The Gunners make the short 10-mile trip to take on champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, hoping for their first win in 6 years in west London
After European excursions midweek, both clubs return to league action in a tasty Sunday lunch-time kick off. Having been traditionally poor travellers to Stamford Bridge, Arsenal will look to turn their fortunes around.
The Gunners come into this on the back of a nerve-settling 3-0 win over Bournemouth last weekend. It was followed by a fiery Europa League victory against FC Koln, which, to be honest, was more tempestuous off the pitch than on it. Having last met Chelsea in the Community Shield to kick off the season, Arsene Wenger is under as much pressure as he was then, if not more.
The long-drawn Alexis Sanchez transfer saga along with other players making noises about the unhealthy atmosphere, this looks like a match Arsenal cannot afford to lose.
Three wins on the trot – four if the Champions League game is included – Chelsea are the form team coming into this match. A win will do them a world of good, but a draw won’t be a bad result either.
Much noise has been made about Chelsea’s transfer activity, or lack thereof, but with Antonio Conte’s shrewd signings (read Davide Zappacosta) already showing results, it wont be surprising if they end up near the top of the table yet again this season.
Team News & Tactics
Apart from a calf problem for new signing Danny Drinkwater, Conte has a clean bill of health for the squad. A relatively easy outing against Qarabag meant that the boss could rest his key men, which he did. Captain Gary Cahill is available again after serving out his suspension.
The home side will line up in their now familiar 3-4-3 formation, with the in-form Alvaro Morata leading the line for the champions yet again. N’Golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko will be expected to sit in front of the back-three, with the latter being given more license to roam upfront.
The big question remains, however, that of Eden Hazard’s availability for the full match. The Belgian is being nursed back to health, playing a bit-part role in the last few matches – adding minutes under his belt. He will, in all probability start the game given the magnitude of it, but may not play the full 90.
Another ‘good problem’ area for Conte will now be the right wing-back role. Zappacosta scored a stunning goal in midweek, and firmly staked his claim for the spot. However, it may well be Victor Moses starting, given his experience in such big games.
Probable lineup (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso; Willian, Morata, Hazard
Arsene Wenger does not have much to worry about in terms of injuries, with only Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla definitely missing out on this match. A tough Thursday night match, both physically and mentally, will have taken a toll on the players, hence some rotation should definitely be expected.
Similar to the home side, the Gunners too will be expected to line up in the 3-4-3 formation. Sanchez played the full 90 minutes against Koln, but will be expected to retain his place in the front-three. Wenger made the grave mistake of leaving Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette out on the bench in their last big match against Liverpool, only to end up being thrashed 4-0.
Another important cog in their team is left wing-back Sead Kolasinac. The Bosnian has become an instant hit with the Emirates faithful owing to his tough defending as well as his attacking prowess. Add that to the fiery pace of Hector Bellerin on the right side, Chelsea’s defenders may be in for a rough night.
With no Diego Costa to bully them around this time, the Arsenal back-three would breathe a sigh of relief. However, seeing how good Morata has been in the air would have given them something to think about yet again.
Probable lineup (3-4-3): Cech; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac; Sanchez, Lacazette, Ozil
Player To Watch
The man for Chelsea for the big occasion is expected to be fit enough to start this game. The brilliant Belgian will be itching to get back to his creative best.
A relatively weak Arsenal away from home should be the ideal stage for him to show his talent. However, both Bellerin and Kolasinac will not make life easy for the former Lille man.
- Chelsea have won 16 of their last 18 Premier League matches at home
- Arsenal have not won at Chelsea since their famous 5-3 victory back in 2011
- Chelsea have scored at least a goal in their last 23 home league fixtures
- Arsenal have not kept a clean sheet at Stamford Bridge in their last 12 fixtures
1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.61
2. Chelsea Card Handicap +1 @ 1.83
1. A Red Card in Match – YES @ 3.75
Chelsea 1-1 Arsenal
Arguably, Arsenal would be the happier of the two sides if it does end up in a draw, but it is a result both teams could work with.
For Arsenal it would mean arresting the slide and the negative atmosphere surrounding the club somewhat. And for Chelsea, it would mean another game gone by without losing to a local rival.
In the end, we believe, the two teams will cancel each other out.