Once upon a time, you’d know what sort of game you were in for when Arsenal visited Chelsea. For the most part of the Roman Abramovich era, muscular, strong-willed Chelsea would flex Arsenal aside, apart from the few occasions when the Gunners’ more subtle attempts to play through their opponents would come off. The results weren’t always predictable, but the pattern was.
Not this time. This is perhaps the most interesting game between these two teams since Abramovich arrived in England, simply because these are two teams simultaneously in flux, with new managers, new styles, new players and new outlooks. Both are feeling their way into new eras, Unai Emery trying to fill the shoes of a club institution whose own decline saw the club stagnate, while Maurizio Sarri has to introduce his style of play, a process that will require some patience, into a club not known for it.
This game is a real chance to get an idea of how the season might play out for both these sides.
Chelsea vs Arsenal promises to be a fascinating battle. Maurizio Sarri started with a win against Huddersfield in something resembling the Sarri-ball 4-3-3 which so impressed at Napoli, while Unai Emery’s group did OK in a 2-0 defeat to Pep Guardiola’s all-destroying Man City.
New managers Maurizio Sarri and Unai Emery will have their first competitive impressions of the match on Saturday after having already met in a 1-1 pre-season draw, which Arsenal won 6-5 on penalties.
The pair experienced vastly different opening games of the season as Sarri and the Blues travelled to Huddersfield for a 3-0 win, while Emery and the Gunners suffered a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of champions Manchester City.
What the managers are saying:
Maurizio Sarri: “Emery is a very good coach. He won the Europa League three times, he won in France with PSG, and I think Arsenal this season will be competitive. They will be able to fight for a place in the Champions League.”
Unai Emery: “We can improve and we need to improve playing in the difficult games We need to work hard, we need to work together and we need to suffer together when we lose.”
Chelsea: Eden Hazard is expected to return to the Chelsea starting XI having now had an extra week to train with the team since returning from the World Cup. Cesc Fabregas will likely miss the match due to the knee injury which kept him out against Huddersfield.
Arsenal: Lucas Torreira could start for Arsenal after initially appearing as a substitute against Man City. Petr Cech will remain in goal. Ainsley Maitland-Niles has now been ruled out for up to eight weeks with a broken leg, joining Sead Kolasinac on the sidelines. Therefore, Stephan Lichtsteiner will likely start at left back, or Nacho Monreal if he is fit enough.