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Arsenal at Chelsea Preview: Derby Days

With the inter lull over, the Gunners return to the pitch to take on rivals Chelsea

Arsenal FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

With another international break behind us, we can get back to looking ahead at Arsenal’s upcoming fixtures. After spending two weeks basking in the glow of a long-overdue win against Manchester City, the Gunners take a short trip to face Chelsea for the Gunners’ 4th London Derby of the 2023/24 Premier League season.

The entirety of the footballing world have relished in Chelsea’s recent turmoil, as the club crashed and burned in spectacular fashion last season under the ownership of Todd Boehly. In spite of their absurd spending the summer before, Chelsea finished last season in 12th place with 44 total points accumulated despite a roster replete with high-priced players.

The firing of Thomas Tuchel early in the season was followed by the catastrophic tenure of Graham Potter before the club threw what remaining sense they had out the window, letting club legend Frank Lampard have another crack at managing the club. In his second stint, he managed to amass an incredible 9% win record over the course of his 9 match tenure, which is so bad it begs the question as to wether he actually attempted to sabotage the club from the inside out.

Enter Mauricio Pochettino.

Arsenal fans know the name all too well, as Pochettino spent five seasons as Tottenham’s manager ahead of a brief stay at PSG before accepting (what I can only assume) was a stupidly lucrative deal to return to the PL and manage Chelsea.

The Blues spent the recent summer making another series of ridiculously pricey player purchases, avoiding FFP charges by offloading dead weight to the newly-aggressive Saudi Pro League, conveniently selling to clubs owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, who have ties to Clearlake Capital, an investment group that backs Todd Boehly’s ownership stake in Chelsea. Nope, nothing to see here, folks…

Regardless, under Poch, Chelsea are a club that look starkly different from the side that Arsenal battered at the Emirates in May, while Arsenal have managed to strengthen in positions of need while retaining the majority of the players that propelled them to a second-place finish last season.

As we look ahead, here are five talking points ahead of Saturday’s match:

  • Saka and Saliba’s health - Another match, another day of praying that Saka still has legs. Arsenal’s talismanic duo were kept from international duty with injuries, with Saka also having missed Arsenal’s cathartic victory over Manchester City after getting kicked off the pitch for the better part of the season finally caught up with him. The return of one or the other would be a boost, while both would be a major relief for the Gunners.
  • Form - Returning from international duty means that squads have to re-establish their chemistry and form. Arsenal’s early season form saw the new-look Gunners begin to click just as the season came to yet another screeching halt. Similarly, Chelsea had unfortunately started to look like a competent side, winning two on the trot while quietly putting together one of the league’s better defenses, the bastards.
  • The Best XI - Despite their solid start, Arsenal have yet to field what seems to be their best starting XI. The defense is more or less sorted, but the stout midfield trio of Partey, Rice, and Ødegaard, have not started together. In the attack, last season’s three-headed beast of Martinelli, Jesus, and Saka have managed only a handful of minutes on the pitch together, which may or may not (read: definitely) have something to do with Arsenal’s uncharacteristic lack of goal scoring production.
  • The Status Quo - Chelsea spent a fair bit of the early 2000s smacking Arsenal around under the ownership of real-life villain and blood-money oligarch Roman Abramovich. Since his abrupt departure saw him replaced with Todd Boehly, Chelsea have tried to repeat their success of throwing obscene money at players, but with comically worse results. Arsenal have had Chelsea’s number since the beginning of 2020, with a recent record of 5-1-1 over their rivals. A little karmic balancing of the tables with another win feels fitting.
  • Keeping the Pace - Speaking of detestable London clubs, Arsenal trail traditional rivals and unconvincing league leaders Tottenham by goal difference after 8 matches. There are still 30 matches left to play, but the Gunners will need to continue stringing wins together to right the wrongs and reclaim their rightful spot above their noisy neighbors.

I won’t sugarcoat it - I hate Chelsea. Every time they look to have painted themselves into a corner financially, they find a miraculous lifeline to bail themselves out. If there is a just and merciful God, they will eventually get what’s coming to them. Until then, we just need to hope that Mikel Arteta and co take care of that at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

WHAT: Arsenal at Chelsea
WHEN: Saturday, October 21st, 12:30pm EST/8:30am PST/5:30pm GMT
WHERE: Stamford Bridge, London
HOW TO WATCH: Broadcast live on NBC, streaming live on Peacock.

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