The Gunners are in the middle of a crisis and cannot allow their London rivals to gain the upper hand this weekend
Disturbing challenges are coming these days for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, and the Gunners are set for another tough test this weekend when they host Chelsea in the Premier League.
London derbies are always a brave business, and even without fans expect drama galore as the hosts look to end their winless streak and Chelsea seek the win to bring them back into the top four.
Confidence will likely be low for Arsenal after being beaten 4-1 by Manchester City midweek, while Chelsea will be backed by their comfortable win over West Ham United.
Watch Premier League, La Liga and Serie A football live on your phone with Showmax Pro
After back-to-back defeats to Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers Frank Lampard also finds himself under more pressure, but it is the Gunners – who could be just one point out of the relegation zone by the end of the weekend – who are more desperate for points.
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Team news
Thomas Partey remains out for Arsenal due to injury – a big loss for Arteta, whose midfielder has looked chaotic at times since the Ghana powerhouse limped against Tottenham Hotspur.
Without him, Arteta will probably be delighted with Mohamed Elneny and Dani Ceballos in the heart of the park.
Granit Xhaka is an option, following his return from suspension, but it remains to be seen if he can be risky again after his stupid sent off against Burnley.
Indeed, Arteta risks losing parts of the Gunners fanbase if he restores Xhaka to the starting XI.
The coach may also have a big decision to make about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; the Gabonese striker has been sidelined with a calf injury but could he be rushed into action again as the Gunners, timid on goal, seek to bring the game to their neighbors?
After sustaining a shin injury against City midweek – spoiling an otherwise classy display – Gabriel Magalhaes is also a doubt for the Gunners, who may have to look to David Luiz to pair Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney in the three last.
Lampard has to decide if he stays with Tammy Abraham – so impressive against West Ham United – or goes with Olivier Giroud against his former employers, while he also has to decide whether he will stay with the disappointing Kai Havertz or reshuffle his midfielder . .
Full-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell are unlikely to play, while Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi are also dubious despite progress in their injury recoveries.
Arsenal vs Chelsea: key facts and statistics
Chelsea have a good recent record against the Gunners, having lost just two of their last 17 games against the Gunners (in September 2016 and January 2019).
They won nine of those matches, including the same one last season, when Arsenal lost a 1-0 lead with seven minutes left.
The Gunners are in the middle of a miserable run, failing to win in seven games – a streak that includes five losses.
Only once before in Premier League history have they gone longer without a win – eight matches between November 1992 and January 1993 – although it is interesting to note that Arsenal did not lose at home the next day. Christmas since 1987, when he was beaten by Nottingham Forest.
Memorably, they beat Chelsea in that same game in 2001 and are hoping for a similar result this time around.
If Arteta struggles to recall Aubameyang, he could be encouraged by the striker’s boxing scoring record on Boxing Day. The Gabonese hitman scored for the Gunners on December 26, 2018 and 2019, and is said to be the first Arsenal player since Thierry Henry to complete the treble.
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Predictions
Even though Arteta and his team will need the three points against Chelsea, it’s hard to see how they are going to get the upper hand over the Blues.
With Partey absent, and with Gabriel and Aubameyang in doubt, Arteta could be without his best defender, best midfielder and best forward, and given the team’s overall hard work at the moment, don’t expect the one of the supporting actors is stepping up.
Under fire from Nicolas Pepe could be key, although a series of anonymous performances this season has raised questions about his desire to make a difference in north London.
A draw is perhaps the best the Gunners could hope for, and even that could be far-fetched against a Chelsea side who looked so complete against the Hammers.
Prediction: Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea