The biggest match of game week 2 in the Premier League is the clash between the two London giants – Chelsea and Arsenal. As the Blues prepare to host the Gunners on Saturday evening, there are far more similarities between the two clubs at present, than the fans of either team would like to admit. Both of them had a disappointing 2017-18, ending the season out of their usual top-four echelon. Both the clubs have appointed new managers in the summer, both of whom have the pedigree to take the clubs back up into the top-four club. Towards that goal, both the managers will be keen for their teams to not only win their first derby but also to clinch three important points against a fellow top-four competitor.
Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea began the Premier League campaign well last weekend, when they brushed Huddersfield Town aside (0-3) at the John Smith Stadium. Chelsea were rampant in attack and efficient in defense. But on Saturday, Chelsea are playing at home where they have won only once in last four league games. Sarri would like to end that streak and instead, would like the Blues to continue from where left off last weekend. But, Unai Emery’s Arsenal will be a tougher opponent than Huddersfield.
The Gunners did not fare as well as their hosts in the first game week losing 0-2 at home. Unai Emery became the first Arsenal manager in eight to lose his first league game in charge. But that game was against the champions Manchester City who played as if there had been no summer break at all. Chelsea will be a different proposition, albeit almost as tough. Emery’s side have an extremely tough start to their league campaign, as they face the last two champions consecutively. However, thereafter the fixture list is kinder, and Arsenal can hope to salvage some points in those subsequent game weeks. At Stamford Bridge on Saturday, even a point would be considered a success.
- The Gunners’ last victory at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League was in October 2011 when they won 5-3. Arsenal have failed to score in four of their last five Premier League visits to Stamford Bridge.
- At Huddersfield, Sarri became the ninth consecutive Chelsea manager – including caretakers – to avoid defeat in his first match in charge, and it was the biggest winning margin of any new Blues boss since Luiz Felipe Scolari.
- Chelsea have lost one of their last eight Premier League games (against Newcastle on the final day of last season), winning five and drawing two of those. That visit to St James’ Park is the only league game in the past 10 when they failed to score
- Arsenal have gone 17 Premier League games without a draw dating back to 3 January, when Chelsea were the visitors to the Emirates. The Gunners also are hoping to avoid losing their first two Premier League games of the season for the first time since 1992/93.
Although Sarri is not sure if Hazard will start this game or not but even if he comes off the bench, Eden Hazard can be the difference between Chelsea being held to a draw and Chelsea winning. Hazard ended the last season with 12 goals scored and 4 assisted in 34 league games. Although the Belgian had a small 13-minute cameo against Huddersfield, he still managed to assist Chelsea’s third goal. If Sarri’s starting line-up does not come through, Eden Hazard will be key for Chelsea to win.
As pundits have suggested, to defeat Chelsea, Arsenal will have to press the Blues high up the pitch and then attack with pace after recovering possession. Those are the strengths of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He had a poor game against City last weekend, but he does possess the underlying ability to take the attack to Chelsea. After his move to the Emirates in January, Aubameyang scored 13 league goals and assisted three goals in just 1421 minutes spread over 16 games. His xG per 90 for that period was 1.05, i.e, he was sure to score in every game if he played all the 90 minutes. If Aubameyang can summon similar form on Saturday, he will cause trouble for Chelsea’s defense.
For Chelsea, Cesc Fabregas (knee injury) joins Izzy Brown and Marco van Ginkel on the sidelines. Either Mateo Kovacic or Ruben Loftus-Cheek might start in Ross Barkley’s place. If Eden Hazard starts, it could be at either Morata’s or Willian’s expense.
For Arsenal, Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are sidelined, and Nacho Monreal is still a doubt, so Stephan Lichtsteiner is set to make his full debut at left-back. Danny Welbeck could be named on the bench, while Lacazette might start, possibly in place of Mkhitaryan. Lucas Torreira might start as well, possibly replacing Matteo Guendouzi.
While we can expect a better performance from the Gunners as compared to last week, their form and recent record at Stamford Bridge suggests that Chelsea should be able to take home all three points on Saturday.
Chelsea 2 – 1 Arsenal