Arsenal will look to bounce back from their London derby defeat against West Ham United when they face Chelsea in what is another derby on Saturday.
It is a London derby. But, right now, it is worth way more than that. For Arsenal, it is all about regaining whatever identity they had managed to establish under Unai Emery thus far. The identity seems to have gone missing, with the players often looking clueless on the pitch.
Their 1-0 defeat to West Ham United raised more questions, with Arsenal unable to score despite boasting of the duo of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Chelsea might not be in a similar boat. But, they have problems of their own. The attack needs inspiration and the midfield needs more depth. The Blues also have to deal with off-field issues, like Bayern Munich’s very much public pursuit of Callum Hudson-Odoi.
It is the battle between fourth and fifth, with sixth-placed Manchester United breathing down both of their necks after a run of five league wins under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Arsenal won’t even start as favourites as the home team. They’re priced at 2.90 (odds from My Betting Sites) which gives them only a 35% implied probability of a home win.
Chelsea’s last league visit to Emirates yielded a scoring draw for the two teams, something Unai Emery would hope his Arsenal side can better. Before the enticing match-up, we take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
The injury concerns have eased up considerably for Arsenal, with only Rob Holding, Danny Welbeck and Henrikh Mkhitaryan out on the sidelines while Kontstantinos Mavropanos is yet to fully recover.
Unai Emery has enough personnel back in defence to field a three-man backline, with Laurent Koscielny likely to be at the heart of it. Shokdran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos should round up the backline, with Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac the wing-backs cum wide midfielders.
Lucas Torreira should return to the starting lineup after he was inexplicably benched in the 1-0 defeat to West Ham. Granit Xhaka should keep his spot in midfield to partner Torreira, especially with Matteo Guendouzi putting in mixed performances of late.
The front three should consist of Alex Iwobi, who has become a regular under Emery, and the duo of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette trying to run the Chelsea defenders amuck.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Leno; Sokratis, Koscielny, Mustafi; Bellerin, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Iwobi, Lacazette, Aubameyang
There are a lot of issues that need dealing with from Maurizio Sarri. But, gladly, the defence isn’t one. The back five – four defenders and the goalkeeper – have locked down their places and the usual culprits should start.
While the back four of Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso will be entrusted to support Kepa Arrizabalaga, much of it will also be down as to how well the midfield is able to act as a sponge for any incoming balls.
Like the defence, N’Golo Kante and Jorginho are certain to start. The third midfield spot is likely to be a toss-up again between Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic, with the latter emerging as the third choice owing to his recent performances.
In attack, there is a case for Sarri to start Callum Hudson-Odoi, who really has been Chelsea’s best attacker in recent games. But, the manager is likely to go with Willian and Pedro as the wide men for the match against Arsenal, which in turn, might just make up Hudson-Odoi’s mind as regards the stalled Bayern Munich bid.
Alvaro Morata is likely on his way out and Olivier Giroud hasn’t produced any magic, which means Eden Hazard will continue acting as the False Nine, which will be interesting to see against a three-man backline.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic; Pedro, Hazard, Willian
1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.53
2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score anytime @ 2.00
1. Full Time Result – Draw @ 3.50
1. Chelsea have won their last three away Premier League matches by a single goal margin.
2. Three of the last five meetings between Arsenal and Chelsea in all competitions have ended in draws, two of them ending 0-0.
3. Six of Chelsea’s last 10 away games against Arsenal in all competitions have seen at least one team keep a clean sheet. However, the two teams have scored in the last four.
4. Despite Arsenal’s poor form, they have lost just once at home this season in the Premier League, winning their last four.
5. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored four goals in his last five Premier League appearances for Arsenal.
Player to Watch
It has been a mixed debut season so far for Lucas Torreira in the Premier League. While he did manage to establish himself as a regular within the starting eleven through a series of impressive cameos, the midfielder was surprisingly dropped in favour of Matteo Guendouzi for the match against West Ham.
When he is not on the pitch, Arsenal struggle to build attacks from the back, showing just how crucial Torreira’s link-up play and simple passes are. The midfielder should start against Chelsea, who boast of an envious midfield trio.
For Arsenal to have any chances of winning against Chelsea on Saturday, Torreira will have to disrupt the midfield, if not dominate. There’s no reason to believe the Uruguayan cannot.
Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea
Two London clubs, both struggling to build their own identity under a new manager. Interestingly, Chelsea have shown a penchant to adapting to Maurizio Sarri’s style of play, with the strike-force letting them down on a number of occasions. Arsenal, on the other hand, seem to have lost steam after their 22-game unbeaten run in all competitions under Unai Emery in his first season in-charge.
Both the teams are in danger of being drawn into an ugly race with Manchester United in the matches to come. As far as goals are concerned, Arsenal and Chelsea have both shown signs of struggle recently. But, with a game as intense as Arsenal vs Chelsea, it will likely open up, thus giving both sides plenty of chances to convert.
Their last league match at the Emirates ended in a 2-2 draw and honestly, we cannot see a scoreline more just than that for Saturday’s game.