The Big Match Tactical View: Chelsea v Arsenal

Unai Emery
Unai Emery may tinker with his system after last weekend's defeat to Manchester City
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Saturday's late game is a London derby at Stamford Bridge, and a meeting between two new managers. Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview the action.

"The poor form of Morata, whose decision to abandon the number nine shirt hasn’t prompted an upturn in his goalscoring fortunes, might convince Sarri to deploy Hazard upfront instead."

Chelsea v Arsenal
Saturday 17:30, BT Sport

Match Odds: Chelsea 1.875/6, Arsenal 4.67/2, The Draw 4.03/1.

Arsenal have a very poor recent record at Stamford Bridge - but those statistics are essentially irrelevant. Arsene Wenger has gone, Unai Emery has arrived, and this new-look Arsenal might not be so prone to collapses away at strong opposition.

It's all change at Chelsea, too, and this will be Maurizio Sarri's first competitive game at Stamford Bridge, after the encouraging 3-0 victory at Huddersfield last weekend. Indeed, there's been something of a role reversal at these clubs: Emery is a pragmatist, Sarri a footballing philosopher who demands attacking football. Chelsea could make the running here, with Arsenal playing on the counter-attack.

Where will Hazard play?

Sarri's team selection at Huddersfield was compromised by the fact Eden Hazard was only fit enough to feature as a substitute, and the brilliant Belgian will surely return to Chelsea's starting XI here.

The question, of course, is in which position. Having regularly played on the left flank throughout his time in English football, Hazard might be expected to play in place of Willian, who started on the left last weekend. But the poor form of Alvaro Morata, whose decision to abandon the number nine shirt hasn't prompted an upturn in his goalscoring fortunes, might convince Sarri to deploy Hazard upfront instead.

Sarri did something similar with Hazard's compatriot Dries Mertens, transforming him from an inconsistent wide forward into one of Serie A's most prolific strikers, and the same could happen with Hazard. For all his brilliance, Hazard has never recorded goalscoring numbers to put himself in the top bracket of Europe's most prolific forwards, and a change of role could be crucial.

It might also work effectively in this game. Shkodran Mustafi has a habit of being drawn up the pitch out of position, while Sokratis Papastathopoulos also prefers physical battles rather than playing against speed and trickery. Hazard as a false nine, dropping deep then sprinting into goalscoring positions, could be the right approach.

Few Chelsea changes

That would leave Willian and Pedro Rodriguez to attack from the flanks, with the latter likely to pop up in goalscoring positions under the new regime. In midfield, Jorginho is now first-choice in the holding role, pushing N'Golo Kante into a more adventurous role. Ross Barkley didn't impress last weekend and Mateo Kovacic isn't yet fully fit, so Ruben Loftus-Cheek may be handed a rare opportunity to impress.

Defensively Chelsea should be unchanged, with Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso operating as conventional full-backs after the switch in formation, either side of David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger. Kepa Arrizabalaga will make his home debut in goal.

Arsenal change of system?

Emery's team selection will be even more interesting, because we're yet to learn whether his approach against Manchester City was his default team selection, or merely a specific approach for playing against the reigning champions. He used a 4-3-3 system there, but could shift into more of a 4-2-3-1 system here.

His main temptation will be introducing Alexandre Lacazette, after the Frenchman looked lively as a substitute last weekend. That would probably mean Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang switching to the left up against Azpilicueta, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the right and Mesut Ozil playing in his favoured number 10 position, up against Jorginho.

Deeper in midfield it would be two of Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, Mateo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira, who appears set to be Arsenal's key midfielder but is still getting up to full speed. Arsenal are likely to press aggressively in the opening stages, regardless of who Emery uses in midfield.

Defensively there will be interesting battles out wide, between Hector Bellerin and Willianm with the Brazilian's defensive discipline likely to prove important, and between Stephan Lichtsteiner and Pedro Rodriguez. Lichtsteiner is very much a right-sided player, but is also exactly the type of footballer capable of adjusting to a new position without problems, and he'll be fully capable of tracking against the ambidextrous Pedro.

This is a difficult match to call, as we're still working out precisely how these sides will play, and precisely how good they are. I fancy Chelsea to cause problems in the final third, particularly if Hazard starts centrally, but 1.865/6 seems a little short to me, so I'll back the draw at 4.03/1.

The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson

Unai Emery is having a tough start to his Arsenal career after facing Manchester City last week he now has to face London rivals Chelsea this weekend and at 4.77/2 there isn’t enough juice in that price to support them.

The Gunners are winless in their last six league visits to Stamford Bridge, losing their last five and conceding 15 goals in the process. They did get away from there last time out with a 0-0 draw but I don’t see them keeping Chelsea out this time.

Last season’s opening fixture at the Bridge was a horror show for the home side where Burnley won 3-2, they were 3-0 up at half time. After that game though Chelsea only conceded three more goals before the half time whistle all season.

The Blues scored in the first half in five of their last six fixtures at home last season and they also scored in the first half last week. My main bet will be to back Chelsea/Chelsea in the Half Time/Full Time market but I will also have a little bit on Eden Hazard to score anytime at around 2.89/5, the Belgian has scored in his last two outings against the Gunners.

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