We preview Saturday’s epic Premier League Matchday 6 encounter as Arsenal host Chelsea at Emirates Stadium.
Back to their best. Only one point from the opening two games, but since then the Gunners have been utterly dominant in the league. Wins over Watford, Southampton and Hull were followed by a hammering of Nottingham Forest in the cup.
League Form: L, D, W, W, W. (4th position in League)
A come from behind victory over Leicester in the League Cup followed a loss to rampant Liverpool and a draw away at Swansea in the Premier League. Two hiccups after such a promising start is some concern, but the midweek fixture could be the steadier that Chelsea required to get their season back on track.
League Form: W, W, W, D, L. (5th position in League)
Arsenal now appear much more settled after some early jitters. Shkodran Mustafi has strengthened the defensive unit in place of young Rob Holding, whilst the signing of Granit Xhaka appears a masterstroke given his performances and shooting ability from long-range. He should start over Alex Iwobi. It’s possibly Arsene Wenger’s best starting eleven.
Arsenal: Cech, Monreal, Koscielny, Mustafi, Bellerin, Walcott, Cazorla, Coquelin, Xhaka, Ozil, Sanchez.
John Terry is still unavailable for Chelsea, meaning David Luiz should retain his place at the back. Has Cesc Fabregas done enough in a match winning role against Leicester to regain his starting spot? We think he may just usurp Oscar in midfield in the only change from the Liverpool loss.
Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Ivanovic, Kante, Matic, Willian, Hazard, Fabregas, Costa.
There will no doubt be several key figures at the forefront of this derby, none moreso than Diego Costa. Costa has scored in Chelsea’s past three Premier League games and has five for the season to top the goal charts. Given his return to form and history of strong performances against Arsenal, Wenger has noted that it necessary for his men to avoid poking the bear. Chelsea will be hoping he continues to push the boundaries whilst staying on the field, which he has barely managed thus far. Arsenal will be hoping to avoid confrontation and most importantly keep him quiet.
Curbing Costa, Hazard and Willian’s influence will be crucial if Arsenal are to overturn a stretch of nine Premier League encounters without a win over Chelsea. It is a truly remarkable record, and will require the attacking prowess of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to break through at the other end. Much has been made of David Luiz’s ability as a footballer vs ability as a defender, and he will need more of the latter here.
To suggest both teams will be up for this match is nothing short of a massive understatement. It is a crucial clash despite coming so early in the season. Can Arsenal push on and highlight their title credentials by breaking the Chelsea hoodoo? Can Chelsea overturn their poor recent form and prove they are in a fight for the top 4? The home ground factor may prove decisive. We expect Arsenal to win the key stats, and that could just be enough to take an invaluable three points.
Daily Football Blog Prediction: Arsenal 2 – 1 Chelsea