Chelsea vs Arsenal: Huge test for Gunners as capital’s ‘problem’ clubs go head-to-head

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·3-min read
Chelsea vs Arsenal: Huge test for Gunners as capital’s ‘problem’ clubs go head-to-head
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When the executives at Amazon reflect on their decision to film a documentary about Arsenal this season, there are unlikely to be many clubs they would rather have followed.

It has been a campaign full of drama at the Emirates Stadium. One that started with three straight League defeats, included Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being stripped of the captaincy and has seen injuries to key players derail the team when fourth place was in touching distance.

Chelsea, though, are one club who have rivalled Arsenal when it comes to drama this season. As well as the upheaval of Roman Abramovich being sanctioned and putting the club up for sale, Chelsea have also had a major striker issue.

Romelu Lukaku has failed to live up to expectations following his £97.5million move last summer. Thomas Tuchel has also had fitness issues with his players, most notably losing Ben Chilwell to a serious knee injury, but Chelsea have won the Club World Cup, reached the final of both domestic cups and exited the Champions League in dramatic fashion against Real Madrid.

Another thing both clubs have in common is the uncertainty around players out of contract in the summer, with Alexandre Lacazette set to leave Arsenal at the end of the season and three of Chelsea’s key defenders, including Antonio Rudiger, possibly on the way out.

Chelsea, though, have been able to ride out the storm in a better fashion than Arsenal. Few clubs could have the luxury of benching their £97.5m striker, but the Blues have moved £72.5m Kai Havertz into the role.

In contrast, Arsenal’s lack of depth has been exposed recently, as their Champions League push has stuttered with three defeats on the spin. Injuries to Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey have highlighted how short Arteta is in key areas and their gamble not to sign anyone in the January transfer window looks to have backfired.

Tonight’s match will only further emphasise the gap between Arsenal and the top three. When they have their first-choice XI out, Arsenal can match anyone, as they showed against Manchester City on New Year’s Day. But when they lose key players, the drop-off is stark.

Manchester United, Tottenham and West Ham are in a similar boat to Arsenal, and it is why Arteta yesterday described qualifying for the Champions League as a “game-changer”.

Playing in Europe’s premier competition brings with it huge financial gains, as well as the ability to attract the best players. When a club is in the process of rebuilding its squad, Champions League football helps accelerate the process.

Right now, Arsenal do not have the squad to compete with the best and that especially feels like the case tonight.

Lacazette is trying to recover from Covid-19 in time to feature, while Takehiro Tomiyasu could make a first appearance since January after a long-term calf problem.

Should they miss out it would leave Arteta even shorter on numbers and he could opt to switch to a 3-4-3 formation to match Chelsea in a bid to stifle their attack.

Arsenal are still in the hunt to finish fourth. Beating Chelsea would move them level on points with Spurs and spark belief back into their season.

“Everything is still to play for, our ambition is still intact,” said Arteta. “We are going to go for it.”

If Arsenal sneak into the top four, Amazon’s team will be happy with who they followed this year, regardless of what has happened at Chelsea.

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