Chelsea and Arsenal go into the Premier League’s first big London Derby of the season in mixed form, after contrasting starts to the term, now under new management.
For Chelsea, a victory kick-started their campaign, Maurizio Sarri’s men defeating Huddersfield Town 3-0, away from home. Arsenal though found the reigning champions Manchester City too strong, losing 2-0 despite having home advantage.
It would be unfair to take too much away from Emery’s and Sarri’s first Premier League games. Both new managers are transitioning their players from old systems to new - Emery from systems ingrained in Arsenal by Arsene Wenger for more than 20 years.
Emery is attempting to instruct his players to play out from the back - which caused some hairy moments last weekend, goalkeeper Petr Čech nearly passing the ball into his own net - but this type of football will take time for the players to adapt to and see them operating in a fluid manner.
Ex-Napoli boss Sarri, though successful last week, has already said he feels it could take two months before Chelsea reach their full potential. There were opportunities for Huddersfield to come out of their own half and pose a threat to Sarri’s defence in that opening match. However, they struggled to get around Chelsea’s midfield and only managed to have one shot on target throughout the 90 minutes.
Chelsea have failed to beat Arsenal since early 2017. Last season, both home and away fixtures ended in draws, and in their last six encounters, this match has only produced two wins, both achieved by Arsenal. In the Premier League last year, the two teams managed to cancel one another out, and negate the opposition’s main threats.
Chelsea’s main centre forward, Álvaro Morata, is going through a confidence crisis, which has been painful for the Blues fans to watch. The Spaniard has seemingly lost his ability to find the back of the net, and looks awkward, without match rhythm in his game. Against Huddersfield, the former Real Madrid and Juventus striker was a misfit, as the match played out around him, rather than with him as the focal point.
Both sides have weapons to hurt one another, but given Arsenal’s record against Chelsea, Morata’s issues, and the rivalry in place, this game is poised to end with level scores once more. Backing the draw looks the best bet here and it's the top price of 3/1 the draw with 10bet. The same bookie offers 33/10 about a draw with goals, and 11/1 about a draw without goals, while a 1-1 scoreline is a 25/4 shot.
Eden Hazard returned to the fold with his 14-minute cameo in Chelsea’s win last weekend, with the expectation now that the Belgian will start against Arsenal.
Given the waning efforts of Morata, it will not be long until Sarri opts to move Hazard inside as the main source of Chelsea’s goals - in a similar move to what he did with Dries Mertens at Napoli. With him in the side, Chelsea’s attacking output will become a lot more direct and will be very difficult to thwart.
It took him less than four minutes to deliver his first contribution to a goal of the season, with the assist for Pedro’s goal at Huddersfield. As soon as he stepped onto the pitch, the 27-year-old was willing to dribble with the ball at his feet, move into space, and create chances.
Last season, Hazard scored 12 goals and assisted four times in 34 appearances in the Premier League. With the speculation now coming to an end over a potential move to Real Madrid, the left winger can focus primarily on helping his club rejoin the European elite and challenging for major honours.
The silky forward has always been a big game player - as highlighted with his contribution for Belgium in the World Cup - and so it is no surprise to see him as one of the favourites to score at anytime during this game. William Hill price Hazard at 6/4 to score at anytime during the 90 minutes, and make the exciting winger a very enticing 5/1 to score first.
Arsenal’s January signing from Borussia Dortmund, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, did not get a sniff against Manchester City, but he’s bound to have chances against a Chelsea defence that can be penetrated.
Throughout pre-season, Emery was opting for a 4-3-3 formation, which had Aubameyang on the left-hand side and Alexandre Lacazette playing through the middle. Understandably, the Spanish coach did not opt for that line-up against a very offensive Pep Guardiola team in Man City, but that is not to say he will not revert back to that format against the Blues.
The synergy and chemistry between Aubameyang and Lacazette was present last season, and again throughout the off-season. If Lacazette does not get on the scoresheet, the former Dortmund forward will, and vice versa. They have also been contributing to one another’s goals, and providing crucial assists.
With 10 goals and four assists in his first 13 appearances in England, Aubameyang showed his true brilliance by adapting to a league he had never played in before. It is not easy coming to a new country that plays in a different style to what a player has been brought up on, but the Gabon international settled in very quickly, and extremely well, at Arsenal.
He is destined to have a big season for the Gunners and could cause damage to Chelsea’s defence at the weekend. Ladbrokes have generous odds of 17/10 for Aubameyang to score at anytime, as well as 11/2 for the 29-year-old to be the first goalscorer of the match.