Premier League Match Preview – How Can the Gunners Grab All Three Points at Stamford Bridge?
When Arsenal faced Chelsea a few weeks ago, they were only into the second match of new head coach, Mikel Arteta’s tenure. While, there were definite signs of buy in from his players, the late capitulation highlighted the work ahead for the Spaniard. The two teams meet again with the Gunners hopeful they can show they continue to improve under their new boss.
When Last They Met
For the first 34 minutes of the match at the Emirates, Arsenal looked like they were on cruise control and well on their way to their first win in a long while.
The Gunners started the match with fantastic intent. In attack Arsenal looked to outnumber Chelsea all over the pitch. Instead of playing Maitland Niles as an inverted fullback he played in a traditional full-back role, intent on staying wide.
Tactically it kept the pitch large and forced the Chelsea wide players to account for Maitland-Niles out wide. The result was enough space for Lucas Torreira to operate in an act as a pivot in attack.
Additionally, Chelsea midfielders looked to play further up from their central defenders which left a lot of space for Mesut Özil to operate in. With space to operate Özil was one of Arsenal’s most influential players.
Playing 3 at the back, left acres of space for the Gunners to try and exploit, and exploit it they did. Chelsea’s back three were stretched out and often exposed in 1v1 situations against the likes of Aubameyang and Nelson on the wings.
After going up 1-0 by the 13th minute, Arsenal were unlucky to not be further ahead as they continued to apply the pressure.
But it was Lampard’s adjustment that would change the match. Seeing his side get overrun and increasingly outnumbered all over the pitch. Swapping Jorginho for Emerson, Lampard switched to a 4-3-3 which took away the spaces Arsenal were operating in.
The introduction of Jorginho had a positive effect both on and off the ball. Off the ball he was able effectively to win the ball back, completing 13 recoveries, 10 of which were in the opposition half. On the ball, he gave the Blues an extra man in the midfield and was available now to make penetrating passes to the Chelsea forwards, and allowed for my creative play on the wings.
The second half of the match, saw a tired Arsenal get pinned back repeatedly by Chelsea and the resulting 2 goals conceded were down to just not being able to play the full 90 minutes at the level Arteta is looking for from his team. It was a disappointing loss after the Gunners started so brightly.
As we saw at the Emirates, with Jorginho able to distribute the ball to the forwards and create overlaps and creative play, Chelsea are a hard team to play with. In order for Arsenal to have a chance to dictate play, they must set up in a way to neutralize Jorginho.
He is their engine, when he has space he can dictate the tempo of the game with direct passes or short exchanges. Arteta will look back on the Emirates match and see how effective he is at doing this. That must mean that one of the two central midfielders, Torreira or Xhaka has to be used to put pressure on Jorginho in the midfield area.
Additionally, Arsenal need to continue to show the defensive discipline that has been growing, albeit slowly under Mikel Arteta. Against Southampton, Chelsea had difficulty in getting the ball to through the midfield both through an effective press from the front and lack of options behind the pressing forwards.
This resulted in forcing the Chelsea centre backs to either look long or wide for passing options. Furthermore, Southampton worked effectively at getting Chelsea centre back Tomori, to try and play the ball off of his left foot rather than his right. Numerous times the exchanges were poor and it resulted in Southampton winning the ball and getting a chance on goal.
In the early going of the match at the Emirates, Arsenal opted for a 4-4-2 off the ball pressing with Aubameyang and Lacazette from the front. It was largely effective until the time when the Gunners no longer had the energy to keep up with the press. For Southampton the 4-4-2 worked in denying the Blues time to make good passes through the middle. The hope for this match is that if Arsenal revert to the 4-4-2 defensive shape they are able to sustain their pressure for a longer period of time.
Another area Arteta may want to look at is how to attack Chelsea on set pieces. Chelsea lost this past weekend to Newcastle all down to how they played set pieces. They struggled in that match and others all season long.
