It’s not often that Arsenal get to play a rival in the league twice in three weeks. Any other season, and it would be greeted with far more excitement. This season, though, it presents a potentially fatal blow to the Gunners top 4 aspirations. While “must win” is a title that can easily be tossed onto a big match, this one certainly feels increasingly make or break as the Gunners sit 10 points adrift of the top four with over half of the season in the books.
The last meeting with Chelsea was a real punch in the gut for the Gunners when Arsenal played a solid 70 minutes until they frittered away a late lead in a crushing loss to the 4th place Blues. The would-have, could-have, should-haves of that game are numerous, and there are plenty of justifiable frustrations to be had - and believe me, we have had them. But at the end of the day, the Gunners failed to seal the match late on, a frustrating recent trend that has become definitive of Mikel Arteta’s early tenure.
The home match in December showed much of the same tactical improvements we have seen in Arteta’s first month as manager - a more intense press, faster transitioning from defense to offense, and a more cohesive team across the board. But the late letdown was also a reminder that Arsenal have a long way to go to get back to respectability.
Without the services of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is serving the second of his three match red card ban, the Gunners will once again need their remaining attackers to step up. Gabriel Martinelli’s goal against Sheffield United showed a glimmer of hope in Auba’s absence. However, all eyes will be on struggling striker Alexandre Lacazette. He has done everything but score in the past month, so a goal from him would go a long way toward building his confidence and giving the Gunners a chance of a win.
Stamford Bridge has proven to be an exceedingly unfriendly environment for the Gunners, who have not won there since 2011. If the Gunners can break out of their funk away at Chelsea, it could be a massive step toward getting back to respectability for Arteta’s side - and, ya know, trying to finish in the top half of the table.
Bad news: Arsenal’s defense is still...Arsenal’s defense. But the good news, if there can be some, is that Hector Bellerin appears healthy and could feature for the Gunners. Sokratis is a game time decision after illness kept him out of the Sheffield United match, while Sead Kolasinac remains unavailable with a left thigh strain.
Reiss Nelson appears to be the only attacker who will be unavailable as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury.
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.
The Short Fuse has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.