Arsene Wenger and his men travel to Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday.
It’s unusual to see Chelsea hovering above the relegation zone, having conceded more goals than any other Premier League side – but they still boast great attacking quality, and largely the same XI which ran away with the title last season.
The major arrival is Pedro, who has adapted quickly to Premier League life – although he’s set to miss out upon Saturday with a thigh injury. With Willian limping off midway through Chelsea’s victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Jose Mourinho has a problem on the right flank, and therefore could field Loic Remy there.
Otherwise, it’s essentially the same players Arsenal faced last season: Cesc Fabregas will probably be fielded as an attacking midfielder, rather than deeper alongside Nemanja Matic. Diego Costa will be up front, with Eden Hazard on the left. Last season the Belgian played primarily as a left winger, sometimes moving inside into inside-left positions – as the below heatmap shows – but this term he’s been moving more centrally, attempting to dictate play.
In the 3-1 defeat to Everton last weekend, Mourinho fielded two defensive midfielders in tandem, with John Obi Mikel sitting next to Matic, although this didn’t stop Chelsea appearing unusually weak through the centre of the pitch.
Mourinho usually responds to defeats by ordering his side to become more defensive and structured, and he could attempt to solidify the team by moving Kurt Zouma forward from centre-back into midfield, reinstating Gary Cahill in defence. Chelsea’s ‘goals conceded’ tally indicates that the backline needs added protection, and it’s worth remembering that Thibaut Courtois is another out injured, although Asmir Begovic is a fine replacement.
The defensive quartet has looked particularly vulnerable when high up the pitch, with John Terry surprisingly substituted at half-time of the 3-0 defeat to Manchester City – although he’s sure to start here after a rest in midweek.
Cesar Azpilicueta continues to be highly dependable at left-back, although switched to the right against Maccabi Tel Aviv, allowing newcomer Baba Rahman to start on the left. This could be an option this weekend, because usual right-back Branislav Ivanovic has been struggling – he hasn’t recovered since being taken apart by Jefferson Montero on the opening day, and Alexis Sanchez might seek to dribble past him at speed.
Arsenal are likely to dominate possession at Stamford Bridge – but they must be wary of being exposed by Chelsea’s quick counter-attacks.
Arsenal have had the most shots on target in the Premier League (39), while Chelsea have allowed thier opponents the most (38)
Chelsea have kept five clean sheets in thier last seven Premier League games against Arsenal, including the last four in a row.
Only David James (169) has kept more clean sheets than Petr Cech (165) in Premier League history and the Czech has not been beaten in his last three outings.
Arsenal have won seven and drawn one of their last eight Premier League away matches.
Here is a predicted line-up for both teams.
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