Arsenal vs Chelsea: Match Preview

Chelsea start their 2018 with an intriguing trip to North London and a visit to the Emirates Stadium to play 6th placed Arsenal. The London rivals are due to play each other 3 times within the month of January, with the 2 legged League Cup semifinal also on the horizon.

In the reverse league fixture in September, a determined and strong rearguard defensive display helped The Gunners to a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge. The resilient performance from the Arsenal defenders came on the back of an embarrassing 4-0 hammering by a rampant Liverpool side and it gained Arsene Wenger’s side their first clean sheet at Stamford Bridge since 2005. It was a very frustrating tie for a The Blues which finished with a David Luiz red card.

After only 1 loss in 14 competitive matches, Chelsea are on a high with confidence flowing through the whole of the squad. Meanwhile, Arsenal  won only 2 of their 7 Premier League fixtures in December and the manager has also been charged by the FA over comments made to match officials after West Brom had been awarded a late penalty against them last time out.

Although the circumstances are very different, the feel within both camps is currently very similar to the build up to their tie early in the season. While The Blues are enjoying their football, The Gunners will feel as though their backs are against the wall. This is when they are most dangerous when coming up against the West Londoners. Last season’s FA Cup Final is another recent example of this scenario.

Antonio Conte has an almost full squad still available to him, with only Luiz and Charly Musonda not being in contention. Both are very close to full fitness and both could be involved on Saturday in the FA Cup. The manager’s first decision will be which formation he will start the match with - a 3-5-2 including Cesc Fabregas or a 3-4-3 with either Pedro or Willian playing up front alongside Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard. His tendency especially away from home against other top 6 sides has been the more cautious 3-5-2.

Arsene Wenger has far more issues with player availability. Mesut Ozil did not travel with the squad at the weekend and could miss out again, while both Laurent Koscielny and Sead Kolasinac were substituted with knocks and both Aaron Ramsey and Nacho Monreal have been receiving treatment. Along with Olivier Giroud, all of these players could well be ruled out. Wenger could well opt for a standard back 4 and fill his midfield with Lacazette leading the line. All eyes will be on Alexis Sanchez, with the Chilean playmaker still rumoured to be wanting to leave North London sometime this year and Chelsea is one of his likely destinations.

So despite most indications pointing towards an away win, this is a matchup that has defied the odds in 2017. Surely Antonio Conte will ensure his side are fully focused on a strong and committed performance and will be determined his side return to winning ways against their London rivals. Victory for The Blues would move them back up into second place in the League a full 10 points clear of The Gunners.

Written by Jon Ellis, Chelsea FC home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on twitter: @ClitheroeBlue
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Match Preview Arsenal vs Chelsea: Match Preview Reviewed by A Blue Up North on January 03, 2018 Rating: 5

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