More Creativity from Arsenal
If Arsenal are going to start winning matches they are going to win matches there needs to more creativity in their play and that means either finding more ways to get Mesut Özil involved in play or find someone else who can make the entry passes into the final third he can make.
Against Sheffield United, it was widely circulated that Özil was anonymous in the match. He was considered anonymous because he hadn’t gotten an assist or scored a goal. He had opportunities to do both. From the assist standpoint, perhaps a better connection with Gabriel Martinelli would’ve resulted in one of his passes to the Brazilian being scored. Or perhaps if he still wasn’t getting back his confidence he would’ve shot on goal rather than pass when he had an opportunity.
It wasn’t however an anonymous performance for the German. He was involved, and it resulted in the following stats (match rank in brackets):
- 88% pass completion (1)
- 29 passes completed in the opponents half (1)
- 18 attacking third passes (1)
- 4 chances created (1)
- 2 completed crosses (2)
- 2 Successful take ons (3)
Pretty good for an anonymous player. Still, he is the only creative outlet and if he’s not available or if he is being tactically taken out of the game by an opponent, then the team is going to struggle.
In the first meeting in December, Arsenal were effective in creating space for Mesut Özil to operate and it resulted in them creating chance after chance. Had the Gunners’ forwards had their shooting boots on, the match could’ve been well out of sight before the 34th-minute change that turned the match for Chelsea.
How the Match Should Play Out
This may well be the biggest test of Mikel Arteta’s early career at Arsenal. Securing all three points would see the Gunners actually ease back into the top 4 chase (especially given the state of all the teams chasing positions 3 and 4. Mikel Arteta is going to have his charges ready to play. Whether they have the fitness to play is another story. But I don’t suspect Arteta will actually change much from the previous meeting except hope the team can stay committed for a full 90.
Chelsea are going to be looking for a bounce-back after they lost to Newcastle United over the weekend. It should mean that we’ll see an open, end to end match with both teams looking to get the advantage over the other. Really, the winner will be determined by the team able to keep their focus and fitness sustained for the entirety of the match
Arsenal 2 – 1 Chelsea
What the Head Coach Says (courtesy of Arsenal.com)
Well, a lot of things happened and it seems longer than a month to be fair with the amount of games, days that we trained and the amount of things that happened. Yes, a lot of things changed, a lot of positives that I am finding in terms of reactions and the things that they are taking onboard. We have managed to change, a little bit, the energy and the atmosphere and the relationship and the chemistry with our fans, which was massively important for us. So yes, in terms of results, it could have been a little bit different. I think we’ve been very unlucky and there are other aspects as well which have influenced that but in general, yes.
Arsenal Record vs Opponent (league only)
55P 20W 19L 15D
Average Goals Scored Per Game
Arsenal: 1.09 (away)
Chelsea: 1.27 (home)
Average Goals Conceded Per Game
Arsenal: 1.27 (away)
Chelsea: 0.91 (away)
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Assistants: Ian Hussin, Richard West
Fourth official: David Coote
VAR: Paul Tierney
Assistant VAR: Constantine Hatzidakis
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Arsenal have won two of 10 league games since sacking Unai Emery, including one victory from five top-flight matches under Mikel Arteta (D3, L1).
- They have dropped 13 Premier League points from winning positions this season, with seven of those coming since Arteta was appointed head coach.
- The Gunners have won just one of their last 10 away league games (D6, L3).
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last five top-flight matches on the road, albeit four of those have ended in draws.
- Alexandre Lacazette has not scored an away league goal since February’s 2-1 win at Huddersfield.
- Chelsea have won six of the past seven league meetings at Stamford Bridge, drawing the other.
- However, no team has won more Premier League away matches at Chelsea than the seven by Arsenal.
- Arsenal’s last league triumph at Stamford Bridge was a 5-3 victory in October 2011. Mikel Arteta started that game, while Frank Lampard scored the opening goal for the Blues.