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Arsenal at Chelsea preview: litmus test

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Away to Chelsea will be a stiff test of Mikel Arteta’s system and how much of it the Gunners have picked up.

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Arsenal Training Session
Tuesday’s difficult away match at Stamford Bridge will be a good barometer for how much Arsenal have improved under Mikel Arteta.
Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal’s chances of getting back to the Champions League through their Premier League finish are minuscule. The Gunners sit in 10th place in the table, 10 points behind 4th place Chelsea. While a loss at Stamford Bridge tomorrow wouldn’t mathematically eliminate Arsenal from finishing in the top 4, falling 13 points adrift would essentially be the end of things. A draw wouldn’t be much better. To keep that faintest flicker of hope alive, the Gunners need to win.

No problem, right? It’s not as if Arsenal are without a win in 8 straight trips to Stamford Bridge (0-2-6) or without their leading scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang due to his red card suspension. Oh wait.

My hope for Arsenal tomorrow is the same as it has been and will be for every match under Mikel Arteta in the Premier League this season: that the team and the players continue to show improvement and development in Arteta’s system. If the Gunners can manage a result, great. If not, oh well. The league is a throwaway at this point; it’s only my relentless (some would say, naive) optimism that is keeping hope of a miraculous run alive.

I’m in a bit of a strange place in my evaluation of Arsenal. The product on the pitch looks better than it did under Unai Emery — I think most would agree with that assessment. But at the same time, results matter. Dropping points from winning positions is a worrying trend. Right now, I’m okay to chalk that up to learning a new system, fitness levels not being where they need to be, players not being good enough, etc. But at some point, those explanations and that patience will run out. Arsenal haven’t reached that point yet and may not reach it this season, but I think we would all feel a whole lot better about the state of things in North London if those draws turned into wins.

TEAM NEWS:
Arsenal will be without Sead Kolasinac (left thigh strain) and Reiss Nelson (right hamstring), both of whom hope to return to training after Burnley away on February 2nd. Sokratis (illness) is being assessed ahead of tomorrow’s match. As previously mentioned, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is suspended and will also miss Monday’s FA Cup match against Bournemouth. Kieran Tierney is aiming to return to full training in March. Calum Chambers is out long-term.

Chelsea may be without right back Reece James, who injured his knee at the weekend. James is “in contention...but it’s going to be a tight call.” Fullback Marcos Alonso is “fit and in the squad” after missing nearly a month. Christian Pulisic is still out with an unspecified injury suffered in training a few weeks ago. Marco van Ginkel and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are out long-term.

WHAT: Arsenal vs. Chelsea
WHERE: Stamford Bridge
WHEN: Tuesday, January 21 12:15 PM PT | 3:15 PM ET | 8:15 PM BT
US TV: NBCSN and Telemundo Deportes. Stream here.

For all your international streaming needs, check livesoccer.tv. Please do not share or discuss links to illegal streams here.

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