This game is of huge importance to both team’s title bids, and we’re only halfway through September. Arsenal are already five points behind early leaders Manchester City, whilst defending champions Chelsea are a staggering 11 points off the pace after five games.
Should Manchester City win the evening kick-off at home to West Ham United on Saturday, neither side will want to have dropped points in this game.
Chelsea have the advantage in both the home field and having played at home in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday. The Blues are coming off a comfortable 4-0 thrashing of Maccabi Tel Aviv in that competition, while Arsenal suffered a shock 2-1 loss in Croatia at Dinamo Zagreb, playing the second half with 10 men.
Arsene Wenger recorded his first win over Jose Mourinho at the start of August when his side were 1-0 winners in the FA Community Shield – it was the Gunners boss’ first victory over his arch-rival at the 14th attempt.
Should Arsenal bounce back from their midweek misery and put another dent in Chelsea’s title defence this weekend, there’s one matchup that their fans have to be looking forward to.
Alexis Sanchez down the left wing versus Chelsea right-back Branislav Ivanovic has the potential to embarrass the Chelsea defence once again this season.
Chelsea have conceded two or more goals in each of their five Premier League games this season – the first time they’ve done so in five consecutive matches since the league re-branded back in 1992.
Ivanovic has been a major factor as to why Chelsea have performed so badly. He could take some of the blame for Steven Naismith’s second goal during their 3-1 loss at Everton last weekend in not closing down the defender, although holding midfielders Nemanja Matić and John Obi Mikel had gone AWOL.
The right-back was torn apart by Jefferson Montero in their season opening 2-2 draw with Swansea City at Stamford Bridge. A week later Raheem Sterling and Aleksandar Kolarov saw a lot of success down that flank against the 31-year-old as Manchester City thrashed the defending champions 3-0. The second goal came from a corner from which Vincent Kompany broke free from his marker, Ivanovic, to nod the game beyond Chelsea.
A week later, Chelsea recorded their first and only win to date as they beat West Brom 3-2. Both of the Baggies’ goals did, however, come courtesy of crosses from Callum McManaman, as he twice bought himself space up against the Serbian. He later turned Ivanovic inside-out just outside the six-yard box before narrowly curling his shot wide.
Sanchez was due to be rested for the first couple of game of the season, but was rushed back in the second half of the season opener as Arsenal trailed West Ham 2-0 at home. He’s started ever since.
The Chilean has certainly looked jaded since winning the Copa America over the summer and not getting an extended break.
Sanchez has had six competitive games now and it’s about time he started dominating matches like he did last season – should he be marked by Ivanovic this weekend, it’s a perfect matchup for the Arsenal forward to get back to his best.
The Chelsea defender has really struggled with players running at him, and players with a bit of pace and trickery have left Ivanovic on his backside this season. Alexis is a player with pace, power and flair in abundance, this matchup certainly favours the Chilean. Sanchez has attempted 28 efforts on goal already this season, hitting the target on eight occasions.
In two fixtures between these two sides last season, Arsenal failed to score a single goal in the 180 minutes as Chelsea picked up four points. Sanchez was a non-factor in both games on the left wing and Ivanovic was one of Chelsea’s top performers in the 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge in October last year.
Twelve months have passed and the Chelsea right-back doesn’t look half the player he was back then, but perhaps Mourinho can get the best out of him for this match?
Alternatively, the Special One may bench the experienced defender, as he did in Wednesday’s 4-0 thrashing of Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Champions League.
Cesar Azpilicueta switched back to his natural right-back role for that game whilst Baba Rahman made his debut at left-back. Some would say it would be a big risk for Mourinho to give the youngster his Premier League debut versus Arsenal. But with Ivanovic struggling that badly in his opening five games, would it be that much of a gamble?