Both Arsenal and Chelsea will be looking to end the year on a high when they face off against each other at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The festive period is in full flow as matches continue to come thick and fast in the Premier League. An action-packed Sunday will kick off with the London derby as Arsenal host Chelsea at the Emirates, with both teams looking to get back to winning ways.
Arsenal are without a win in their last four games across all competitions (D3 L1), with their most recent fixture against Bournemouth – the first under new manager Mikel Arteta – ending in a 1-1 draw on Boxing Day, which has left them in the twelfth spot in the table. The Gunners have endured a forgetful season so far and will be hoping to end the year on a high with a win on Sunday.
Chelsea have seen their form decline somewhat in recent weeks. While they did beat Tottenham last weekend, the Blues have lost three of their last five matches in all competitions, including a 2-0 defeat to Southampton on Boxing Day. Manager Frank Lampard will be aiming to guide his side to a victory at the Emirates and consolidate their position in the top four.
The corresponding fixture last season ended in a 2-0 win for Arsenal, although Chelsea did defeat the North Londoners twice in 2018-19 – once in the league and once in the Europa League final. And ahead of Sunday’s meeting at the Emirates, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Arsenal will once again be without the services of Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac, while Sokratis is likely to miss out after sustaining a head injury in the Boxing Day clash against Bournemouth. Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin are back in training and could make the matchday squad for the derby, while Dani Ceballos is also closing in on a return.
Gabriel Martinelli missed the Bournemouth game with a hamstring problem and might not be involved on Sunday either, but the Gunners will be boosted by the return of Calum Chambers after serving his suspension. While the result was not favourable, there were a lot of positives to take for Arteta in his first game in charge. And it is likely that he will keep the changes to a minimum.
Bernd Leno is a certainty to feature in goal, with Chambers set to return to partner David Luiz at the heart of the Arsenal backline. Bukayo Saka ought to continue at left-back in the absence of both Kolasinac and Tierney, but Bellerin could be in line to return at right-back ahead of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who had a forgettable outing on Boxing Day.
Former Gunners’ skipper Granit Xhaka has impressed in the last two matches and ought to continue in one of the two pivot positions against Chelsea. He is likely to be partnered by Lucas Torreira once again, with Mesut Ozil set to occupy the No. 10 role after showing glimpses of his class against the Cherries.
Marquee summer signing Nicolas Pepe came on from the bench in the last game and will hope to feature from kick-off on Sunday, at the expense of Reiss Nelson. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was once again Arsenal’s saviour on Thursday, should be retained in the side, while the struggling Alexandre Lacazette is likely to get another opportunity against Chelsea.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Leno; Bellerin, Chambers, Luiz, Saka; Torreira, Xhaka; Pepe, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette
Chelsea will be without long-term absentees Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Marco van Ginkel for their trip to the Emirates, while Reece James is also set to miss out with an ankle problem. Marcos Alonso will be subjected to a late fitness test to determine his availability for the derby. Mateo Kovacic will be available after missing the Southampton game due to suspension.
Lampard has used a three-man backline in the last two matches, but might look to revert to a four-man defence against Arsenal, with Fikayo Tomori likely to drop out of the starting XI. Antonio Rudiger and Kurt Zouma will line up at the heart of the defence, flanked by captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Emerson Palmieri.
The returning Kovacic should walk right back into the starting lineup, taking up one of the two pivot positions in the centre of the park. Jorginho is likely to make way for the Croatian midfielder, with N’Golo Kante expected to be retained in the side.
Mason Mount was left out of the starting XI on Boxing Day, but is in line to return on Sunday in the No. 10 role for Chelsea, with Willian and Christian Pulisic expected to slot in on the right and left flanks respectively. Tammy Abraham ought to continue as the lone striker for the Blues ahead of Michy Batshuayi and former Arsenal star Olivier Giroud.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Zouma, Emerson; Kante, Kovacic; Willian, Mount, Pulisic; Abraham
- Arsenal have won two of their last three Premier League home games against Chelsea (D1), as many as they had in their previous 12 against the Blues (D5 L5).
- Chelsea lost this exact fixture 0-2 in January – they’ve not lost consecutive league games against Arsenal since October 2011, while they last lost back-to-back away league games against them in October 2003 (a run of three).
- Arsenal have never lost a Premier League home game against Chelsea when they have scored the first goal, winning 11 and drawing four of their 15 such games.
- None of Chelsea’s nine away league games this season have ended level (W6 L3), with only Liverpool having won more games on the road in the Premier League this season than the Blues.
- Arsenal lost their final league game of 2018 against Liverpool. They have not lost their last league game in consecutive calendar years since 1994/1995 (vs QPR and Wimbledon). Chelsea have only lost their final league game in one of the last 16 calendar years (W11 D4), going down 1-3 at home to Aston Villa in 2011.
Player to Watch
The 28-year-old Frenchman looked well out of sorts in the draw against Bournemouth earlier this week, missing chances that, on most occasions, he would have buried into the back of the net. Lacazette has been in and out of the starting XI in recent games, which seems to have taken a toll on his form and confidence.
So far this term, Lacazette has managed just six goals in 15 matches across all competitions. If Arsenal are to recover from their dismal start to the campaign, they cannot always rely on captain Aubameyang to deliver the goods and will need the Frenchman to be back to his best. A solid performance against Chelsea in the derby will be a good way to start.
Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
Both Arsenal and Chelsea haven’t been able to string together a good run of results of late and will be under pressure to get all three points on Sunday afternoon. The Gunners have won just one of their last eleven league fixtures, while the Blues have lost five of their last seven in the top-flight, which makes Sunday’s match quite a difficult one to call.
Both the defences have been far from secure, with Chelsea managing no clean sheets in their last nine games across all competitions, whereas Arsenal have one shut-out in their last sixteen, meaning there should be goal-scoring chances in plenty.
But, the Gunners’ over-reliance on captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could come back to haunt them in what will be Mikel Arteta’s first match at home as the manager. We at The Hard Tackle are predicting this one to go narrowly in favour of the visitors.