2019 is only three weeks underway, and it is safe to say that Arsenal have had a pretty awful year. After thrashing Fulham at home, Arsenal looked tired and uninspired throughout last weekend’s match against West Ham, losing 1-0 to the Hammers. Somehow, the news that unfolded during the week made the loss look minor in comparison.
First was the revelation by Emery at a press conference that Arsenal will, at best, only be able to borrow new players on loan, as one of England’s most profitable clubs, which is owned by a billionaire and has the highest ticket prices in the Premier League, is somehow short on funds.
Then came murmurs that Sven Mislintat, Arsenal’s Head of Recruitment, is set to leave the club for Bayern Munich due to frustration with Emery and his stubbornness over player scouting.
And the final cherry on top was the rumor that Emery’s supposed feud with Mesut Ozil had reached a tipping point, with Arsenal’s manager reportedly telling the German midfielder that a transfer might be in his best interest.
But hey, at least some of the first team guys got to go see a mediocre NBA game.
With such a tumultuous week, Arsenal’s incredibly important match against Chelsea took a back seat to the backroom circus. Even Petr Cech’s announcement that he would retire at season’s end got second billing to the other drama. But in sports, one of the truest aphorisms reigns supreme: winning cures all. With a victory against the Blues, Arsenal can shake off a dismal week and continue their fight for a top four finish.
While it seems hyperbolic to call a January match a must-win, Arsenal must absolutely win this match. With Chelsea sitting six points ahead of Arsenal in 4th place and a rejuvenated Mourniho-less Manchester United breathing down Arsenal’s neck, the Gunners run the very real risk of facing an insurmountable gulf between themselves and the rest of the big six should they lose to Chelsea.
While Unai Emery’s honeymoon with Arsenal is decidedly over, Chelsea are also seeing the shine come off of new manager Maurizio Sarri. Despite being ahead of Arsenal, the Blues are enduring their own issues, namely the fact that none of their strikers are scoring. Alvaro Morata has been a dud and former Arsenal heartthrob Olivier Giroud is back to being a second-choice striker, which has forced Chelsea to seek out the services of an aging Gonzalo Higuain on loan.
Regardless of both team’s state, the significance of the match has not diminished, and Arsenal will look to secure the win they could not find against Chelsea in the 3-2 loss at Stamford Bridge during the opening week of the season. A win would mark only the second victory for the Gunners in league play against Chelsea over the past 15 matches.
The little glimmer of a silver lining for the Gunners is that, outside of the long term injuries of Danny Welbeck, Rob Holding, and Henrick Mkhitaryan, the Gunners should be at full health. Chelsea could be without Morata, who has only recently returned from a hamstring injury, while former Gunner Cesc Fabregas has already completed his move to Thierry Henry’s Monaco.
WHAT: Arsenal vs Chelsea
WHEN: 12:30pm EST/9:30am PST/8:30pm BT
WHERE: Emirates Stadium
US TV: NBCSN
US Stream: NBC Sports
Worldwide info: livesoccer.tv
As always, please be a pal and do not mention or link to illegal match streams in the comments.