One of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures of the Premier League Calendar is here. It’s Arsenal hosting Chelsea at Emirates on Boxing Day.
Chelsea will not be easy opponents for the Gunners especially considering their current situation. Lampard Blue has attacking depth as well as defensive solidity. They are a completely different team from what they were last season.
Build up for the Derby
Gunners are coming into this game looking for their first victory since November. Arsenal is having a tragic campaign so far. They are 15th on the table just a few points above relegation zone. Gunners have 14 points from 14 matches so far. This is their worst start to a campaign since 1974-75.
Since defeating then shaky United in November Gunners haven’t won a single game drawing 2 and loosing 5.
While their opponents Chelsea are 5th in the table looking pretty good so far. The Blues have won 7, drawn 4 and lost 3 out of their 14 games so far. Chelsea coming into the boxing day after winning against West Ham. Chelsea boss will be under pressure to deliver at least a top 4 finish after the amount spent by them in the market this season.
This will be the 202nd game between Arsenal and Chelsea, and the Gunners have the advantage based on past head-to-head encounters. Arsenal has beaten Chelsea 78 times while losing only 65 times to the Blues. A total of 58 games have ended in draws between these two sides.
Team News and Tactics
Arsenal’s main fitness doubt surrounds captain Aubameyang, who has missed the team’s last two matches with a calf problem. The Gabon international might be available for selection but could ultimately be used off the bench due to the nature of the issue. Gabriel Martinelli is also a doubt, having taken a blow to his shin during the EFL Cup defeat to Man City, while Thomas Partey will again miss out due to a thigh problem. Granit Xhaka has now served his three-game suspension and will be available, though, and it would not be a surprise to see the Switzerland international return to the starting XI for the boxing day clash.
Arsenal’s manager is under immense pressure. It’s a make or break for him. Arteta will go with the usual formation of 3-4-3. Leno will definitely start in goal. Tierney Holding and returning from his suspension Gabriel Magalhaes will form back 3. For the two wingbacks if Bellerin is fit we will start along with Saka and if not then Maitland-Niles will return his spot in the starting 11. In midfield, it’s highly unlikely that Xhaka will get a nod meaning Elneny might start along with Ceballos. In attack with the absence of Captian Aubameyang, Alexender Lacazette will have to lead the attack with Pepe and Willian being on either wing.
For Chelsea, Hakim Ziyech remains on the sidelines with a thigh problem, while Reece James and Ben Chilwell are both huge doubts for the visitors ahead of the contest. Cesar Azpilicueta and Emerson Palmieri are therefore expected to start in the full-back positions at the Emirates Stadium, but Lampard is expected to stick with the bulk of the XI that started against West Ham. As a result, Havertz could again be left on the bench with Werner and Christian Pulisic playing alongside Abraham in the final third of the field, while Jorginho and Mason Mount should feature alongside N’Golo Kante in the middle of the park.
Chelsea has shifted from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 formation. Blues will stick to 4-3-3 mostly for such a big game. Mendy will be in goal. In defense since the first-choice fullback pairing is injured Cesar Azpilicueta and Emerson will start. In heart of their defense, the center-back pairing of Zouma Silva will definitely start. For midfield Mount and Kante will definitely start. for that third midfield spot there will be a toss-up between Jorginho and Kovačić and even Havertz. When it comes to the frontline the trio of Werner, Abraham, Pulisic might start or Lamaprd might start Giroud against his former team instead of Abraham.
- Chelsea has lost just two of their last 17 Premier League meetings with Arsenal (W9 D6). With both of those defeats coming at the Emirates (0-3 in September 2016, 0-2 in January 2019).
- Arsenal lost this exact fixture 1-2 last season, despite being 1-0 ahead until the 83rd minute. In fact, the side scoring first won none of the three meetings in all competitions between Arsenal and Chelsea last season (D1 L2), with Arsenal coming from behind to win the FA Cup final in the most recent encounter.
- Arsenal hasn’t lost any of their last 12 Boxing Day home games (W10 D2) since a 0-2 loss against Nottingham Forest in 1987. The Gunners have won each of their last nine such games in the Premier League, including a 2-1 victory over Chelsea in 2001.
- Chelsea lost 0-2 against Southampton on Boxing Day last season, ending a run of 14 games without defeat on 26th December (W9 D5). The Blues have not lost consecutive Boxing Day matches since 1995.
- Timo Werner is Chelsea’s joint top scorer this season with eight goals in all competitions, but he has failed to score in his last nine games.
- Chelsea is looking to complete the Premier League double against Arsenal for the fifth time (2005-06, 2009-10, 2012-13, and 2015-16). Only Liverpool (5) and Man Utd (5) have done this against the Gunners on as many as five occasions.
Players to watch out for
While he has scored just once in this PL season, his pace and dribbling have been a menace for defenders to handle. Just like his other wing partner, he will be looking to capitalize on the shaky nature of the Gunners’ defense.
With 1 goal, 3 assists, and 27 key passes in 13 games, Mount has been one of Chelsea’s best midfielders. Without a doubt, Lampard will be looking at the young Englishman to provide creativity against their London counterparts.
As it is sure that skipper Aubameyang will miss the game on boxing day, Lacazette is going to be a key man in the Arsenal attack. Arteta preferred Nketiah over Lacaazette the last week in the absence of Auba but that didn’t work, so Lacazette might get a crucial start tomorrow as he scored the solitary goal in the 4-1 loss against City in the Carabao Cup. He is someone who can lit up the Gunners attack in crucial games.
Gabriel, coming back from the suspension is a sought of relief for the Arsenal in this struggling period, He used to be a regular starter for the team in the league, also contributing to the attacking half with two goals. His presence can definitely boost the Arsenal defense when they are facing a strong Chelsea attack.
It could go two ways. Either all the holy spirits enjoyed over Christmas gets evaporated on boxing day or could Santa hand them late Christmas gifts to one of the teams especially to Arsenal and extend their happiness for few more days. All in all this boxing day’s London Derby is going to be a mouthwatering encounter.