The Big Match Tactical View: Arsenal v Chelsea

It's 20 years at Arsenal for Arsene Wenger
It's 20 years at Arsenal for Arsene Wenger
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Arsene Wenger celebrates 20 years at Arsenal - can he mark the anniversary with a victory in his first meeting with Antonio Conte? Michael Cox assesses the tactical battle while Alan Thompson reveals his best bets...

"John Terry will return if fit, although against the pace of Alexis Sanchez, it might not be a bad thing for Chelsea if David Luiz is forced to continue"

Arsenal v Chelsea
Saturday 17:30,
Live on BT Sport 1

Match Odds: Arsenal 2.466/4, Chelsea 3.185/40, The Draw 3.55.

Arsene Wenger is celebrating his 20th anniversary as Arsenal manager - but he'll remember that the last time he celebrated a major landmark, when he reached 1,000 games with the Gunners, he promptly suffered a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Chelsea. He'll be determined to avoid defeat here.

Wenger effectively played a reserve XI in the comfortable 4-0 midweek victory over Nottingham Forest, but will return to a familiar selection here. It wouldn't be entirely surprising if Wenger reverted to the team which defeated Hull City 4-1 last weekend.

That would mean no place for Granit Xhaka, despite his brilliant goal as a substitute at Hull and another in midweek, with Francis Coquelin playing alongside Santi Cazorla in the centre. In fact, that seems like Wenger's only major selection decision: Xhaka or Coquelin.

Chelsea were surprisingly passive against Liverpool last weekend, sitting back and allowing Liverpool's deepest midfielder Jordan Henderson time on the ball. If they replicate that approach, Arsenal will get time in deep positions and Xhaka's superior passing quality would be useful - so Wenger could opt for him.

Otherwise, expect few surprises. Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud are both considered doubtful and might not have started anyway, while the trio of Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez combined well against Hull. Mesut Ozil, meanwhile, will continue as the number 10.

Antonio Conte, meanwhile, has a very defined starting XI this season. The only slight doubt is at centre-back, where John Terry missed last weekend's 2-1 defeat to Liverpool through injury, and was replaced with David Luiz. There's little doubt Terry will return if fit, although the smart money is on the Brazilian to continue alongside Gary Cahill - and against the pace of Sanchez, that might be no bad thing.

Cesc Fabregas scored two extra-time goals in midweek but is unlikely to force his way into a highly structured midfield comprised of players Conte trusts in a positional sense. Oscar and Nemanja Matic will broadly hold their positions, with N'Golo Kante sitting deeper and marking Ozil.

Arsenal are likely to dominate possession here, especially if Chelsea continue with the extremely passive approach they used against Liverpool last week. While the Gunners have plenty of counter-attacking potential from their front four, the organised nature of the Chelsea side means there will be few gaps for Arsenal to exploit on the break.

The key individual battle might be Iwobi up against Branislav Ivanovic. The Serbian right-back was terrible against Liverpool last weekend and constantly dived into tackles unnecessarily. Iwobi, meanwhile, was tremendous against Hull and offers the direct running Ivanovic absolutely hates playing against - he'd be a good bet to be shown a card at anything over 3.613/5.

However, Arsenal focused the majority of their attacking against Hull down the right flank. With Walcott going in behind Azpilicueta and Hector Bellerin potentially exploiting Eden Hazard's lack of interest in defensive work, they might concentrate on that wing again, before switching the ball to Iwobi to take on Ivanovic one-against-one.

They'll also require guile in deeper positions. Regardless of whether Xhaka or Coquelin starts, Cazorla will be crucial. Chelsea will look to shut him down quickly, but Cazorla boasts the trickery to slalom away from tackles, and the intelligence to play good passes into attack.

Chelsea's main threat is Diego Costa, who caused Arsenal considerable problems last season - managing to get Gabriel sent off at Stamford Bridge, and Per Mertesacker sent off at the Emirates. Neither of those two will feature here, but Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi will need to defend in a calm and patient manner.

Hazard, meanwhile, is firing on all cylinders once again. Bellerin coped well against him last season, but Hazard is a different proposition now, and this will be a ferocious battle of speed.

Chelsea's counter-attacking threat, meanwhile, will come from Willian, shuttling forward on the right flank. He might find space to dart into, and Arsenal's midfielders might need to make crucial tackles - or fouls - to stop him.

Wenger has often struggled against Chelsea over the years, but Arsenal have the attacking potential to cause Chelsea real harm, while Conte hasn't yet got his side playing particularly well in possession. Arsenal are rightly favourites.

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

The Gunners have only beaten Chelsea at the Emirates once in their last seven meetings, a 3-1 victory back in December 2010, but they should be in confident mood after going unbeaten since opening day home defeat against Liverpool.

The Blues will be disappointed with their last two league starts, drawing 2-2 away at Swansea and losing 2-1 against Liverpool last week, but their midweek win at Leicester in the cup will have restored some confidence.

We're not quite in 'must win' game territory for either sides' title chances but they are already five points behind league leaders Manchester City and won't want to fall too far behind, so avoiding defeat may well be top of mind.

Only one of the last five meetings at the Emirates has resulted in a game producing over 2.5 goals - Chelsea's 2-1 win in September 2012 - and this could be equally cagey.

Unders is a good price at 2.1411/10 but I'll be bold and go Under 1.5 goals @ 4.3100/30 - there have been just four goals in their past five meetings at the Emirates. I will also follow the half-time trends - with four of the last five level at the break, I will be backing HT draw at anything around 2.35/4.

Win a copy of 'Turf Wars' - a history of London football!

Arsenal v Chelsea is always a fiery affair but it is just one of many London derbies, with the capital home to no fewer than 13 league teams. Football journalist Steve Tongue has explored the history of London football in his new book, Turf Wars, and we have a copy to give away to a lucky B.B reader, thanks to our friends at @PitchPublishing. For the chance to win, simply e-mail and tell us when and where Chelsea played the first ever all-foreign XI in English football. Competition closes midnight Friday, standard T&Cs apply.

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