Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
For a spell at the start of the decade, the two managers in this game often went toe-to-toe as midfield generals for the clubs concerned. This London derby, however, marks the first opportunity for Mikel Arteta and Frank Lampard to size one another up as managers, with the Spaniard also getting his home debut as Gunners boss.
It’s possibly the best time Arsenal could have picked to play their city rivals, with the Blues in something of a fankle when it comes to league form. They’ve won twice in their last seven league games, losing the other five against opponents including Southampton, Bournemouth and West Ham. In fact, they’ve lost as many games since the final week of November as Arsenal have all season – but Chelsea’s solid start to the campaign means they still sit five places above their opponents ahead of this game.
Arsenal vs Chelsea Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea
In the early stages of the season, when Chelsea were winning games thanks to a whirlwind attacking style and the fine form of Tammy Abraham, many a pundit wondered aloud what would happen when those factors faltered. The answer is that Chelsea lost five games in seven; a defence that clearly needed work still needs it, and that has been brutally exposed time and again in recent weeks. Lampard will get a chance to address it in the transfer market, but the window doesn’t open until next week and even then it remains to be seen whether his managerial talents extend to organising a defence. Either way, it’s an open wound that Arsenal can look to expose here.
Our recommended tip: Arsenal & BTTS
Although Arteta’s stint in the Arsenal dugout is still very much in the “early days” file, the first signs are that he plans to play a great deal more expansively than his predecessor Unai Emery. The Gunners were on the front foot for most of his managerial debut at Bournemouth, but were caught out by a counter-punch goal before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang got a late equaliser. Here, they will have home advantage and are facing a young Chelsea side that’s short on confidence, so we’re attracted by Betway’s price of 100/30 on a win for Arsenal in a match where both teams score.
The last meeting between these sides was the Europa League final in May; a faintly bizarre game which took place in front of a half-full stadium in Baku, and after which the winning manager was sacked. Chelsea roared to a 4-1 victory through two goals from Eden Hazard and one each from Olivier Giroud and Pedro. Alex Iwobi grabbed Arsenal’s lone consolation. The sides last met domestically at this same stadium last January, where Arsenal were 2-0 winners. Laurent Koscielny and Alex Lacazette bagged first-half goals for the home side.
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Players to watch: Granit Xhaka & Mason Mount
It’s been a tough first half of the season for Arsenal, and all the more so for erstwhile club captain Xhaka. The Swiss international has come in for a lot of criticism from the Arsenal fans, reaching a crescendo when he was booed off the pitch after being substituted against Crystal Palace. There have been signs of a rapprochement, with some of the more reasonable fans recognising his commitment to the side, and he showed against Bournemouth that his passing range and work-rate can be assets to Arteta.
Mount is one of a number of players who, were it not for Chelsea’s transfer ban, would probably have been loaned out yet again this season, but instead has found himself at the core of a young, attacking Blues side. Few would argue with the assessment that he has been one of, if not the key player under Lampard, and his goals and assists have been essential to the team’s high position in the league along with a solid European performance. If they are to pick up form again soon, he’ll be essential to that, too.