It is quite interesting that this new season will be starting exactly the way the old one finished, that is , a match-up between London rivals, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Last season ended for both sides on May 27 when Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup, that feat qualified the Gunners for Sunday’s clash at Wembley stadium where they will be meeting the premier league winners.
We would spend the whole season here if we decide to talk about the different times both sides have met and the outcomes. There have been so many of them.
In the last 20 years Arsene Wenger has had running battles with quite a few of Chelsea managers. Ranieri, Mourinho, Andre Villas-Boas, Carlo Ancelotti, Avram Grant, to mention just a few.
His present battle is with Italian stallion, Antonio Conte, against whom he has not done too badly.
A trend seems to be developing in the battles between these two capital city gladiators- the team first off the block always wins the match. When they first met at the Emirates, Arsenal started fast and they ran away 3-0 winners. In the return game at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea took the game to Arsenal from the first whistle and they won the game 3-1. If you recall how the games went during the FA cup finals and the recent friendly in Beijing, you will get my drift.
To be honest, I won’t be surprised if the game on Sunday follows the same pattern.
However, one may also need to put into consideration both clubs’ levels of preparation going into the match.
While Arsenal have been a bit quiet in the transfer market, buying only Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon and getting defender Sead Kolasinac for free, Chelsea have been busy bees.
They got Alvaro Morata, Bakayoko, Rudiger and penalty expert goalkeeper, Willy Caballero from Man City. When both sides met in pre-season in Beijing, Chelsea players appeared the fitter and sharper.
One can argue that Arsenal players have had another week to get fitter, but so would have Chelsea players too.
Both teams are involved in transfer saga with key players, Chelsea with Diego Costa and Arsenal with Alexis Sanchez. While new signing, Bokayoko will not be involved in the game because he is still recovering from a knee operation, Morata is likely to play a part, even if off from the substitutes’ bench. Chelsea is likely to pair former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas with N’Golo Kante in midfield with Michy Batshuayi who has been on fire pre-season leading the attack. We expect Chelsea to start with three at the back and two wing backs supporting them.
Arsenal on the other hand may start with four at the back because in most of their pre-season games they appeared to be struggling with three central defenders.
However, it worked well for them in the latter days of the previous season so we won’t be surprised to see them stick with it.
Olivier Giroud is likely to lead the attack and the big question we would get the answer to on Sunday is whether Arsene Wenger would risk playing an unhappy and unfit Sanchez.
A factor that can determine the winner on Sunday is the attitude of the managers.
Of the two, Conte seems the more likely to take the game seriously simply because he has not won it before. Whether that will be enough is another matter entirely.
I have a feeling Chelsea may just shade it.