Our writer previews the fierce London derby, between Arsenal and Chelsea, taking place on Saturday evening.
Old foes Arsenal and Chelsea will settle scores at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday evening in what promises to be a hotly contested London Derby. Although Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger won’t be crossing swords on the dugout, there should still be plenty of fireworks at the Emirates and Antonio Conte will be ready for war.
Both sides have collected 10 points from their opening five league games, but the Gunners come into the clash much happier of the two teams. Arsenal will be high on confidence following their 4-1 triumph at Hull, while the Blues will look to do everything in their power to bounce back to winning ways after losing 2-1 at home to Liverpool last time out.
This is a fixture Chelsea have owned in recent years with the Blues unbeaten in the last nine league meetings against Wenger’s side having won on six occasions – including a 6-0 thumping at home two years ago – their biggest win over their London rivals. The Gunners will be desperate to gain revenge this time and look to capitalize on Chelsea’s defensive frailties.
• Please note this article was written prior to Arsenal and Chelsea’s EFL Cup matches in midweek.
Arsenal v Chelsea | Saturday 24 September | Emirates Stadium | 18:30
To Win (90 mins)
Arsenal 13/10 | Draw 24/10 | Chelsea 2/1
After an underwhelming start to the season, Arsenal have found some good form in the Premier League, winning three successive games against Watford (1-3), Southampton (2-1) and Hull City (1-4). They trail leaders Manchester City – who finished fourth last term – by five points. Following their win at Hull last weekend, Wenger said: “I’d prefer to be five points ahead, but it’s only five games played. Last year, Manchester City won their first five games.”
It’s still early days indeed and Wenger’s side will be looking to cement their status as genuine Premier League title contenders this season. Since their success in 2004, Wenger has yet to guide the Gunners back to the top of the table again – the closest they came to the title was last season when they finished second, 10 points adrift of champions Leicester City. Arsenal definitely have the quality to claim league glory this season and the arrivals of Shkodran Mustafi, Granit Xhaka and Lucas Perez have made them stronger.
The Gunners need to overcome their long-standing troubles against Chelsea on Saturday and victory over the Blues will be a massive confidence booster to help them press on. Wenger’s side have already suffered defeat at the Emirates this season, losing 4-3 to Liverpool on the opening day of the season. They have improved since that result, but they’ll need to be more solid against a Chelsea side boasting an in-form Diego Costa.
Wenger is likely to go with the same lineup that started against Hull which means Xhaka – who scored a screamer last weekend – is set to miss out again at the expense of Francis Coquelin. The Frenchman brings steel and grit to the side which will be needed against the likes of N'Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic.
Mesut Ozil will pull the strings further forward and provide an attacking threat with his incredible vision and ability to pick a pass, while Alexis Sanchez will be the main man up front. The Chilean will look to terrorize the Chelsea backline with quick running, sharp turning, and powerful shooting. Alexis has three goals to his name and will look to extend his tally against Conte’s side.
After starting the season superbly, winning their opening three games against West Ham United (2-1), Watford (1-2) and Burnley (3-0), the Blues have struggled to maintain winning form and are winless in two matches following a 2-2 draw at Swansea and 2-1 defeat at home to Liverpool last time out. Conte will be hoping for a positive response from his players and the Blues’ impressive record against Arsenal will give them great confidence. Conte is expected to welcome captain John Terry back in the side following an ankle injury sustained against Swansea. Terry’s return will give Chelsea a massive lift and he is likely to partner Gary Cahill at the heart of defence – it's tried and trusted.
This could be a game where Conte is willing to hand Cesc Fabregas his first start of the season. Conte has preferred Oscar due to his energy and work rate, while Fabregas has been out of favour due to his defensive capabilities. Oscar has started well, but he can’t match Fabregas’ quality to create chances against compact defences. Fabregas was an integral part of Chelsea’s title-winning campaign and he also had a telepathic understanding with frontman, Diego Costa. Conte needs to trust Fabregas and if he does, Chelsea will benefit from the Spaniards brilliance. You can understand Conte’s reluctance to change a winning team, but with the Blues on a two-game winless run, now is the time to bring Cescy back.
Costa gives the team an unshakeable focal point in attack. The Brazil-born Spain international is the league’s in-form striker with five goals in as many games – he’s tied with West Ham midfielder Michail Antonio. Powerful and strong, Costa can bully defenders and then use his pace when a change is required. Incredibly competitive, his passion and will to win is second to none and his finishing is of the highest class. Costa’s record against Arsenal reads: played three, won three, Arsenal red cards three, goals scored two.
Verdict: Chelsea (2/1)
Chelsea have a proud record against Arsenal and even though they endured their worst ever season in the Roman Abramovich era last term, they still beat Wenger’s side home and away. The Blues are unbeaten against Arsenal in the last nine league meetings and the Gunners have already lost at the Emirates this season. At 2/1, Chelsea are worth a punt given those facts.
Written by Chadley Nagel @Hollywoodbets