This is the penultimate fixture before the Premier League stops for the World Cup. Chelsea host Arsenal in a huge London derby. For the first time in a while, the Gunners come into this fixture in better shape than their local rivals. There will be pressure on them to go to Stamford Bridge and win, especially if they want to keep hold of top spot when the football halts. For the home side, there are growing pains under new manager Graham Potter. It will take time for the players to adapt to his demands. A win this weekend will be huge for either side.
Chelsea are currently in 6th position in the league table. The new owners will want to maintain their position in the Champions League, therefore there is pressure on Potter to achieve a top four finish. They do have a game in hand over Tottenham and Newcastle in 3rd and 4th respectively, but even a win in that game wouldn’t lift them into the Champions League places, due to a inferior goal difference. With a tricky trip to St James’ Park next week, there is a chance that the Blues don’t take any more points before the break. This two week period will tell us a lot about where Potter’s Chelsea are in comparison to two teams above them in the table.
Arsenal have undergone an incredible transformation under Mikel Arteta. They are siting top of the Premier League and they are worthy of their position. However, the one doubt people have is their ability to win at top six rivals away from home. Their only loss of the season came against Manchester United at Old Trafford. This is their only away game against a top six rival to date. They performed well in that game, but they still came out on the losing side. Sunday is another opportunity for them to show that they can win at a rival club away from home.
Raheem Sterling has scored eight times in the Premier League against Arsenal. He has only scored more against Bournemouth and Watford.
Although they have a poor record away to top six teams in general, Arsenal have fared well at Stamford Bridge in recent seasons. A win on Sunday would mark three successive wins there for the first time since 1974.
There have been some concerns about Raheem Sterling at Chelsea. Potter used him as a wing-back last week and it is unlikely that he will attempt this again. Sterling needs to be playing in the forward line, as he is the biggest threat in the squad. Although he will want to be doing better, his underlying numbers are good in comparison to his team-mates. This suggests his low output is a result of the team’s tactical set-up, rather than any underperformance on his part. He will want to finish strongly before the World Cup and take some confidence into the tournament. Gareth Southgate will have no doubts that Sterling will be a starter in Qatar. Sterling has been a crucial player for England over recent years. He has yet to have the same impact at Chelsea, but this is a good chance for him to ignite his career at Stamford Bridge against an opponent that he has scored goals against in the past.
This season, there have been a number of good performers in the Arsenal squad. One of the standout individuals has been Gabriel Martinelli. He has been a regular in the starting eleven for the last 12 months and he is emerging as one of the best talents in the division. He has five goals and two assists to his name. It will be hoped that he can get to double figures for goals before the end of the campaign. Last season, he contributed six goals and six assists. It would be a surprise if he doesn’t surpass those numbers. There is a chance that he could win the PFA Young Player of the Year award. At the moment, he is one of the leading contenders, but it is still early in the campaign. Chelsea look to have a vulnerability in their defensive set-up, as they have a number of injuries. Martinelli could play a big part on Sunday.
Mateo Kovacic and Denis Zakaria are both doubts for the weekend. N’Golo Kante and Kepa Arrizabalaga are both going to be missing until after the World Cup. Wesley Fofana and Reece James will also be unavailable for the home side.
Takehiro Tomiyasu is facing a battle to be passed fit this weekend. Bukayo Saka and Oleksandr Zinchenko are both available after playing a part during the Europa League. Emile Smith Rowe will be missing until December.
This is a difficult game to call. Potter is the type of coach that could do something surprising with his line-up. He will continue to experiment with his squad and it could lead to a breakthrough this weekend. Arsenal have been very consistent this season. They will be a difficult opponent for Chelsea. A score draw would be my prediction, but it should be a great watch for the neutral.
Chelsea 1-1 Arsenal