Arsenal and Chelsea have played three times in the last three months (FA Cup Final, friendly, Community Shield), so we should be familiar with the Blues. That said, the team facing Arsenal on Sunday will have some new faces and potentially different tactics from the side the Gunners so gloriously vanquished at Wembley. We checked in with Ram Srinivas (@rramesss), a writer over at We Ain’t Got No History for the inside scoop.
1. How are the new signings fitting in and being deployed with the club? Are you happy with what you are seeing from them?
A: The new signings have been showing great signs so far! This transfer window really divided opinions among the fans, but I was satisfied with our dealings this summer. Álvaro Morata has been great, offering a whole new dimension to our attack with his aerial prowess and is constantly improving as he adapts to our style of football. He's a really likeable, I daresay adorable character as well!
I had my doubts about Tiémoué Bakayoko but he's really impressed me in his appearances and will surely be all that Matic was, and eventually more.
Willy Caballero, who hasn't yet played a game is pretty much the ideal second-choice goalkeeper. Gone are the days when we'd rely on the likes of Ross Turnbull to fill in for Petr Cech in case of anything untoward!
Antonio Rüdiger has played a lot more than he would've expected by this point due to Gary Cahill's red card against Burnley but has looked the part and may well displace Cahill from the left-center-back position soon.
Davide Zappacosta finally gives us some depth in both wing-back positions; he seems like a great athlete who loves to get down the flanks and cross, and will give Victor Moses (and possibly Marcos Alonso) a proper fight for the starting role, something which was absent last season.
Last but certainly not least, Danny Drinkwater is underrated and will prove to be the able backup that Conte desires in order to rotate the team without any qualms. All the new additions seem to have gelled in with the group off the pitch as well, and there's a real sense of excitement surrounding all of them.
2. If Arsenal want to avoid another debacle like the Liverpool match and slow down the Chelsea attack, what's the most important thing they should do?
A: Chelsea's "attack" is usually a culmination of our overall play, so one part of the recommended course of action would probably be to try and curb our playing out from the back. Leicester (and Burnley) did the same, although it was mostly only Vardy who was pressing to good effect.
Azpilicueta's forays forward and crosses from deep have been making things happen, especially with Morata leading the line now and that's something else that Arsenal will be looking to suppress in particular. Aerial strength is in fact not Morata's strength - he has the ability to make quality runs in behind the defense in the first place, better than that of Diego Costa.
Arsenal's defense should be getting as tight as possible to our front three, and at the same time looking to exploit the space in behind our center-backs. We've also been suspect in the air previously, so that's another potentially exploitable area.
3. Where is the "Antonio Conte meter" right now? He's reportedly not happy with the transfer window, he has his ongoing feud with Diego Costa, etc., etc.
A: That's a tricky one. Conte has always spoken about making Chelsea a great club for the long-term, has won the league in his first season at the club and brought his family over to London. However, his contract extension this summer was merely a pay rise and there still remain only two years left on his contract.
Now, that could suggest a number of things. The most straightforward one is that the board wanted to reward him for his excellent work last season but have learned from their 'mistakes' with Mourinho, and hence are waiting for perhaps one more season to reward him with another long term deal.
Another way of looking at it is that it was a mutual decision from both Conte and Chelsea; it's been reported that either party is not entirely happy with the way things are happening at the club. With Conte, it may have been the Director of Football hierarchy (although it was part of the job description, surely) and transfers, although we did land some of his favoured targets like Morata and Zappacosta.
The club, which has apparently always been looking to build for the long-term but not following through with their decisions, reportedly wants Chelsea's golden generation of academy graduates to get a look-in and form the new core of Chelsea. Conte disagrees. He thinks that a player is not truly ready to play an active role in his squad until they've already established themselves in senior football.
The whole Diego Costa saga could've been handled much better, but a lot of that is down to the player himself rather than Conte. To put a long story short, the "Conte meter" is at 70% or so at the moment. A lot more regarding his position at the club should become clear by the end of this season.
Thanks again to We Ain’t Got No History. Let’s hope for an exciting match (and an Arsenal win) on Sunday.