As I sit down to write this preview, I find it hard to gauge how this match will pan out. Will Chelsea put on a clinic as they did against Jose Mourinho’s Spurs? Or will they lack creativity and fall victim to the Gunners as they have against some of the leagues weaker sides? What Chelsea will we get tomorrow? Only time will tell but let’s try to make sense of it.
One thing Chelsea has going for them is the fact that Arsenal is struggling. Under new management, the club is in a period of transition. Mikel Arteta, a former Gunner himself, ditched Pep Guardiola at Manchester City to try to do what Unai Emery could not. His first match in charge resulted in a 1-1 draw against AFC Bournemouth on the road but the mentality he brings to the team mirrors that of Pep’s at City. One that is stern and disciplined that holds winning above all else.
But this mentality takes time to take hold and that was evident as Arsenal dropped points against a Bournemouth team that is currently two points above the relegation zone.
But what of the Arsenal players? Lampard should take advantage of Arsenal’s shaky defence. The combination of David Luiz and Sokratis Papastathopoulos at CB is one that can easily be exploited. This is the duo Arteta went with against Bournemouth. Plus, with the young Bukayo Saka at left-back, Chelsea should test him by throwing Callum Hudson-Odoi or Willian on the right flank. The pace of the two wingers would be a lot for the young Saka. With both Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney out injured, Arteta will have to take his chances on Saka and Lampard must take advantage.
So what of Chelsea’s formation? Playing with a back five seems foolish. With Arsenal’s defence stretched thin at full-back, Chelsea needs to take an attacking approach to the match. Perhaps a 4-2-3-1 would be ideal. Here’s my proposed lineup for the match
- Kepa Arrizabalaga
- Cesar Azpilicueta
- Kurt Zouma
- Antonio Rudiger
- Emerson Palmieri
- Mateo Kovacic
- N’Golo Kante
- Christian Pulisic
- Tammy Abraham
Chelsea has the midfield matchup won as the trio of Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, and N’Golo Kante will be no match for the likes of Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torriera, and Mesut Ozil which is the trio I believe Arsenal will deploy. Perhaps, Granit Xhaka will play alongside Torreira and Guendouzi to provide more defensive stability in front of Arsenal’s shaky backline but with his imminent departure to Hertha Berlin on the horizon, putting Xhaka in the starting XI could send a bad message.
The back-four is a no-brainer in my position but Emerson does concern me. His attacking capabilties have been quite bad thus far this season and Lampard needs more from him in the attack. As for right-back, with Reece James doubtful, Cesar Azpilicueta will be playing alongside Antonio Rudiger.
One thing that I am concerned about is the duo of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexander Lacazette. The two strikers cannot be taken for granted. Both possess the ability to create chances out of nothing and they play off each other quite well. The duo have combined for 17 goals and 2 assists in Premier League play thus far this season. Lampard needs to find a way to neutralise the two strikers and disrupt their linkup play and that’s where I think Zouma and Rudiger come into play. Both CBs are physical and will challenge Auba and Laca for every ball. Plus, they will dominate the air and limit the ability of Arsenal’s midfield to play off of their strikers.
Lastly, Lampard needs to find out how to get Tammy Abraham more involved. The striker seemed out of touch with the Chelsea midfield and he struggled to get on the ball. Chelsea needs him involved if they wish to generate chances and the likes of Pulisic, Kante, and Willian are incredibly dangerous when they are allowed to play off of Abraham in little pockets of space.
All in all, this match will be an exciting one due to the history of the two clubs and the rivalry between them. Even so, this will be a grudge match between two rebuilding sides. Can Lampard take advantage of the fact that Arsenal will be playing true wingers at full-back? Can he get Abraham involved? Can he take advantage of Arsenal’s shaky midfield? We shall see. If one thing is for certain, it’s that we are in store for an exciting match.