EPL preview: Chelsea vs Arsenal – Stamford Bridge – August 18, 2018 – 17:30 hrs BST
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New Arsenal coach Unai Emery fielded all his new acquisitions for the Gunners' Premier League opener Manchester City. While Sokratis Papastathopoulos and 19-year old French import Matteo Guendouzi started off at the back and mid-field, ex-Juventus defender Stephan Lichtsteiner and 22-year old Uruguayan defensive mid-fielder Lucas Torreira were introduced mid-way through the game. The experiment obviously failed in the face of some dominant play by the title holders. It was not that the new-comers were ineffective, but club regulars like Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Aubameyang were well below their mark. Ozil and Mkhitaryan were letting go of possession in dangerous positions which could land them in big trouble when they face a marauding Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The Blues have come out of a thumping 0-3 win over Huddersfield Town, this even without the likes of Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas around.
Arsenal will need more time to get used to Emery's 4-2-3-1 system that found Aubameyang and Ozil essaying balls into empty spaces quite often. The normally clinical Lacazette who missed a couple of golden opportunities to put the Gunners on level terms with City will need to polish up his act against Chelsea. Peter Cech proved that he is still good at 36, saving Arsenal the embarrassment of further goals with saves off Bernardo, Sterling, Aguero and Riyad Mahrez attempts.
For Chelsea, Eden Hazard is likely to start off in Saturday's clash and could come in place of Alvaro Morata, who's been struggling for form since last season.Arsenal could still be without two key figures at the back – Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac. Without a recognized left-back, Emery has no other option but to continue with Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Arsenal have shown brilliant play in patches outside the rival box, but it's their failure to convert that's been a problem. They will seriously need the prolific Pierre Aubameyang to come good here. For the Blues, N'Golo Kante and Ross Barkley have looked impressive in the middle and so have Pedro and Willian upfront. With Hazard in for the Stamford Bridge game, the chances of Chelsea scoring seem brighter than ever. £57.4million acquisition Jorginho made his debut with a goal from a penalty and looked very much at home with his ex-Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri. The Italian coach who replaced fellow country man Antonio Conte will probably go into Saturday's game with a 4-3-3 with César Azpilicueta, Anthony Rudiger, David Luiz and Marco Alonso forming the back four. Chelsea's surprise £71 million goal-keeping acquisition, 22-year old Kepa Arrizabalaga Athletic Bilbao,is in for the incredible Thibaut Courtois who left for Real Madrid. Arrizabalaga was hardly tested in the Huddersfield game, but was clearly rattled by a Steve Mounie that beat him and luckily came off the post. He could come under some pressure for the first time against sporadic attacks from Arsenal.
Odds seem to be in favour of Chelsea registering their second Premier League win in a row, but history shows that the Blues haven't managed to win any of their last six outings with the Gunners, in fact, losing three of them. But a Unai Emery struggling to find his feet with a new side may provide Chelsea with the perfect opportunity to reverse this trend.