John Terry relishes the limelight as Chelsea march on
At the Emirates Stadium
John Terry was in his usual position as centre of attention, milking the applause of Chelsea's celebrating fans before placing his boots carefully into the hands of an appreciative youngster.
Terry was inevitably the headline story after a week which saw him end his England career ahead of a disciplinary hearing that resulted in the Football Association fining the man twice stripped of his country's captaincy £220,000 and handing out a four-match suspension.
He figured in Chelsea's 2-1 win that saw them stay top of the table and inflict a first defeat of the season for Arsenal as he considers an appeal against this verdict.
Chelsea captain John Terry helped his side defeat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Photo: Getty
And how he enjoyed the successful conclusion to a punishing week among those he almost considers friends, stepping over advertising hoardings at the Emirates Stadium at the final whistle to share his pleasure and offer his gratitude to those who regard him - in the words of the banner - as "JT. Captain. Leader. Legend."
This status is not as exalted elsewhere and certainly not at the Emirates Stadium, where his name, touch and mere presence extracted loud jeers from the Arsenal fans.
Terry, and he has had plenty of practice, simply used it to prove he has an uncanny ability to blank out hostility from opposition fans reacting to his latest off-the-field headlines.
Terry's ill-judged retreat contributed to Gervinho's equaliser, but otherwise this was normal service resumed for a defender who may be past his prime but still crucial to Chelsea's cause.
The limelight may have been claimed by Terry - but behind the scenes there was a more intriguing, significant development that literally showed the shape of things to come for Chelsea.
Manager Roberto Di Matteo recognises the onset of time provides him with an opportunity to shift Chelsea's emphasis, both tactically and in personnel.
There is a sense a new era is being ushered through the gates of Stamford Bridge after the Champions League win.
And while Frank Lampard's restriction to the role of substitute hardly signals the end of his Chelsea career - no-one should be fool enough to treat him with such disrespect - the team he watched from the sidelines offered a clear signpost to the future.
Didier Drogba is gone, Lampard was on the sidelines and Terry is closer to the end of his Chelsea life than the start, so Di Matteo's hand has been forced - albeit helped by generous donations from owner Roman Abramovich.
So it proved here as Chelsea looked impressive in halting a little of Arsenal's early season momentum and suggesting they can be fully expected to improve on last season's sixth-place finish.
Di Matteo's midfield contained balance, solidity and flair. Ramires and John Obi Mikel set up the platform in front of the back four.
Three men who could happily fulfil the role of "Number Ten" Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata, offered flexibility, width and support for Torres - although defensive tracking back did appear optional on occasions.
It enabled Chelsea to exert a measure of control over Arsenal, frustrating their own gifted midfield operators such as Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta while allowing them to take a heavy toll on the defensive vulnerability Arsene Wenger hoped he had eradicated after a highly promising start to the season.
This was a fresh Chelsea, an expensive work in progress but one that carries plenty of promise. Terry was a member of the reduced ranks of the old guard amid a rejuvenated new face.
It was a day Wenger felt would help crystallise judgement on Arsenal's prospects and he could not disguise his disappointment at how they came up short defensively in the face of Chelsea's potent attacking resources.
Wenger, however, must take a portion of the blame himself for a selection decision that went horribly wrong. Per Mertesacker looked vulnerable at times last season but has settled to provide a calm and reassuring presence of authority.
He was mystifyingly removed as Wenger went for a central defensive partnership of Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny, with the latter playing a central role in both Chelsea goals.
Koscielny was flimsy in the physical challenge with Torres - hardly a Drogba - for the first then helped touch Mata's second past Vito Mannone for the second.
On such poor defending fortunes hinged. Arsenal had chances with Petr Cech saving brilliantly from Lukas Podolski and a deflected Olivier Giroud effort, the latter also hitting the sidenetting after rounding Chelsea's keeper in stoppage time.
It is unlikely they were ever going to be serious title challengers this season but the temptation to start crying "Same Old Arsenal" should be resisted after their first defeat of the season. Wenger will hope to have Jack Wilshere back soon while there is still plenty of talent elsewhere.
I suggested before the start of the season that Arsenal could be optimistic despite the sale of Robin van Persie and a single loss against such a lavishly funded side that has the potential to be a real force at the top of the table this season should not change that.
For Chelsea, this was a glimpse into the future and what better place to view it than from the top of the Premier League.