We’ve only had to wait a week into the season for the Premier League to serve up its first big traditional derby. Chelsea go across to the Emirates to face a rather subdued Arsenal side.
Given the happenings of last Friday night, some would suggest that London is already Red…Arsenal will be hoping to change that…I mean keep it the same…oh you know what I mean!
To Win (90 mins)
Arsenal look incredibly vulnerable at the moment. They were outplayed in almost every position last Friday when they visited a particularly raucous Brentford crowd, and possibly except for Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, I doubt whether many other clubs would want anyone from the Arsenal side.
Right now, Arsenal’s eight-placed finish last season looks more like flattery than any real reason for drastic and sudden change this season. Their pre-season work as well as their activity in the window – as I pointed out in last week’s preview – do not surely give any Arsenal fan any reason to feel confident.
And yes, I know what you’re thinking; “Ryan, it’s the first game, don’t jump on the bandwagon and get ahead of yourself” – yes, I have just spoken about myself in the third person, but that’s besides the point… my scathing critique of the Arsenal is less about writing them off early then it is about the way they lost that game. At which point did they look to be in the game at all on Friday night? They lacked energy and fight and simply were not up for it. I mean if we are completely honest, Arsenal looked more like the side newly promoted for the first time in the last 74 years and simply looked like a deer in the headlights.
It doesn’t get any easier either with Arsenal set to face Chelsea on the weekend and the champions Manchester City next Saturday. You wouldn’t be surprised then if Arsenal had not a single Premier League point after three weeks – and I kind of feel a little bad just writing that…
I can’t see an immediate way out and I think this could be a long and painful season for supporters of the North London side.
Will we get to see Romelu Lukaku start for the Blues against Arsenal? His transfer from Inter Milan was not concluded before the deadline for the weekend’s league squad announcement and so he missed out on Chelsea’s win over Crystal Palace.
Hakim Ziyech and N’Golo Kante also missed out and yet even with big names not making the starting eleven for various reasons, Thomas Tuchel’s side were clinical and almost elegant in the way they dispatched the Eagles.
We know that, amongst other intriguing points, Chelsea under Tuchel look to take the game on and strangle their opposition into submission. They did it with ease against Palace and I can’t see them encountering too many issues this week either.
What I am in constant awe of is the way in which Tuchel can set up such a resolute and aggressive defence, and yet remain potent in the final third. Playing football in 2021 has many more layers to just getting consistent positive results – for more on that just check in with Jose Mourinho.
Today fans want to be entertained and the media want to be captivated into writing exciting and positive stories, neither will happen if the football is bland and tasteless. The age of social media has the power to influence narratives and once your narrative is ‘boring’ or ‘negative’, you will hear from your critics, claiming you’re playing Sarriball…I mean football.
Chelsea adopting a back three approach is not new or inventive. Under Antonio Conte, for example, most recently, it brought the Premier League title back to Stamford Bridge. The only difference I feel between Conte and Tuchel is Tuchel’s clear intentional commitment with exploiting opponents in wide areas as well as his entry and penetration in the final third, never forcing it through the center and strict build-up play. If the option to fire down the flank is on, that is where Chelsea wants to be and with this weekend against an Arsenal side who are at odds and evens, I think they will get much success.
Prediction: Chelsea (8/10)
I’m not sure if this price is a mistake but if it is I would advise getting on immediately. Such a market can only be based on the Arsenal of old as opposed to what they are here and now.
Chelsea should be a banker in every double, treble, quad and multiple you have for the next week. Yes, I know I’m being bullish about a result of a London derby which is always a tasty affair, and with the fans back in the Emirates you would think they wouldn’t allow Arsenal to be as complacent as they were last time out.
But this Chelsea side are silky, and their system speaks to their players. I’ve said before that Lukaku is the missing piece to a side that was just a world-class striker off Manchester City – how disrespectful and contradictory then to suggest any other result but a Chelsea win against a limp and wounded Arsenal.