Fresh off a 3-0 victory away at Huddersfield, Chelsea return to Stamford Bridge for the first home match of the season to welcome Arsenal.
It’s a fixture that hasn’t been too kind to Chelsea’s opponents in recent years. Arsenal have lost 5 out of their last 6 at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, last season’s 0-0 draw being the only exception.
However, there is a new man occupying the manager’s seat at Arsenal. Unai Emery opened his tenure at the Emirates with a 2-0 defeat at home to Manchester City.
Emery’s task at Arsenal was always going to be a long-term project after the departure of Arsene Wenger, and it hasn’t helped that Arsenal are having their run of injuries especially early this season.
Arsenal are missing the Laurent Koscielny to the Achilles tendon injury he suffered late last season, and fellow defenders Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal were both absent for the defeat to Manchester City.
It gets worse for Arsenal, as Ashley Maitland-Niles, who filled in at left back in the absence of Kolasinac and Monreal, is also out with injury. It likely means that new signing Stephan Lichsteiner, who joined from Juventus, will start at left back.
More concerning for Arsenal is that they had difficulties against Manchester City’s high pressing game. Emery wants his team to build out from the back, and Petr Cech’s distribution from the back left quite a lot to be desired. Against Chelsea, they won’t find a side that’s as well acquainted with that style of play as Manchester City, but they will find a side that plays a very similar style under Sarri.
Against Huddersfield, small instances of Sarri’s favoured style of play were on display, but despite the 3-0 score line, there were still a few minor hiccups along the way.
The Chelsea defence is still adapting to a return to a back four, and Huddersfield found some success in the wide areas when they were able to find balls in behind Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso.
That might represent an area that Arsenal could exploit, but their current side does lack a touch of pace. It’s more likely that the major battle will be in the midfield where Arsenal’s midfield will have to deal with the distribution and the dynamism of Jorginho and N’Golo Kante.
Another big return for Chelsea may be Eden Hazard. After returning from holiday after the World Cup, Hazard featured for the last 30 minutes against Huddersfield and showed why he can be the difference maker in the side, producing a brilliant run and an assist for Pedro’s late goal.
Sarri didn’t indicate whether Hazard will start or not against Arsenal, but he did mention that another player who featured in the World Cup and just joined Chelsea, Mateo Kovacic, is not fit for the full 90 minutes but may be able to make his debut from the substitutes bench.
Just like the Community Shield against Manchester City, there wasn’t a whole lot to learn from Chelsea’s performance against Huddersfield. Arsenal will provide a far sterner test than Huddersfield, and after Saturday, it should become more clear how Chelsea are adapting to life under Sarri.