Arsenal are in clear need of all three points when they host top-four rivals Chelsea at the Emirates on Saturday (17:30 GMT, live on BT Sport).
The two teams were level on points in fourth and fifth as recently as Christmas Day, but a run of just one win in their last four matches has seen Arsenal fall six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and back into the clutches of a resurgent Manchester United.
Last weekend, Arsenal lost 0-1 away to West Ham. Their hosts took the lead early into the second half, and Arsenal were unable to muster much of a response thereafter as they fell to their third defeat in their last six matches. They dropped points for the eighth time in their last 13, leaving coach Unai Emery with much to ponder ahead of Saturday’s crucial encounter.
Emery made a good start to life in the Emirates dugout, recovering from defeats in his first two matches to record seven consecutive victories in the league and 11 in all competitions. However, his side’s underlying statistics were never as impressive as their results, and subsequent results have been more in line with the quality of Arsenal’s performances.
That relative downturn has been allied to behind-the-scenes tensions. Chief executive Ivan Gazidis, a key supporter of Emery’s appointment, departed for Milan early into the season. There are now reports that head of recruitment, and another member of the three-person panel who selected Emery, Sven Mislintat is set to leave his role. It also seems that any signings to improve the squad this month will have to be offset by departures.
It has still been a solid season to date. Arsenal have two more points than they did at the same stage last season and six more points than they accumulated from the equivalent fixtures against the same opponents during that campaign. While their attack is strong, they have been too open defensively to build on that early form and cement a top-four spot.
That position now looks like Chelsea’s to lose. They, too, have suffered a relative downturn in results after a strong start, from an accumulation of 2.15 points per match in their first 13 matches of the campaign to 1.9 in their most-recent 10 fixtures. Nevertheless Chelsea look strongly placed to secure a return to Champions League action after a season away.
Three wins in their last four, including last weekend’s 2-1 win at home to Newcastle in which Pedro and Willian scored the goals, have given Chelsea a readily defendable advantage in that race, particularly so if they are able to avoid defeat this weekend. Their underlying statistics also suggest that they are a stronger side than either Arsenal or Manchester United.
Maurizio Sarri has succeeded in shifting to a much more possession-based approach than that of his predecessor Antonio Conte, whose work focused more on control of space than the ball. While Chelsea aren’t yet functioning at the level reached by Sarri’s Napoli side, they have improved in both attack and defence in comparison to last season.
This Chelsea team still features some awkward elements. Those include N’Golo Kante as a box-to-box midfielder and Eden Hazard as a false nine, due to the lack of a striker Sarri has full faith in. Despite that, Sarri’s work to date looks to have provided a good base for further development if the right additions can be made to the squad in the summer.
Our Preview’s Arsenal vs Chelsea Betting Tips Verdict
Chelsea were 3-2 victors when these sides met at Stamford Bridge in the second week of the season. They have managed to win on two occasions and avoid defeat in six of their last seven visits to the Emirates. While Arsenal have been much stronger at home than on their travels this season, Chelsea have one of the league’s best away records. Sarri’s side can be fancied to open up a possibly unassailable gap to the Gunners with victory on Saturday.
- Bet on Chelsea to win @ best odds of 7/5 with Unibet.
Top Bookies’ Betting: Compare Arsenal vs Chelsea Odds