the outset. The lead stood at two goals before Andre Marriner's errant judgment. For all that Arsenal were timid, Chelsea were merciless. Rarely have they torn into opponents this feverishly this season, the manner in which André Schürrle dispossessed Oxlade-Chamberlain and Nemanja Matic robbed Santi Cazorla in the build-up to the opening goals reflecting the sheer suffocation afforded the visitors.
"We were angry after what happened at Aston Villa the previous week with the two red cards," said Schürrle. "That was motivation for us to be stronger." This display rang out as a statement of intent that should not be diluted by the thrashings implemented by Liverpool and Manchester City later on Saturday against teams below the relegation line.
Mourinho had never previously seen his Chelsea side win a league game by more than four clear goals, a tally they had already rattled up by the break as Arsenal wilted, the wind knocked out of their feeble challenge by the ferocity of the home side's opening. There was a time where the Portuguese would be expected to tighten up with defensive replacements once a comfortable lead had been established, settling for a clean sheet and straightforward victory en route.
"This is a funny story because I have the record of goals in the Spanish league, the record of goals in the Italian league, the record of points in every league I was in," Mourinho said, his hackles raised by the implication his teams have taken pride in solidity as much as pizzazz in the past. "I had players winning gold boots and being the top scorer in the country, even in Europe. I really don't understand where it comes from. If you say my teams have a lot of clean sheets, I say yes. But a lot of clean sheets doesn't mean you are a defensive team. It means you defend well.
"If one day my team is really defensive, doesn't play football and my team doesn't score goals, I think it is fair to say my team is a defensive team. But when the numbers are there, and not just the numbers but the way you play football… Some coaches have the stamp for attacking football, but why? Look at the numbers."
Only Liverpool and Manchester City have scored more this term, even if none can match Chelsea's stingy record of 23 goals shipped in 31 games. The top 10 have all been defeated at Stamford Bridge, where the manager is now unbeaten in 76 Premier League matches. These, rather than a first win in 11 matches against the Portuguese to mark Wenger's 1,000, were the figures thrown up by this rout.
Inevitably the focus was drawn to the home side's forward-thinkers, the sight of Samuel Eto'o and Schürrle scoring into the same corner, of Oscar recapturing the form of the autumn, Salah's first goal for the club, Fernando Torres' slippery running and Hazard's wondrous trickery.
But it was still Matic who made them all tick. The Serb's is a powerful presence, closing down opponents and breaking up their rhythm while out of possession and progressive when he does claim the ball. The £21m outlay raised eyebrows, given he had been considered a makeweight two years previously, but he has added value to this set-up. He was everything Arsenal lacked in the middle: a physically imposing, calm and authoritative ball winner and distributor.
"He has added stability, not losing the ball but, at the same time, he is not the type of player who plays only square passes," added Mourinho. "He can see the movement forward and the space. He recovers the ball but in a very clean way, not with fouls in dangerous positions, and he is still a young guy. We'd given the club two or three options on players [in January] and the most expensive was Matic but we thought his relationship between quality and price, and his potential for the future, would be better for us."
The owner went with the manager's input and Matic was restored as a Chelsea player. Back in 2010 he had been a youngster on the fringes, a wannabe playmaker seeking to make his mark, as he gained his first taste of English football as part of Chelsea's last title-winning team. If that feat is emulated, his addition will have been key.
Man of the match Nemanja Matic (Chelsea)