The Gunners are in the midst of a crisis and cannot allow their London rivals to get the better of them this weekend
The ominous challenges are coming thick and fast for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal these days, and the Gunners are set for another stern test this weekend when they host Chelsea in the Premier League.
London derbies are always feisty affairs, and even without fans, expect drama aplenty as the hosts look to end their winless streak and Chelsea seek the win to take them back into the top four.
After consecutive defeats by Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers, Frank Lampard finds himself under more pressure as well, but it’s the Gunners—who could be just one point off the relegation zone by the end of the weekend—who are more desperate for the points.
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Team News
Without him, Arteta will likely plump for Mohamed Elneny and Dani Ceballos in the heart of the park.
Granit Xhaka is an option, after returning from suspension, but it remains to be seen if he can be risked again following his mindless sending off against Burnley.
Indeed, Arteta may risk losing certain portions of the Gunners fanbase if he restores Xhaka to the starting XI.
The coach may have a big decision to make about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as well; the Gabon striker has been sidelined with a calf injury, but could he be rushed back to action as the goal-shy Gunners look to take the game to their neighbours?
After picking up a shin injury against City in midweek—marring an otherwise classy display—Gabriel Magalhaes is also a doubt for the Gunners, who may need to turn to David Luiz to partner Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney in the back three.
Lampard must make a decision about whether he sticks with Tammy Abraham—so impressive against West Ham United—or goes with Olivier Giroud against his former employers, while he also needs to decide if he’ll stick with the underwhelming Kai Havertz or reshuffle his midfield.
Full-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell are unlikely to play, while Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi are also doubtful despite making progress in their injury recoveries.
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Key facts & stats
Chelsea have a fine recent record against the Gunners, having lost just two of their last 17 meetings against the Gunners (in September 2016 and January 2019).
They’ve won nine of those matches, including the same fixture last season, when Arsenal threw away a 1-0 lead with seven minutes to play.
The Gunners are in the midst of a miserable run, having failed to win in seven matches—a streak that’s included five defeats.
Only once before in Premier League history have they gone longer without a win—eight matches between November 1992 and January 1993—although it’s worth noting that Arsenal haven’t lost at home on Boxing Day since 1987 when they were defeated by Nottingham Forest.
Memorably, they defeated Chelsea in this same fixture in 2001 and will be hoping for a similar result this time around.
If Arteta is in two minds about recalling Aubameyang, he may be encouraged by the striker’s scoring record on Boxing Day. The Gabon hitman scored for the Gunners on both December 26th in 2018 and 2019, and would be the first Arsenal player since Thierry Henry to complete the hat-trick.
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Predictions
As much as Arteta and his side may need all three points against Chelsea, it’s hard to see how they will get the better of the Blues.
With Partey out, and with Gabriel and Aubameyang doubtful, Arteta could be without his best defender, best midfielder and best striker, and considering the side’s overall toil at the moment, don’t expect any of the supporting cast to step up.
Under-fire Nicolas Pepe could be key, although a series of anonymous performances this season has raised questions about his desire to turn things around in North London.
A draw may be the best the Gunners can hope for, and even that could be far-fetched against a Chelsea side who looked so complete going forward against the Hammers.
Prediction: Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea