Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Having been thrashed 6-0 in this fixture last season, Arsenal are fully aware of Chelsea’s quality, and can’t afford to leave themselves so vulnerable to the counter-attack this time around.
Since that contest, Chelsea have strengthened with crucial signings in key positions. Three players from Atletico Madrid’s La Liga-winning side have arrived: Filipe Luis is an extremely solid left back, Thibaut Courtois a world-class goalkeeper and Diego Costa has started his Premier League career with eight goals in six leagues games.
"Arsenal might get joy by pushing their full backs on, particularly past Hazard, but this would leave them vulnerable to direct Chelsea breaks like last season"
In midfield, meanwhile, Arsenal need little introduction to Cesc Fabregas.
Despite the new arrivals, there is a familiar feel to Chelsea. Jose Mourinho can organise his players in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 format, with the former being more adventurous, and essentially featuring an extra attacking player, with Fabregas as one of the two deeper midfielders. For a big game like this, however, the 4-3-3 might be preferred.
This would feature Nemanja Matic as the primary holding midfielder, imposing his strong, commanding style of play on the contest, with Ramires drafted in to shuttle up and down, providing the mobility to his right. Fabregas would be handed the most attacking responsibility of the three, given license to drive forward, with and without the ball.
Out wide, however, is the key battleground. Mourinho has options here - Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle, Willian and Oscar can all play in those positions, but Hazard and Willian provide a nice balance, and tremendous pace on the break.
Hazard’s change of pace is incredible, although his defensive ability can be suspect, while Willian is more disciplined but less ruthless in possession. Arsenal might get joy by pushing their full backs on, particularly past Hazard, but this would leave them vulnerable to direct Chelsea breaks like last season.
Chelsea waited for Arsenal to cross the halfway line before pressing energetically, winning the ball just inside their own half, and finding the attackers quickly.
Up front, Costa is a great all-round striker. While his penalty-box poaching has received most attention so far, he’s brilliant at prowling the channels on the break too - Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker will find him constantly chasing lost causes.
It’s notable that Chelsea were repeatedly caught offside last season as they attempted to break in behind quickly; expect Costa to make lots of runs in behind.
As always, Mourinho’s defence is drilled excellently, although the lack of pace from John Terry and Gary Cahill is their biggest concern.
They’ll defend deep to prevent themselves being exposed, but Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck could get joy from running in behind, as they did so brilliantly against Galatasaray in the 4-1 Champions League win on Wednesday evening.
Chelsea, however, will be a significantly tougher test.
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