After all of the optimism, the excitement and the passion, Friday night’s defeat to Liverpool was a real hammer blow and burst the blue bubble that was just threatening to take flight under Antonio Conte’s studious management.
In fairness, Jordan Henderson’s wonder goal deserved to win any game, but the complete absence of any marking for Dejan Lovren’s opener was reminiscent of Chelsea circa 2015/16 under Jose; and that’s a dark place we really don’t want to go back to.
Diego Costa managed to pull one back – his fourth in five Premier League games, incidentally – but it was all too little, too late and in truth a laboured showing from the lads deserved no reward. The match stats, displayed below, don’t tell the real story here:
Into Wednesday’s EFL Cup tie with Leicester we went, not really knowing what to expect. Marcos Alonso was handed his debut, while the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Victor Moses and Pedro were given an opportunity to impress. Fabregas and Moses, in particular, did not disappoint.
But it was defensively, yet again, where we floundered. Both of Leicester’s goals could have been avoided with slicker defending, and in truth it was only our incisive attacking play that gave the scoreline any respectability in the first 90 minutes.
The performance of Moses was very pleasing – he looked pacey and dangerous on the right flank, but it was Fabregas who deservedly took the Man of the Match honours with a brace of goals, an assist and some outstanding medium-range passing. Conte was pleased with what he saw:
"I am pleased for Cesc because he played a good game, he showed me great commitment in the training sessions. I am satisfied when I see this behaviour."
It will be interesting to see how we get on against an Arsenal side in a state of flux on Saturday evening.
As good a place as any to start with the team news for this encounter across the capital with Arsenal is Fabregas: Conte must surely be considering bringing in the former Gunners man at the expense of Nemanja Matic, who for the past 12 months or so really has been off his game.
Otherwise it is likely to be as you were, with John Terry still missing with a foot injury and Marcos Alonso not quite doing enough to force his way into the reckoning in midweek.
As two titans of the English game, it is no surprise to learn that Chelsea and Arsenal have met a whopping 165 times in the past. Arsenal have the upper hand with 62 wins to 55, but what we’re interested in is the more recent clashes.
In the past five seasons it has been honours even: eight wins for Chelsea, eight wins for Arsenal, and three draws. But what we really like is our record at the Emirates Stadium: W6 D4 L2. That’s very handy indeed.
How the Match Will Be Won
The idea against Arsenal might have to be outscoring them: their defending is almost as bad as ours! They have conceded in four of their five matches in the Premier League so far, and in the one they didn’t they probably should have….how Leicester didn’t get a penalty for this (7:14) is anybody’s guess:
Interestingly, that could be a ploy that Chelsea utilise. Hector Bellerin is the modern kind of defender who is better at attacking than he is his ‘day job’, and a tricky Eden Hazard should have plenty of joy against him if he can stay wide on the left flank and isolate himself against the Spaniard.
It will be good to see Costa play on the shoulder of Arsenal’s new boy Shkodran Mustafi too. He’s still getting adjusted to life in the Premier League after joining from Valencia, and some quick balls into the channel for Costa to chase could yield dividends.
Defensively, it depends on whether Arsene Wenger decides to play Olivier Giroud through the middle or Alexis Sanchez. If Giroud is up top then we can play as normal; just stop the Arsenal wingers getting to the byline and hurling crosses into the box.
If Sanchez gets the nod, he will drift into pockets of space, and it will take discipline from Luiz and Cahill not to follow him. Defending deep will be crucial, and it will also be important for one of our midfielders – probably Oscar – standing on Cazorla or Xhaka (whoever starts), as they will act like a quarter back for all Gunners’ attacks. It might be wise for Costa to drop off slightly too.