On the back of our last two games, and Chelsea coming off the back of a tough EFL Cup game against Leicester and a comprehensive loss to Liverpool, bookies comprehending the odds would make us slight favourites.
Then, the aforementioned bookie would remember Arsene Wenger’s recent dire record against Chelsea, and the projected odds would be in turmoil once more.
A last-gasp win against Southampton, a backs against the wall draw in Paris, followed by two victories each gained by scoring four goals, represents great form for the Gunners. Not only that, but our squad is nearing full strength, so all pointers are looking towards a fantastic opportunity for a win against our London rivals.
In terms of naming the team, Wenger will give a late test to Olivier Giroud, who is nursing a toe injury. The game has come too soon for Aaron Ramsey, who is back in training but is not match fit yet. Danny Welbeck, Per Mertesacker and Carl Jenkinson are still unavailable.
Even if the French striker does make the cut, will he make the actual eleven? Despite many critics proclaiming that Alexis Sanchez doesn’t work as a sole frontman – and it is clear he isn’t as effective as when he performs in his natural role – the goals are flowing, and the results are there for all to see.
So, it’s a straight fight between the Chilean and the bearded Gaul for the striker spot, but Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal and Petr Cech are all expected to come straight back into the side.
Another bone of contention is whether Granit Xhaka should start. The Swiss midfielder has impressed since joining, and his recent long range screamers have only served to act as a megaphone, proclaiming to all his talents. Wenger has stated that the reason Xhaka is currently getting splinters on the bench is cohesion, and that will take time to build. So, it looks like Cazorla and Coquelin will be given the job of marshalling the centre of the park.
Antonio Conte will have the League’s most effective villain in full force, with Diego Costa in rude form in front of goal – and causing controversy in every game he has played. The Spaniard/Brazilian reverse Benjamin Button will keep Koscielny and Mustafi on their toes.
Will Cesc remain on the bench? Will Oscar be nominated to sit behind Costa? Conte has just as many players to choose from, and this clash – no matter how early it is in the season – will have a huge impact. If a side can emerge victorious, then the belief that will coarse through the side could propel them up the table.
Arsenal are the side in form though. Three wins on the bounce, and Conte seems to still be searching for his perfect gameplan. One clean sheet for the Italian in his League games thus far is not exactly the Italian masterclass in defending that Stamford Bridge would have been hoping for.
The bottom line though, is that for these games, form has never been much of a powerful variable. What will win this game is guts, tenacity, fitness, and a little sprinkling of genius. We have this in buckets.
We will need to keep all of our men on the pitch though – our last two games we have succumbed to red mist and managed to get a player sent for an early bath.
One eerie indicator? Chelsea have enjoyed ruining Arsene Wengers milestones in the past. His 500th and 1000th games all coincided with Chelsea losses. It is high time to exorcise this blue demon. Seeing as Wenger is celebrating his 20th anniversary with the club, that doesn’t bode well.
The worst stat regarding this crunch game though? Sky Sports have revealed that in the last eight games that today’s match official Michael Oliver has taken charge of involving the Gunners, we have failed to win any of them. Chelsea though? They are unbeaten in the last thirteen games that Michael Oliver has officiated.
Predicted lineup –
Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi, Sanchez
Predicted Scoreline – 2-0.