Arsenal Vs Chelsea: 4 Things to Look Out For From the Pre-Season Encounter
The Gunners, the Blues and Tottenham are all taking part in a mini preseason tournament called the Mind Series.
The three capital clubs will each host a round-robin fixture at their home stadium, with funds raised to be split between mental health charity Mind and the clubs’ respective foundations.
With only three signings in the bag for Mikel Arteta the transfer window remains as important as ever with the clock ticking down to Premier League opening day. The window slams shut on August 31 so time is on the Gunners’ side, but a few more before that date would go down a treat.
Chelsea, meanwhile, find themselves in a comfortable position of being Champions League winners and strong in multiple departments. When you’ve got that trophy in the cabinet then you’re clearly not in need of major surgery.
Beyond additions, Arsenal are also working hard on player sales with the desired amount nowhere near being reached.
But we all put that aside for now. There is the small matter of a London derby to come on home soil with the biggest crowd the Emirates will have seen for a painfully long time.
Those in attendance, while aware it is only pre-season, are expected to see the closest resemblance to what Arsenal will look like for the coming campaign, at least in terms of style and approach.
While changes in personnel will occur until the next time the side faces Chelsea three weeks later, how the team performs against strong opposition will provide a glimpse into what will be a huge season in the club’s future to determine whether Arsenal can claw themselves back into European contention.
Here’s what to look out for;
1. Arteta Fielding a Strong Side
These fixtures are a time where the players need to build up their fitness and avoid overexertion, as late injury scares just ahead of the Premier League campaign can be hugely damaging.
For that reason most of the squad get 45 minute outings here and there, which we hope can change on Sunday.
Arteta will want to appease the supporters and a strong side lining up from the off will not only provide him the best chance of victory but also give him an indication of how far the team have come during pre-season.
There will be wholesale changes throughout the match, of course, but being on home soil and wanting to get the home supporters up off their feet nice and early will be a vital element in the bid for a win.
Ideally, a near full strength outfit will get around 60 minutes before the changes creep in, that way seeing how the team can react as crucial stages of the match while equally protecting them.
Above all though, it’d be nice to win. Losing to Chelsea is never, ever anything other than excruciating even if there is mostly only pride riding on this one.
2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Getting on the Scoresheet
Using the phrase ‘he needs a goal’ has become all too regular of an occurrence in junction with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. We’d prefer it if it was in relation to others who were struggling to find the back of the net since the captain was hogging the headlines.
Four pre-season matches have seen him handed four starts – but neither a goal nor an assist. Not getting on the scoresheet has provoked an unfair amount of scorn from some people who ignore his better traits, but nobody can defend a striker forever if he continuously draws blank.
The goals have to come from somewhere as clever positioning and sharp movement can only be praised for a limited amount of time when the highest paid player and captain of the club isn’t doing what the legendary No. 14 on the back of his shirt suggests he should be.
Due to that, he needs to start on Sunday. Aubameyang knows he needs a goal, Arteta knows he needs a goal and the supporters do too. It’s too soon to be criticising him for not scoring when the matches are mostly meaningless, but they do offer an glimpse into what may come next season.
Thus, it’s time to rewrite that narrative and silence a few doubters. A goal or two would go some way.
3. Thomas Partey Taking Charge of Midfield
Fortunately for Sunday, Chelsea are short in that department: the Blues are yet to welcome back Euro 2020 winner Jorginho or opposing finalist Mason Mount. N’Golo Kante and Kai Havertz are back but have yet to play any pre-season football, and given Danny Drinkwater started in their recent friendly win over Bournemouth, this is a real opportunity for Partey to dominate – even if you’d prefer him to face strong Chelsea lineup.
It’s something we know he can do. He has that physical and technical security to control the centre of the park and given how sharp he has been in pre-season this is a great opportunity for him to assert himself.
This fixture at Stamford Bridge last season felt like a minor turning point; Partey had flattered to deceive up until then with the occasional stirring performance tarnished by sloppiness in possession. In the second half especially he came to life alongside Mohamed Elneny, driving out of Arsenal’s low block in possession and adding some glamour to his touches as he helped thrust his side up the pitch.
As the senior midfielder in the squad now it’s on him to bring command into that department. Granit Xhaka will be leaving and when that is official there are certain leadership qualities that Partey will have to transfer into his game.
Boasting that presence on the pitch, seeing that in practice against Chelsea would be welcome.
4. Albert Sambi Lokonga Against Premier League Opposition
So, having waxed lyrical over the Belgian in roughly one full game’s worth of minutes against Millwall and Watford, there is no better way to put that excitement to the test than against Chelsea in front of his new supporters.
Even if he struggles to adapt to the pace, it’s his biggest test yet and just seeing how to slots into an Arsenal midfield against Premier League opposition will make for an intriguing step up from what he’s been subject to so far.
Were he to have a poor game then nobody would criticise him for it. Of course. Were he to look as composed and as positive in possession as he had done so far, with a seamless transition into this calibre of fixture, then we’d get a strong glimpse into how much of a mid-to-long-term option he is and whether he’s destined for more Premier League minutes next season than initially anticipated.
With the way the window is panning out ahead of August 13, performances of a high quality against Chelsea and then Tottenham can certainly swing the pendulum in Sambi’s favour to be starting alongside Partey in west London.
Their partnership has looked well balanced in the early stages with Sambi being entrusted to shift onto the left of the pivot despite being right-footed, moving both in between the centre-backs as well as the left centre-back and full-back to aid with build-up play.
This summer is signalling a change of approach at Arsenal. Forever seeking the easy way out, the club have signed off on deals with no benefit towards the medium or long-term and, in most cases, hardly anything to the short-term either.
Willian is the prime example of failed recruitment. Hundreds of thousands of pounds every week on a player in the latter years of his career on a contract that shows no signs of being ended earlier than its terrifying 2023 end date.
Stop-gap signings that are more convenient than anything else have to end. Willian has been discussed endlessly and not far behind him is Cedric.
The right-back situation at Arsenal was ‘seen to’ with the addition of the Southampton man on loan in January 2020, a genius piece of business in which the Gunners paid a £5m loan fee for someone whose contract was due to end in six months and who just to happened to be injured: £5m, his wages covered and 250 minutes played.
Date, kick-off time and venue
Arsenal vs Chelsea is scheduled for a 3pm BST kick-off today – Sunday, August 1, 2021.
The match will take place at the Emirates Stadium in London, with a near-capacity crowd able to attend.
Arsenal vs Chelsea team news
New £50m signing Ben White was put through his paces in his first Arsenal training session on Saturday, but it remains to be seen whether he will be an option so soon after joining.
Fellow new signings Nuno Tavares (Benfica) and Albert Sami Lokonga (Anderlecht) could also feature.
Tuchel’s Chelsea squad is coming back to strength, with N’Golo Kante and Kai Havertz in with a chance of a return after missing the pre-season win at Bournemouth.
Tuchel ised 21 players in that game on Tuesday, and young goalscorers Ike Ugbo and Armando Broja could get more game time.
Arsenal vs Chelsea prediction
Chelsea are Champions League holders so will be favourites, but these games are primarily about fitness and match sharpness – and charity, of course.
Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea
Head to head (h2h) history and results
Arsenal wins: 80
Chelsea wins: 60