Chelsea vs Arsenal – Three key battles to watch out for in the London derby
There is an intriguing battle on the cards as Chelsea get set to welcome the Gunners at Stamford Bridge. While the Blues must be high on morale after drubbing Huddersfield Town 3-0 in their opening fixture, Arsenal should aim to make amends after their opening day 2-0 defeat to Manchester City.
Chelsea were in complete control of the game and got their campaign underway in clinical fashion as N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Pedro got on the scoresheet. They dominated the game in all areas of the park with Jorginho and Kante taking complete command of the midfield. Alvaro Morata’s goal-drought continued but Chelsea should be buoyed by Pedro’s return to form.
Arsenal, on the other hand, need plenty of improvement if they are to pose any significant challenge against Chelsea. They were virtually non-existent in the game against City and Unai Emery should tinker with his tactics to reassemble a shaken unit of players.
Mesut Ozil didn’t look like himself and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ran into traffic more often than not. Meanwhile, Alexandre Lacazette was guilty of not making much of the limited openings that the Gunners had.
As the two Premier League giants clash against each other in an engaging battle, there will be a few personal duels on the field which could play a key role in deciding the outcome of the game.
1. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang vs Marcos Alonso
The Gabonese winger cum forward was not at his best in the previous game against Manchester City but with his guile and pace, Aubameyang should be Emery’s trump card against a composed Chelsea defence.
Aubameyang was impressive in the limited games he played last season, bagging 10 goals and 4 assists in 13 Premier League games with an amazing goal-to-match ratio.
And in all probability, Emery must hand him his second start of the season. Meanwhile, Marcos Alonso is one of the most exciting left-backs in the English top-flight right now. Although he is adventurous while overlapping down the flanks, he often tends to leave open spaces for the opposition to exploit.
As a matter of fact, Huddersfield Town completed 11 out of their 18 crosses from the left-wing which should prompt Emery to deploy Aubameyang down the right.
Alonso is not the most secure defender in a back-four and Aubameyang must try to outfox the left-back with his pace and dribbling. This battle will go a long way in deciding the fate of the game.
2. Eden Hazard vs Hector Bellerin
The Arsenal right-back has been unable able to carry forward his impressive showings from the previous seasons and was below-par in the opening game.
Hazard, on the other hand, has carried his scintillating form from the World Cup to the Premier League. In the mere 14 minutes that he played, Hazard looked a class-apart from any other player on the field and completed six out of six take-ons before setting up Pedro for the final goal.
If Hazard plays as a false nine ahead of an out-of-sorts Morata at the centre of a 4-3-3 formation, he could drift wide as well.
With the kind of form he is in, Bellerin would have to play a blinder to stop him. When at his best, Bellerin is agile and nimble-footed and can match Hazard’s pace. However, the Belgian will definitely have the upper hand in this duel.
3. N’Golo Kante vs Mesut Ozil
It is the battle of a reigning World Cup winner versus a former World Cup winner in the middle of the park. Kante’s work rate and brilliance in the midfield was instrumental to France’s World Cup win and he hasn’t slowed down a bit.
Kante continued on his merry way in the first game and dominated the midfield with Jorginho. He coolly dispossessed opponents and completed the passes with pinpoint accuracy.
However, Ozil was nowhere near his best in the opening fixture as he lost possession pretty easily, which proved to be detrimental to the team. Even though Germany had an early exit from the World Cup, Ozil looked fatigued and far from composed. His passing looked out of sorts as well.
The former German international should get back to his best after a series of controversies but Kante will certainly not make it an easy task.