Arsenal face a stern test tomorrow as they travel across London for a meeting with Chelsea. Stamford Bridge has been a house of horrors for the Gunners recently: they’ve lost five straight there, conceding 15 and only scoring 2. Arsenal have struggled against Chelsea recently, floundering to a 1-3-7 record in their last 11 matches against the Blues.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. That one win came last season -- 3-0 at the Emirates in September. And of course, we shouldn’t forget the two silverware-earning wins over Chelsea in the FA Cup and Community Shield.
Key to Arsenal’s success tomorrow (and going forward) will be the ability of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey to control the pace of the game. The Liverpool match got out of hand, at least in part, because the Reds imposed their up-tempo style and Arsenal were unable to slow it down. Arsenal will also need to take better care of the ball. So far this season, the Gunners have been suffering from a bad case of the giveaways.
Arsene Wenger has changed formation midway through most of the matches this season leading to questions about whether he prefers three or four at the back. He has been understandably evasive with his answers, only saying that he will use whichever formation best suits the team at any given time.
I expect Arsenal to come out with three at the back against Chelsea, but if things don’t go well, I would not be surprised if Wenger switched to a back four. Either way, it’s a positive sign that he is showing more tactical flexibility than in the past.
A big question heading into the match is how large of a role Eden Hazard will play. He came on as a sub in Chelsea’s 6-0 Champions League drubbing of Azerbaijani side Qarabag, and Antonio Conte has admitted that Hazard is not 100% fit. The Belgian’s pace and movement have caused problems for Arsenal, especially at Stamford Bridge, where he has scored in 3 of the last 4 meetings between the clubs.
For Arsenal, Mesut Özil trained away from the squad today, and it is unclear if he will be available for selection. Before the Özil news, I did not expect Alexis Sánchez to start because aside from his wondergoal, he still appeared to be knocking off the rust against Cologne. If Özil is unavailable, Alexis will almost certainly start in his place. Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla are still out for the Gunners.
Also of note, Gary Cahill is expected to return to the Chelsea backline, having served his three-match ban for his red card in the Blues’ the season-opener against Burnley.
PROJECTED LINEUP: Cech, Monreal, Mustafi, Koscielny, Kolašinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Bellerín, Alexis, Lacazette, Welbeck
Will the Gunners get a result against the Blues tomorrow? If they don’t get a result, what would you need to see to be satisfied? Let us know in the comments!
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Chelsea
WHEN: Sunday, September 17th I 8:30 AM EST/5:30 AM PT/1:30 PM BST
WHERE: Stamford Bridge, London
US TV: CNBC. You can watch NBC Sports’ online stream here.
Check out livesoccer.tv for all of your streaming information outside of the US. Please do not discuss or share links to illegal streams here.