Mikel Arteta’s brief reign has given him very little breathing space, with the games coming thick and fast in the FA Cup and the domestic and Europa League. A total of 4 games in 13 days against the likes of Manchester United, Leeds United, Crystal Palace and first up, the visit of Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.
Arteta’s initial concerns aren’t just about intensity and application, he has a number of key players absent due to injury and the added complications of a transfer window.
Arsenal’s defensive woes have been compounded by the usual array of injuries and inconsistencies and one of the biggest failures must be the poor form of David Luiz and Sokratis. It remains to be seen if either will command a starting spot after the January transfer window is over but for now, the Spanish coach has little choice but to include them in his squad as necessary due to a lack of realistic options.
Rivals Chelsea have hit a rough spot in their season which reaches back to November and a narrow 2-1 loss against Manchester City. Since then, they have lost to West Ham, Everton, Bournemouth and more recently Southampton, but they are still fancied to have too much for Arsenal at the Emirates.
Yet, the confidence issues will be evident in both teams in the first half and whoever gets the opening goal may grab the points. It was interesting that Lampard should engage in the obligatory mind games by issuing a warning to the Arsenal coach by saying:
“The honeymoon period doesn’t go on for ever – and it shouldn’t do. But I think the fans will have a feeling for Arteta and want him to do well as being one of their own.”
Hearing such nonsense is less impressive when it’s not delivered by Alex Ferguson who wrote the manual on mind manipulation, but there is a degree of truth in the words uttered by the Chelsea coach.
Lampard himself has received decent support from Chelsea fans, but some are wavering in the wake of the current blip and the former Blues and England midfielder will be desperate not to come a cropper at the hands of Arsenal’s new coach.
For Arteta, it’s about building momentum and extracting a performance with or without the result, as he encourages his players to be more compact and competitive. Contrary to some sections of the Emirates faithful, the team has to find its combined potential to win games and that might not be against Chelsea.
However, make no mistake, a win would be most welcome at this stage in his tenure and could restore some much needed belief almost immediately.
Kolasinac and Tierney are still unavailable and are joined by Sokratis, who has concussion. There are still concerns over Holding, Bellerin, Ceballos and Martinelli, but Callum Chambers is free from suspension.
Maitland Niles is ready to fill the role of right back should Bellerin be declared unfit, but its thought that there is a strong possibility of the Spaniard’s return.
The stats heavily favour Chelsea with Arsenal winning only twice in their previous 15 meetings and only Liverpool have won more away games than Arsenal’s London rivals this season.
Chelsea are the favourites with the bookies (13/10 -William Hill) but in the context of both side’s recent form, odds are relatively meaningless.
Preferred Team Against Chelsea :-
Leno; Bellerin, Chambers, Holding, Bola; Torreira, Guendouzi; Pepe, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette.
Probable Side Against Chelsea :-
Leno; Bellerin, Chambers, Luiz, Saka; Torreira, Xhaka; Pepe, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette.