The early kick off this weekend will have huge ramifications for the title race, with some thinking that three points for Chelsea will put them in a position from which they can’t be caught. It hasn’t got to that point yet, but the rest of the top six will be hoping that Chelsea lose this against Arsenal. However, for the visitors, it may be a must not lose, rather than a must win. Although they were lucky that four of the other five sides in the top six dropped points during the week, Arsenal did lose to Watford and another loss this weekend could see them drop out of the top four.
Chelsea picked up a point at Anfield on Tuesday and they will be relatively happy with that, despite a late penalty miss. Liverpool had some good chances as well and a draw was probably a fair result on the day. This weekend will represent a good opportunity to get revenge on Arsenal after an embarrassing 3-0 defeat in the reverse fixture. It led to the change to 3-4-3 and it will be interesting to see how Arsenal cope with the new Chelsea. The Gunners ran rampant at the Emirates Stadium, but they are coming up against a much better side this time and Chelsea will be favourites heading into Saturday.
The Arsenal supporters were once again angry on Tuesday after falling to a defeat at home against out-of-form Watford. There has been talk of the title, but considering the strength of the top six this season, Arsenal would be better off focusing on consolidating their top four position. It was a weird result considering it came just days after their thrashing of Southampton. Inconsistency is a problem for Arsenal again this season and it must be frustrating for supporters that the same problems arise every season.
In the meeting between the two earlier this season, it ended 3-0 to Arsenal, which forced Antonio Conte to change to a 3-4-3 formation. All of the goals were scored in the first half and there were questions raised about the Chelsea manager, but they have since stormed to the top of the league. The Arsenal scorers that day were Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil. Meanwhile, in the match at Stamford Bridge last season, Chelsea prevailed thanks to a goal from Kurt Zouma and a Calum Chambers (OG). Santi Cazorla was sent off on that occasion.
- David Luiz’s goal on Tuesday was his first in the Premier League since April 2013.
- Arsenal hadn’t conceded a Premier League goal in the first 15 minutes before Watford got two on Tuesday.
The attacker has been fairly quiet recently and there will be hope that he turns it on against Arsenal, as the Gunners have their frailties at the back and Hazard could be a match-winner on Saturday. This season has marked the return to form for Hazard as he is once again producing the kind of consistency that saw him voted PFA Player of the Year in 2015, but he needs to have a strong end to the season to confirm himself as one of the best in the league. The Belgian international has only got two goals and two assists in his last ten league matches, which will have been disappointing for him, but his side continues to do well, underlining the fact that they aren’t reliant on one player. Hazard is hugely important in the matches against the rest of the top six, as he has the ability to beat players and create space for himself. The Arsenal defenders won’t be looking forward to facing the 26-year-old and that should give him confidence to go out and play his natural game. I think this match could mark the return to scoring ways for the Belgian.
If Hazard has the ability to be a match-winner for the home side, then Mesut Ozil could hold the keys for Arsenal, as there are few better creative players in the world at the moment. His vision is incredible and he is slowly returning to his best. It has been a slow season for Ozil with fatigue and injuries playing their part, but he is back now and should be set for a much better second half of the season. The contract situations of both him and Sanchez are heavily weighing on the minds of the board members at the Emirates Stadium, as they are clearly the best players at the club. It is imperative that they retain both, but to do so, they need to start challenging for major honours on the pitch. A victory this weekend would keep their slight title hopes alive and they will need Ozil to be on his game to achieve that. Chelsea’s defence is strong, but Ozil has the quality to break them down. If he has a good game, then Arsenal have a chance of leaving Stamford Bridge with a positive result.
Chelsea don’t have any injury concerns ahead of this match, which means that they can start the match with their strongest starting eleven. They may make one change from the side that drew to Liverpool, with Pedro an option to come in for Willian. The Spaniard was unlucky to miss out on Tuesday and Conte may opt to bring him in at the weekend.
Aaron Ramsey is a major doubt for the Gunners, which creates a problem in the centre of the park, with Granit Xhaka and Santi Cazorla set to miss out for different reasons.
It is going to be a tight match and Arsenal have the players to cause Chelsea problems. However, the Blues have been the outstanding side in the league this season and it is difficult to see them losing this weekend, especially considering the match is at Stamford Bridge. They have become a lot better since they lost at the Emirates Stadium and I expect them to get the three points this weekend. It won’t be a clear victory, but Chelsea will strengthen their position at the top of the table.