The Gunners had the worst start possible to the new Premier League season after they were soundly beaten 2-0 by newcomers Brentford.
The performance and result would not have pleased Mikel Arteta. The pressure is already on the Spanish tactician to get a positive result in the first home game of the campaign.
Their opponents on Sunday, Chelsea, displayed their title credentials by comprehensively beating Crystal Palace 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.
It was a dominant performance by the Blues in their opening game that should make Thomas Tuchel confident of getting three more points in north London and pile more misery on Arteta’s Arsenal.
Arsenal vs Chelsea – Team News
Eddie Nketiah, meanwhile, also was missing from the training session with an ankle injury, while Thomas Partey (ankle) and Gabriel Magalhaes (knee), through injury remain sidelined.
Bernd Leno was poor last week and arguably culpable for Arsenal’s second goal against Brentford. However, he is Arteta’s first-choice goalkeeper and will start on Sunday.
The Gunners’ back four were given a torrid time by Brentford’s strikers Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo throughout the game, which is likely to see Arteta ring some changes. Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding could come in for Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari respectively in the starting XI that will also feature summer signing Ben White and Kieran Tierney at the back.
Summer acquisition from Anderlecht, Albert Sambi Lokonga made his Arsenal debut at Brentford but couldn’t make much of an impression. Yet, he’s set to retain his place in central midfield alongside Granit Xhaka. Emile Smith Rowe was undoubtedly the Gunners’ only spark in the defeat to Thomas Frank’s side and is likely to start in his preferred no.10 role.
With Aubameyang and Lacazette expected to miss out, Folarin Balogun struggled in leading the attack against the Bees, and Arteta could be tempted to go with Gabriel Martinelli up top with Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe on either flank.
As for Chelsea, they’ll be boosted with the fact that new signing Romelu Lukaku is fit to start in his second debut for the club. N’Golo Kante felt discomfort in his ankle during warm-up to the UEFA Super Cup against Villarreal and subsequently missed the Blues’ win over Crystal Palace.
Kante remains a doubt for the London derby along with Christian Pulisic, who missed the club’s open training session on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Ruben Loftus-Cheek is isolating himself after testing positive for COVID-19.
Hakim Ziyech suffered a shoulder injury against Villarreal in the Super Cup but luckily doesn’t need to undergo surgery. He’ll be out for a few weeks.
In Chelsea’s goal, Edouard Mendy will be eager to keep another clean sheet. Trevoh Chalobah, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger were a part of the Blues back-three that kept a clean sheet in the first game, and despite Chalobah scoring a memorable goal and impressing against Palace, he could make way for Cesar Azpilicueta. That could see Reece James start at right wing-back and Marcos Alonso keep his place on the left.
With Kante doubtful, Tuchel could opt with the same double-pivot of Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho against the Gunners. Mason Mount adds creativity and craft to Tuchel’s side and should start, with Kai Havertz also getting the nod.
Romelu Lukaku could be thrown straight into the starting XI to lead the Blues attack at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal vs Chelsea – Predicted Lineups
Arsenal Predicted Lineup (4-2-3-1): Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Ben White, Kieran Tierney; Granit Xhaka, Albert-Sambi Lokonga; Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Nicolas Pepe; Gabriel Martinelli
Chelsea Predicted Lineup (3-4-2-1): Edouard Mendy; Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger; Reece James, Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho, Marcos Alonso; Mason Mount, Kai Havertz; Romelu Lukaku
Arsenal vs Chelsea – Key Players
Arsenal—Emile Smith Rowe
As aforementioned, Emile Smith Rowe was the only positive in an otherwise forgettable Arsenal display against a newly-promoted Brentford side. The young Englishman possesses the ability to split open the opposition defence, and with his link-up play and dribbling skills could cause problems to Chelsea’s backline at the Emirates Stadium.
📍 London Colney
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 18, 2021
There’s a big chance Tuchel goes with Lukaku straight away up top on Sunday. The big Belgian will be licking his lips watching Arsenal’s defence crumble at Brentford. He could make an instant impact in his second debut for the Pensioners.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea