CHELSEA V ARSENAL, TUE 21ST JAN, 8.15PM.
While we haven’t been treated to anything resembling a title race in the Premier League this season, the battle for a top 4 place is beginning to reach a crucial stage with Chelsea’s young guns showing signs of fatigue, Manchester United struggling for consistency and Spurs a shadow of the team that reached last seasons Champions League final.
Such form has opened the door for Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United who have put together remarkable campaigns to date, particularly the newly promoted Blades with just 5 and 6 points respectively keeping the underdogs out of the top four placings at present.
As for Arsenal, Mikel Arteta’s arrival has changed little in truth and as a result Tuesday’s clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge already strikes me as a “last chance saloon” for the North Londoners.
10 points behind their London rivals, Arsenal will be looking to stop the Blues claiming a fifth league double over them having achieved such a feat in the 05/06, 09/10, 12/13 & 15/16 seasons.
What does make for more positive reading for Gunners fans however is the fact Arsenal have claimed more away wins at the Bridge than any other Premier League side with seven wins at Chelsea’s home patch.
As mentioned, Chelsea’s progress has stuttered of late with the Blues winning just 2 of their last 5 in the league (losing twice) while Arsenal have picked up just 1 win in that time but have suffered only 1 defeat which came against Chelsea over the Christmas period.
Draws against Sheffield United, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth have frustrated Arsenal supporters with the Gunners shipping 32 goals in their 23 league games. While such a defensive record is only marginally worse than Chelsea’s, surprisingly it’s been Arsenal’s lack of goals which has been costly with the Gunners only notching 30 goals this campaign, for comparison Manchester City top the goals chart with 64.
When you consider that Pieree-Emerick Aubameyang has scored almost 50% of those goals (14) then it is clear their has been a lack of goals from the Arsenal midfield with David Luiz the clubs joint highest 4th goal scorer this term with just 2 goals.
And while Tammy Abraham has been the main provider for Chelsea (13 goals out of Chelsea’s 39) there has been contributions from deep with Mount and Pulisic providing 5 goals each while Willian, Jorginho and Kante have a combined total of 10 Premier League goals.
With Chelsea’s transfer ban lifted, you’ve got to imagine Frank Lampard will be keen to add some experienced heads to the dressing room with only Norwich City giving more game time to players aged 21 or under this season.
Such inexperience has seen the Blues wobble of late but in recent years Arsenal have failed to perform in the big games and with their new boss failing to find an improved tune from a dressing room full of questionable characters in terms of both ability and attitude then it’s hard to see how the former City assistant could guide his new side to a big away win here.
However, there wasn’t a lot between the teams when they met over Christmas with Bernd Leno’s goalkeeping calamity allowing Chelsea back into the game as the home side collapsed late in the day in a 2-1 defeat.
Also, Chelsea’s home form certainly isn’t anything like we’ve come to expect over the past decade or so with Lampard’s kids only the 9th best side at home in the league this season with Arsenal sitting in a similar position in terms of the away form table.
As a result, a draw looks good value for this midweek clash at 3/1.
There hasn’t been a scoreless draw in the league between the London rivals since September 2017 (5 games ago) with 14 goals scored in the 4 meetings since.
With Arsenal scoring in all of their last 5 top-flight matches and the Blues averaging a goal a game in the same time period then both teams to score and draw at 18/5 looks a bet.