Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger and his side are at home to Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday so, to find out more, tactical expert Michael Cox and local journalist Simon Johnson gave their pre-match views.
After winning the Champions League with a defensive-minded approach during Roberto Di Matteo’s spell as caretaker manager, Chelsea are more positive since the Italian’s permanent appointment.
The addition of attacking midfielders Oscar, Eden Hazard, Victor Moses and Marko Marin provide Di Matteo with plenty of options, and Saturday's fixture will be more eventful than the dull 0-0 at the Emirates in April.
Di Matteo changes the balance of the side by varying the trio that operates behind Fernando Torres. Generally, he prefers to use a ‘shuttler’ to provide energy and defensive understanding alongside two natural playmakers, playing either Ryan Bertrand on the left, or Ramires on the right.
The Chelsea manager has chosen different configurations. Away at QPR a fortnight ago, he used both Bertrand and Ramires on the flanks, but this offered little creativity and the game finished goalless. In last week’s late win over Stoke, Di Matteo fielded three playmakers - Hazard, Mata and Oscar - for the first time, instructing them to rotate positions throughout. The problem was a lack of width, however, and Chelsea improved significantly when Moses - impressive at the Emirates with Wigan last season - was introduced to offer natural drive from the flank.
The departures of Michael Essien and Raul Meireles, combined with Di Matteo’s tendency to play Ramires wide, means a duo of Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel has become the first-choice midfield partnership. Mikel sits in deep positions and plays calm passes, while Lampard moves forward slightly, but is more conservative than at his peak.
In the 2-2 draw with Juventus, Chelsea were vulnerable to Claudio Marchisio’s midfield runs past Mikel into goalscoring positions. Another lesson from the Juventus game was how effectively the Italian champions dragged the Chelsea centre backs out of position – they equalised when Mirko Vucinic moved deep, drew David Luiz up the pitch, and Fabio Quagliarella darted into the space to score.
It was a consistent tactic throughout the match, and something Juve confirmed they’d planned. Luiz has become a calmer defender, but as he showed against Stoke last weekend, he’s still prone to the occasional rash tackle.
SIMON JOHNSON, EVENING STANDARD
There’s going to be a lot at stake with both teams still unbeaten. It’s Chelsea’s first genuine test in the Premier League and it will be interesting to see if they employ an attacking style against Arsenal.
Chelsea normally line up in a 4-2-3-1. They’ve become more attacking under Roberto Di Matteo, but in saying that, I think he could maybe be a bit more conservative on Saturday and deploy Ryan Bertrand in midfield. He played Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard against Stoke last week, but I can’t see him including all three in the same team against Arsenal.
Chelsea are most dangerous behind the main striker. They’ve got the likes of Mata and Hazard and those two have formed a very good partnership very quickly - they play in a very clever way.
I think Mata is the best player at the club – he showed on Tuesday night against Wolves how he can pull the strings. He is a genuine No 10 and orchestrates proceedings.
I think Arsenal will be dangerous on the counter-attack. When Chelsea are caught in possession in the attacking third, they are very easy to attack because the central midfielders Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel are not the quickest. With that in mind, Ramires could start in central midfield as he is more dynamic.
I think this could be Chelsea’s reality check. Arsenal have got off to a really good start and I think they will win 2-0.Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source