Two teams who missed out on an English Premier League soccer top four finish last season, and are keen to barge their way back, meet when Chelsea host Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (12:30pm ET).
For over two decades, this fixture pitted long-standing Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger against a revolving cast of Chelsea counterparts. During the 22 years of Wenger’s reign, he faced 13 different coaches. The approach of the two clubs couldn’t have been more different.
This year, there are new names on both benches. Over the summer, Chelsea parted company with Antonio Conte after two seasons in charge – a relative eternity – and brought in his Italian compatriot Maurizio Sarri. Arsenal, meanwhile, began their shift to a new model post-Wenger by appointing the former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery.
The pair suffered contrasting fortunes on the opening weekend of the Premier League season. Sarri’s Chelsea secured a pretty comfortable 3-0 win away to Huddersfield with goals from N’Golo Kante, Jorginho (from the penalty spot) and Pedro. Arsenal went behind early at home to Manchester City, looked ragged throughout the first half, and despite recovering a bit of composure after the break, still fell to a 0-2 defeat.
Sarri represents somewhat of a shift away from Chelsea’s usual hiring policy. From the arrival of Jose Mourinho, fresh off the back of Champions League success with Porto, onwards, they have largely employed proven winners with a balanced or pragmatic approach. Sarri, in contrast, doesn’t have a single trophy to his name, and his preferred style is attacking, possession-based football.
The 59-year-old turned Napoli into one of the most attractive and effective teams in Europe during his three-year stay at the Stadio San Paolo, leading them to three consecutive top-three finishes and pushing Juventus all the way in last season’s title race. Understanding grew and performances improved throughout his reign. With the arrivals of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic, he looks to have the necessary personnel to start a similar process at Chelsea.
Chelsea’s hierarchy rarely show much patience if things don’t seem to be working out, and Sarri will therefore appreciate the run of four eminently winnable fixtures that follows Saturday’s match. Those games should provide an opportunity to build up some early momentum and increase confidence ahead of matches against Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in a seven-match stretch from the end of September.
Emery has certainly not been handed an easy start to life in the Arsenal dugout, but once Saturday’s match is out of the way, he, too, can look forward to a more accessible sequence of fixtures. Arsenal host West Ham next weekend in the first of a run of eight matches, over a two-month period, in which they will not face any of the other established top six sides.
Even though elements of the Arsenal support began to sour on Wenger during the final years of his reign, Emery is still in the position of having to follow a legendary figure. Popular wisdom suggests it is better to be the guy who follows the guy who followed the guy rather than the direct replacement. Will Emery be able to prove that wrong?
Recent results between Arsenal and Chelsea have been pretty even. Arsenal are undefeated in the last six in all competitions, including victory in the semi-final of last year’s League Cup, but the last 10 have seen the teams grab three wins apiece. In the league, Chelsea have won three to Arsenal’s one over the last three seasons and have won five of the last six at Stamford Bridge.
The support of their home crowd is one of a few marginal advantages that make Chelsea the most likely victors this weekend. Their midfield looks a touch stronger than that of Arsenal, and if they can take control of the match from there, they do have the necessary attacking quality to secure the three points on Sarri’s home debut.
Our Preview’s Chelsea vs. Arsenal Picks & Predictions Verdict
However with Chelsea on offer at a best price that is an odds-on favorite, at around -120, and Arsenal as long as +349, the US online bookies have possibly over-stated the disparity between the two teams. As a result, from a pure betting proposition, the value lies with the away team. So our Chelsea vs Arsenal prediction and advised pick is:
- Bet on Arsenal to win @ best betting odds of +349 with 5Dimes.