After a forgettable defeat on Tuesday night at the hands of Watford, it’s even more of an important fixture for Arsenal as they make the short trip to west London with league leaders Chelsea up next.
Lagging nine points behind our London rivals, it’s a make-or-break encounter with regards to a Premier League title charge this season and we’re only at the start of February.
Arsène Wenger revealed injury updates in the aftermath of their 2-1 defeat in midweek, whilst speaking about failed previous attempts to sign N’Golo Kante as well as midfield options that he has to choose from.
Aaron Ramsey trudged off with a calf strain after just 20 minutes against the Hornets, and the boss has confirmed the Welsh midfielder is set to be out for 21 days.
“We are a bit short at the moment but we have young players who can do well,” Wenger said.
Olivier Giroud played the first-half before being substituted in what many thought was a tactical change (but seems to have been a small ‘injury’), and the experienced French forward could feature from the offset – although Wenger’s comments make it seem unlikely.
“Giroud has a [fitness] test – he should be alright. Maybe Danny Welbeck will come back in the group. The players were very down and frustrated after the Watford defeat.”
When questioned about the crucial clash on Saturday lunchtime, he said: “I believe the most important thing is we turn up with a positive performance. We’ve shown we can beat Chelsea… what’s at stake here is how we respond. We will be more on alert than we were against Watford.”
On whether he thought about signing Kante in the past, having stressed the importance of him in Chelsea’s side: “Yes, when he was in France, when he was at Leicester. I cannot explain everything but it is obvious [the reason why] when you look at where he has gone.”
Granit Xhaka’s set to miss out once again as part of his four-match suspension so Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could start alongside Francis Coquelin in the middle of the park.
Alexis Sánchez was an improved player during the second-half against Watford in a central role and could feature in that position once more, where he flourished during Giroud’s absence earlier in the campaign.
Possible XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Coquelin, Ox; Iwobi, Walcott, Özil; Alexis.
Chelsea’s 13-match unbeaten run was ended by Tottenham in their first fixture of 2017, but they’ve responded well in the face of adversity and battled hard to record wins over Leicester and Hull since.
A 1-1 draw away against Liverpool whilst we lost presented a perfect opportunity to close the gap at the top, but as usual, Arsenal failed to take advantage. The Blues will be buoyed by recent results and the chance to avenge their 3-0 defeat in September, with Antonio Conte having a full-strength squad to choose from.
Taking all of this into account, it’s highly unlikely that Arsenal will manage to come away with a credible result tomorrow. Stranger things have happened but if the team start as slowly as they did last time out, things could get ugly very quickly.
Possible XI (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz; Alonso, Kanté, Matic, Moses; Hazard, Willian, Costa.