A downtrodden Arsenal welcomes the reigning European champions, Chelsea, to the Emirates on Sunday for a London derby that even just two games into the season, is fundamentally a must-win game for Mikel Arteta’s side.
The Gunners were soundly beaten 2-0 by newly-promoted Brentford last week in the opening game of the Premier League season and a drastic improvement will definitely be required if they are to take three points against one of Europe’s most dominant clubs at the moment, in return taking the pressure off both the club and the inexperienced manager.
Chelsea never looked in trouble against Crystal Palace last weekend and after an impressive 3-0 win they will now look for revenge over the Gunners in their second London derby of the season already. The two clubs at the end of the season were miles apart in the league table but Mikel Arteta’s side surprisingly completed a league double over the Blues last season.
A frank turnaround for the Blues
Who would have predicted that the down and desolate Chelsea at the start of the season under Frank Lampard would go on to be transformed into a Champions League and Super Cup winning force in less than 12 months.
They will be firm favourites on form to beat the Gunners, who were second best (and that is being generous) in their defeat at newly-promoted Brentford last Friday. An embarrassing defeat for the once-great Premier League side and a result that will pile the pressure on Arteta.
In contrast, Chelsea brushed aside Crystal Palace in their opening match and will be strengthened for the visit to the Emirates by the arrival (or should that be the re-arrival) of Romelu Lukaku. With a high price tag attached to his name, can Lukaka go that one step further than in previous attempts and really stamp his name on the Premier League.
The Blues lost this fixture 3-0 last season under Lampard but they are a completely different side now under Tuchel and there can only really be one outcome this weekend, they should get revenge for that defeat.
The Luck of Lukaku?
In the eyes of the bookies, pundits and most Chelsea fans (all of them, let’s face it), Lukaku’s return has turned the Blues into true title contenders this season. A face very familiar to Premier League fans already after spells at Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United, the star striker has certainly developed his game over the last two seasons in Italy, putting justification on the heavy valuation he currently has.
A regular goalscorer, he is almost certainly going to test Arsenal’s £50m signing from Brighton and Hove Albion, Ben White and Pablo Marit in the Gunners defence. Blues fans will also be hoping that he should finally bring the reliable and consistent goalscorer they have been missing.
Timo Werner and Kai Havertz both had great seasons, the Havertz of course scoring the winner in the Champions League final, but there were clear hesitations in front of goal and a severe lack of consistency in front of goal. With 113 Premier League goals already in the bag for Lukaku, he is sure to add heavily to that tally during this latest spell in England.
Granit Xhaka’s job on Sunday will be to try and halt Chelsea and their array of creative players. The Arsenal man will have to deal with the likes of Mason Mount, Havertz, Werner and Lukaku as the Gunners do all they can to keep out this ever-improving Chelsea side.
Xhaka has had 37 yellow cards in the Premier League over the past four seasons and has been booked three times against Chelsea since joining the Gunners.
The referee for the fixture, Paul Tierney, has booked Xhaka twice in the last three seasons in matches against Huddersfield Town and Liverpool, and we see another booking in store for the Swiss.