Arsenal face Chelsea as Unai Emery prepares for his first away fixture in the Premier League while his opposite number, Maurizio Sarri, will take charge of his first competitive match at Stamford Bridge.
Emery had a difficult start to life in the Premier League as his Arsenal side were beaten 2-0 at home by champions Manchester City. The Gunners will be looking to bounce back quickly against Sarri’s Chelsea side who claimed victory on the opening day of the Premier League with a 3-0 away win at Huddersfield.
Arsenal’s horrible away form last season saw them only win once on the road in 2018, with the Gunners failing to claim a win away from home against any of the top six clubs since February 2015, so how can Emery change Arsenal’s fortunes away against the big clubs?
Trust in Emery’s system
Despite defeat against Manchester City, there were plenty of positives for Emery to take away from the game, while the Spanish manager admitting there is still plenty for Arsenal to work on.
It’s clear that Emery wants his team to play out from the back, and in between some suspect moments, there were reasons for Arsenal fans to be positive about the style of play particularly in the second half of the City game.
Petr Cech made a few errors with the ball at his feet but also made some exceptional saves, while the back four looked uncomfortable at times playing the ball across their own box, this style will take time to implement while the players get used to Emery’s demands.
It may even take a few transfer windows for Emery to perfect his system to recruit the ideal players, but Arsenal fans must remain patient and expect to start seeing positive results as the season progresses and the players become more accustomed and comfortable.
Aubameyang & Lacazette partnership
For all of Arsenal’s defensive frailties over the last few seasons, the beauty and flair in their attacking play has remained present and with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette among the ranks, fans have a potential partnership to be very excited about.
Joining in the January transfer window last season, Aubameyang became an instant hit at the Emirates and scored an impressive 10 league goals in 13 games. With half a season already under his belt, the Gabon striker will be hoping to excel and continue his clinical scoring form and forming a partnership with Lacazette could be crucial to Arsenal’s success.
Arsene Wenger flirted with the idea of an Aubameyang, Lacazette partnership at the end of last season in a front three, while Emery experimented with a similar tactic deploying Aubameyang on the left-wing with Lacazette playing through the middle.
Emery opted to start Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the left-wing and Aubameyang as the central striker against City but may be tempted to try Aubameyang and Lacazette in the same team after an underwhelming performance from Mkhitaryan.
Lacazette was brought on a second half substitute against City and instantly improved Arsenal’s attacking play as the Gunners enjoyed a larger share of possession in the second half and created a few chances and despite some poor finishing, the French forward looked bright.
In Emery’s favoured 4-2-3-1 system, it is most likely that Aubameyang will be played on the left and Lacazette through the middle, a position which Aubameyang has admitted he is comfortable playing and has experience being deployed their earlier in his career at Saint Etienne and at times for Borussia Dortmund.
Aubameyang’s blistering pace will be enough to frighten any defence in the league and accompanied by Lacazette who showed flashes of brilliance in his debut season, the Gunners once again have a promising forward line to boast who will need to be in a ruthless mood if Arsenal are to enjoy any success against Chelsea on Saturday.
Win the midfield battle
The midfield battle is key in any game against strong opposition and is often vital for claiming victory. Arsenal have enjoyed more success against Chelsea in recent years, having beaten them over two legs in the Carabao Cup last season, as well as beating them in the 2017 FA Cup Final.
Arsenal have been devoid of a natural defensive midfielder for several years, but summer signing Lucas Torreira may prove to be the player that Gunners have been craving. The Uruguayan impressed throughout the 2018 World Cup, including a particularly impressive display up against Cristiano Ronaldo as Uruguay eliminated Portugal.
Francis Coquelin provided Arsenal’s defence with protection from the midfield and despite only being a short-term fix, was vital the last time the Gunners were victorious in a game away from home against a top six club as Arsenal defeated Manchester City 2-0 in February 2015. While being a much more accomplished footballer, Torreira may be able to play a similar role and provide the defence with the protection that they will need against a dangerous Chelsea side.
It will be interesting to who Emery picks to play in midfield with Matteo Guendouzi, Aaron Ramsey, Torreira and Granit Xhaka all fighting for starting positions. The midfield will have a difficult test on their hands up against the imperious N’Golo Kante and Chelsea’s summer signing Jorginho, who was instrumental under Sarri at Napoli.
With this in mind, Emery may opt to play Aaron Ramsey in a deeper midfield position, where he can help to try and dictate the play partnered by a more defensive minded midfield. However, Emery may also be tempted to provide Arsenal’s defence with as much midfield cover as possible and experiment with Xhaka and Torreira as his midfield pair, while Guendouzi will be hoping for a consecutive start after a promising display against City.
Limit supply to Hazard & Willian
While its important for Arsenal to focus on their own strengths to try and win the game, it is as equally as important for Emery to consider the threats that Chelsea will pose.
Eden Hazard and Willian are undoubtedly Chelsea’s two most creative players and despite not starting against Huddersfield, Hazard is expected to start on Saturday. The Belgian winger has been a menace to Arsenal plenty of times since arriving at Stamford Bridge and the Gunners’ defence will have to be on top form to deal with one of the Premier League’s trickiest forwards.
While Hector Bellerin possesses the pace to be able to match Hazard, he will need help from his midfield after being caught out on a number of occasions defensively over the last few seasons.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have a minor injury crisis on the left side of defence with Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles both expected to be out for two months. Nacho Monreal has trained with the first-team again this week but may not be fit enough to play a full 90 minutes, which could see right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner slot in at left-back.