London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal enter their 2nd match with much in common. Both sides have new managers, presiding over the spectre of previous glories unfulfilled by their predecessors (albeit that Antonio Conte’s dwell time was a fraction of the age afforded to Arsene Wenger). Both sides sit with lowered expectations of success, given their lack of Champions League football in 2018/19.
Chelsea vs Arsenal Prediction and Preview
There’s a view that this match will provide a far better guide of their capabilities too; Chelsea’s win over Huddersfield, while crisp and clinical, was broadly expected, and Arsenal’s seemingly tame defeat to the defending champions was understandably measured against disclaimers to account for the quality of the opposition.
Fact of Interest:
- The two goalless draws in the last two fixtures at Stamford Bridge (for the EPL in September 2017 and the EFL Cup in January 2018) were the first draws in this fixture at this venue since 2006’s 1-1 draw in a league fixture.
- Before those two recent draws, Chelsea was easily the dominant force in this fixture, having won 5 consecutive league encounters, scoring 15, conceding just 2, with 3 clean sheets.
- Arsenal’s last victory at Stamford Bridge was the spectacular 5-3 epic in October 2011 where a Robin Van Persie brace sealed the points in the final 5 minutes after the teams shared 6 goals.
- In all competitions, however, the Blues’ record makes for more concerning reading, as their last win over the Gunners was their home 3-1 win in February 2017. Arsenal have won 3 of 6 matches since then, albeit one via a penalty shootout in the Community Shield.
- Chelsea star Eden Hazard has scored 5 goals in 16 appearances against Arsenal. 3 of those occurred in home games, all of them won by Chelsea.
- Arsenal coach Unai Emery last faced Chelsea when managing Valencia in 2011’s Champions League group stage, losing in England and drawing in Spain. His opposite number, Maurizio Sarri, has never faced Arsenal before.
Expected Line-ups and Tactical Considerations:
Maurizio Sarri has predictably changed tactical systems from last season’s variants with 3 at the back and instead moved Chelsea into a 433 system in their first showing away to Huddersfield. The approach allowed Sarri to implement new signing Jorginho (his previous anchor from Napoli) immediately into the core of midfield, forcing N’Golo Kante into a relatively unfamiliar attack-minded role alongside Ross Barkley.
Chelsea’s team against Arsenal is largely expected to feature another appearance for David Luiz, whom Sarri has had admiration for since his time in Italy, alongside Rudiger, Azpilicueta and Alonso in an unchanged back four in front of new number one Kepa Arrizabalaga, who replaced Thibault Courtois following the latter’s move to Real Madrid. Either Barkley or Kante could be sacrificed to enable an appearance for playmaker Matteo Kovacic, acquired on loan in the Courtois deal. Upfront is where the choices become intriguing; Morata’s consistency and impact was negligible and it may be tempting to force star player Eden Hazard or ex-Arsenal veteran Olivier Giroud into the side. Pedro and Willian will likely keep their places after their good showing vs Huddersfield.
Unai Emery’s 4231 shape was a familiar revert back to some of the better tactical showings towards the end of last season. However, the Spaniard made brave choices in personnel, with youngsters Maitland-Niles and Guendouzi applied in critical positions at left back and central midfield. Aaron Ramsey’s effectiveness as the focal attacking playmaker was left wanting, especially with more recognized options in Mkhitaryan and Ozil alongside him.
Of key interest is whether Emery will make use of new signing Bernd Leno in goal ahead of under-fire veteran Petr Cech. New signing Sokratis should partner Mustafi at centre back, Bellerin has become a fixture at fullback, while it remains to be seen if Maitland-Niles did enough to start ahead of more experienced options like Lichsteiner. In midfield, the condundrum is unsolved. Granit Xhaka was less than effective against Chelsea, but his experience may be the preferred option alongside new signing Lucas Torreira. In the attacking lines, if Ramsey’s performance against Manchester City doesn’t necessitate a shift to the bench or to midfield, Emery may yet again try to shuffle some sort of configuration enabling all four of his attacking weapons (Lacazette, Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and Ozil on the field at the same time.
Match Facts & Summary
|Last 10 Competitive Matches||Chelsea 3 Wins, 4 Draws, 4 Wins (1 via Penalty Shootout)|
|Last 10 Competitive Matches at Stamford Bridge||Chelsea 7 Wins, 2 Draws, 1 Win|
|Last Season’s Result||Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal|
|Odds – Result (Draw = 2.85)||0.78||3.32|
|First Goalscorer||Morata (3.48)||Aubameyang (4.77)|
|Both teams to score||0.64|
Granted, it was against Manchester City, but Arsenal’s defence left much to be desired against the defending champions, and it was a display almost typical of the naivete that has often followed Emery’s record against more illustrious opponents, even while managing the star studded lineup at Paris St. Germain. Apart from Bellerin’s speed, Arsenal’s back five seemed devoid of defensive solidity, and Bellerin’s mobility will mean little against the skill and flair of Eden Hazard. Sokratis and Mustafi pose some strength in physicality and aerial duels, but Chelsea could just as well counter that with the interchanges that a trio of Hazard, Pedro and Willian could conjure up.
Midfield will be an intriguing battle, where the combativeness of Lucas Torreira could prove invaluable to try and prevent comfort for the likes of Kovacic in particular to create with freedom for the Blues. However, it’s broadly clear the Blues have the advantage again in this respect, especially with the width offered by the support of their excellent fullbacks. If used again at rightback, Azpilicueta in particular could be critical to pressure the weak Arsenal left flank.
But then comes the wildcard. For as much defensive prowess as the anchor of Jorginho and the mobility of Kante offers to support a fairly proficient back four of Chelsea, the capacity of the quartet the Gunners have at their disposal is lethal and exciting to bear. It’s the kind of stage where new Chelsea keeper Kepa could leave having earned a well deserved ovation from supporting the defence in front of him to stop a potent attack.
But much of that relies on Arsenal to control the midfield and wide channels enough to supply their dangerous forwards, and with Chelsea superbly equipped to manage those areas, along with their home ground advantage, the best the Gunners can realistically hope for is a draw. As for the Blues, given their season outlook in the context of the last, games like this have to be won – no excuses.
Please note betting odds quoted are correct at time of publication and are subject to change. View the latest EPL Betting Odds