Arsenal play Chelsea this weekend and it’s a big one, as well as an important fixture.
We entertain our London rivals Chelsea in what promises to be an intriguing watch, one with a new manager across west London.
It’ll be Antonio Conte’s first clash with Arsenal and considering his Premier League record to-date, his side will be quietly confident that history can repeat itself and they can extend their unbeaten league record against us to a whopping 11 meetings.
The last time we beat Chelsea in the league was five years ago; a thrilling 5-3 victory at Stamford Bridge in October 2011. Since then, they’ve established themselves as the top team that we just can’t seem to beat.
In our last two matches, we’ve notched up three red cards, adding fuel to the fire which suggests this is an emotional affair whilst questions have been asked over our temperament, especially considering the controversy surrounding Gabriel and Diego Costa twelve months ago.
Arsène Wenger was quick and effective in playing down questions about former Chelsea boss José Mourinho whilst delivering one piece of good and bad injury news ahead of Saturday’s evening kick-off.
Olivier Giroud (toe) is set for a late fitness test to see whether he’ll be involved, but Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) has been ruled out of action for another two or three weeks with a small grade one hamstring strain which he hasn’t recovered fully from.
The boss himself said he doesn’t think the 25-year-old Welsh midfielder will be available to play against either Basel or Burnley, so he could return after the next international break.
On his team selections, he admitted it’s “always difficult” to pick the side, but it’s also good as they’ve got both “balance and competition for positions”. In terms of discipline, which has been a common issue in recent meetings, Wenger said that they’ll “talk about that” collectively, which is encouraging news.
After being asked a number of questions about José, he said, “I have no personal problem with anybody, I respect everybody in our game and don’t feel I comment a lot on other teams.”
After a morale-boosting 4-0 victory over Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup on Tuesday, there are no fresh injury doubts or issues that need resolving. Giroud, as previously stated will require a late fitness test, but isn’t expected to start if he does feature.
Ramsey is one of four first-team players unavailable for selection through injury, with Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck (knee) both out until the first months of 2017 whilst fullback, Carl Jenkinson (ACL), is nearing a return to training, and is expected back in early November.
Among the things Wenger said in his presser, was the fact he felt “everybody at the moment deserves to start,” which could mean Granit Xhaka starts alongside Santi Cazorla in midfield.
It’s a real six-pointer, even this early in the season, and there’s no reason why Arsenal cannot rule triumphant with an impressive home victory this weekend.
Possible XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerín, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Cazorla, Xhaka; Walcott, Iwobi, Özil; Sánchez.
Although Conte’s life in charge at Chelsea has started promisingly, they’ve begun to gradually drop points in matches that you’d naturally expect them to win.
They had to fightback in tough circumstances to snatch a point against Swansea at the Liberty, having gone 1-0 up before the interval. In their most recent league fixture, they were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side who punished them for sloppy defending to good effect.
After going two-nil down against Leicester in midweek, they managed to create a spirited comeback and prevail 4-2 (AET) and progress into the fourth-round of this year’s EFL Cup.
Chelsea are a team in transition, a quality side but equally vulnerable as shown by their recent performances.
John Terry (ankle) has not been passed fit to play, and that could prove important with Gary Cahill’s indifferent form and David Luiz’s questionable defensive ability always an issue.
Even though Chelsea’s recent form hasn’t been the best, they’ll go into the game with confidence. They’ve got quality in depth and know how to pose various threats across Arsenal’s backline. If Diego Costa unleashes his mean streak, it’ll be interesting to see how we cope under pressure.
Possible XI (4-1-4-1): Courtois; Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Kante; Matic, Fabregas, Willian, Hazard; Costa.