Chelsea face Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Saturday lunchtime. Like when Liverpool faced the Blues in this midweek Premier League game, the game has come at a bad time for the Gunners. Our tip for this one is Chelsea at half time and full time at 11/5 with Betfair.
Arsenal dropped to third after a shock defeat to Watford at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday and as a result a home win will take Chelsea 12 points clear. Defeat could see Arsene Wenger’s side drop out of the Champions League places by the end of the weekend.
It has been said for a long time that Chelsea have more grit and character than Arsenal. In some ways, that isn’t true, but it is definitely fair to say the current league leaders are more consistent. Antonio Conte has re-established their ability to edge away with games, a quality they alarmingly lost last season, and that is what we think they will do in this game.
So crucial to their respective styles, and how this game will pan out, are the two sides’ respective options in holding midfield. N’Golo Kante has provided the perfect balance at the base of central areas, while Nemanja Matic is also another fantastic option. They will both be available to Conte, while Arsene Wenger will be without both the suspended Granit Xhaka and Mohammed Elneny, who is on international duty.
Watford showed how to exploit the gap, where someone will have to fill in. If, say Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain comes in, he will not have the positional sense for Wenger to set up defensively. His only option will be to attack Chelsea, playing right into their hands. With a 3-4-3 formation, every area on the pitch is covered for the Blues and that allows Eden Hazard opportunity to roam. While he already enjoys cutting inside from the left wing, Conte could ask him to spend more time in central areas to pin Arsenal back when the hosts have possession, or exploit the space on the counter attack.
Arsenal have struggled for too often at Stamford Bridge, but they will need Alexis Sanchez to step up in a similar way to Hazard on Saturday. The Chilean will have a much tougher job, facing up to Cesar Azpilicueta and, of course, Kante. Without the space to hurt Chelsea, his impact will be minimised, and the home side’s packed midfield will crowd both Sanchez and Mesut Ozil out.
Antonio Conte is not the kind of manager to go on the attack when not needed, while Arsenal will need to chase the game. A goal in each half will be enough for victory here.