The first London Derby of the new season sees Arsenal host rivals Chelsea at the Emirates, with the home side already under scrutiny after their opening day disappointment.
Here’s all you need to know about Sunday’s clash:
After enduring a turbulent campaign last term, Mikel Arteta and his side would have been hoping for a positive start to the new season, yet they’ve ultimately put themselves under more pressure following a desperately disappointing defeat to newly-promoted Brentford in the Premier League’s curtain-raiser.
The centre-back pair of Pablo Mari and £50m man Ben White, in particular, looked shaky against Thomas Frank’s side, with the dynamic duo of Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbuemo causing all sorts of problems for Arsenal’s struggling backline.
The Bees’ opening goal saw the Arsenal defence fail to clear their lines in the build-up to Sergi Canos’ superb strike, yet it was the second goal of the game which even further exposed the Gunners defensive frailties, as Christian Norgaard nodded home after Arteta’s men simply failed to deal with a dangerous, yet preventable, long throw.
Equally, in attack, the north London club failed to really fashion any major openings, albeit with one positive note being the display of young playmaker Emile Smith Rowe who was a creative spark throughout, as too was the ever-impressive Kieran Tierney down the left flank.
Their attacking shortcomings were not aided by the absence of both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang through illness, with the two men likely to be unavailable again this weekend, as rumours swirl that one, or both, could potentially be on the move before the August deadline.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however, the club having agreed a deal with Real Madrid for the return of midfielder Martin Odegaard on a permanent deal following his encouraging loan spell last term, while Sheffield United stopper Aaron Ramsdale is also reportedly close to securing a move to the club.
In truth, the situation at Stamford Bridge couldn’t be more of a contrast to that of their London rivals, with Chelsea currently looking almost unbeatable having followed up their UEFA Super Cup triumph with a comfortable opening weekend win over Crystal Palace.
The Blues had taken the lead through a stunning Marcos Alonso strike, with Christian Pulisic adding a second soon after, before Premier League debutant Trevoh Chalobah capped a fine week’s work with a stunning long-range effort to seal all three points.
After having been so impressive against Villarreal in midweek, the 22-year-old matched that display with another fine showing against Patrick Vieira’s side, staking his claim to be a regular fixture of Thomas Tuchel’s side over the coming season and potentially quietening the clamour for a new centre-back addition.
Even if there are no more arrivals in west London in the next two weeks, the Blues already seemingly have a wealth of options in the playing squad, a point illustrated by the fact that they were able to win so comfortably despite being without the likes of Thiago Silva, N’Golo Kante and Hakim Ziyech and with England internationals Ben Chilwell and Reece James on the bench.
One addition that has already been made to the squad, however, is that of Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian ace making his return to the club in a £97.5m deal, after having previously joined the Blues from Anderlecht a decade ago.
The 28-year-old is likely to make his much-anticipated debut against the Gunners this weekend, while Tuchel should also be able to recall midfield maestro Kante after his absence against the Eagles.
Chelsea 0-1 Arsenal, 12 May 2021
While it was an underwhelming campaign overall for the Gunners last term, one bright note was doing the double over their London rivals, as they added to their 3-1 Boxing Day triumph with another victory towards the back end of last season.
In a game of few chances, the visitors were essentially gift-wrapped an opening goal, as Emile Smith Rowe tucked home after Jorginho’s poor back-pass had left Kepa Arrizabalaga scrambling.
With Thomas Tuchel’s side resting players ahead of their FA Cup final clash with Leicester City, the hosts were perhaps understandably under-par as they struggled to really threaten Bernd Leno in the opposing goal.
The home side did eventually have the ball in the net late on through Christian Pulisic, only to see the goal ruled out by VAR, with Kurt Zouma then seeing his powerful header superbly saved by an outstretched Leno.
Arsenal: Leno; Chambers, White, Holding, Tierney; Xhaka, Lokonga; Saka, Smith Rowe, Pepe; Martinelli
Chelsea: Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Kante, Jorginho, Chilwell; Mount, Werner, Lukaku
Who is the referee?
What channel is it on?
UK and Irish readers can watch the match on Sky Sports Main Event.
What time is kick off?
Sunday 22 August, 16:30 BST
Arsenal – 15/4
Chelsea – 3/4
Draw – 13/5
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