Arsenal v. Chelsea preview

You already know all you need to know about Arsenal v. Chelsea but here are a few other facts:

Hazard is basically their only dribbling threat. He has 40 successful dribbles in away games. Arsenal need to contain him because he’s also Chelsea’s main creative threat with 4 big chances created in away games.

One stat that surprised me is that Azpilicueta also has 4 big chances created in away games and he’s got 3 assists. He also has the most accurate long balls and he’s their fourth most active passer in the opposition final third. I guess he’s their secret threat?

The bad news is that Chelsea play a sort of “negative” football. By this I mean that in away games they just shut everything down. Over their 10 away games they have an xGf average of just 1.45 per game and an xGa of 0.96 per game. Those are tight margins.

Chelsea’s game plan is pretty simple: keep it tight, try to score first. If they don’t score first, and they have 10 of their 18 away goals in the first half of games, they ALWAYS drop points.

Arsenal should come out attacking in the first 30 minutes or maybe not.. I can’t tell! Arsenal’s xGf per game average at home is 2.75 and xGa per game average is just 1.11. However, Liverpool and Man U put a combined 4 xG past Arsenal and an actual goals of 7. Both Liverpool and Man U scored first against Arsenal in those games and United in particular got off to a smoking hot start with two goals in 11 minutes.

Arsenal’s other main problem today is injuries. Kolasinac and Ramsey have created the most big chances at home this season with 5 apiece but both are out injured. Meanwhile, Koscielny has a flare-up of his chronic Achilles problem and is also out. And Ozil, who has 4 big chances created is also probably out. This makes the game a lot easier for Chelsea as they only need to mark one player: Alexis Sanchez.

The drop off in quality after Alexis is pretty steep. Arsenal need a big game from Jack Wilshere in CM (he hasn’t created a single big chance at home this season) and it would be interesting to see if Wenger plays Theo Walcott – Walcott loves to score on Chelsea.

One last thing to look for: Xhaka is Arsenal’s most dribbled past player, but Alexis is actually Arsenal’s second most dribbled past player in home games. I’m looking for what Wilshere can do against Kante and Bakayoko, how Xhaka helps him in attack, and how the whole team defends and attacks against Chelsea’s main three mids: Fabregas, Kante, and Bakayoko.



  1. Hard game to call, but based on recent results, I’m going for 2 – 2. The thing that stats can’t measure is the fear/respect factor. For some reason, we like playing Chelsea and fancy our chances against them. We don’t like playing Klopp’s Liverpool, or anyone’s Man United, and freeze against both.

    Ozil has dazzled against Chelsea of late, and will be a big, big miss. Im nervous about official accounts of injury to departing big players. Hope my hunch turns out to be nothing.

    No one’s talking about Giroud, but he’s a great option to have in games like these. Step forward, Danny Welbeck.

    btw, Im surprised but not surprised that more wasn’t made of the injury to Kolasinac, who was kicked out of the game by West Brom. I was following the Guardian’s MBM with the awful, self-regarding Jacob Steinberg, and he did not mention the incident at all.

    1. At best, we’ll win two of our ten games against the “Big 6.” We managed to beat Spuds but I can’t predict which, if any, game we’ll beat another big team. Is it worth watching knowing it’s more likely we’ll self destructively give away points rather than lucking our way to a win? Not for me either.

  2. 33. Petr Cech (G)
    16. Rob Holding
    20. Shkodran Mustafi
    21. Calum Chambers
    24. Hector Bellerin
    11. Mesut Ozil
    29. Granit Xhaka
    30. Ainsley
    07. Alexis Sanchez
    09. Alexandre Lacazette
    12. Olivier Giroud

    One or two surprises there.

    1. Giroud? What are you smoking?

      Great feint with Ozil. But that’s a callow looking back three. Hopefully AMN is some defensive insurance.

  3. That’s the last time I trust a Russian streaming service for team news. Wilshere & Sanchez are in

  4. New drinking game: whenever the commentator uses the word “almost” in relation to Arsenal’s play (offence or defence), take a shot.

  5. 1. I clearly have a future as a fortune teller should things not work out professionally (see comment 1). 🙂

    2. I wish a plague on the house of the next person who talks about reviews ruining the precious flow of football. Hazard’s pen came at a very, very critical time for them, given the …err.. flow of he game. That’s 4 points we were robbed of in a week. That’s not fair. Those costs to a team in a league competition shouldn’t be acceptable in a major sport.

      1. Talking of diving, Wilshere seems to have caught the habit. He could have been ben given a second yellow card for that.
        Under the new retrospective rules the Hazard ‘dive’ can still be reviewed. Won’t change the result of course…

    1. I’ll take the plague on my house. I think you’re deluding yourself if you think all these reviews are going to make the calls right. So much of football is subjective. Despite what we all saw or think we saw, there’s at best a 10% chance that Hazard pen would have been overturned, since there was clear contact, even if there was an obvious dive.

      Video assisted refereeing is still refereeing. This isn’t tennis, where we’re talking about clear-cut ins/outs. This is football, where the laws of the game are ambiguous and include loads of judgement calls. If VAR fixed 75% of the wrong calls, I would support it. I just see no evidence in an analogous (read: fast paced, complicated rules) sport that supports the new world is any better than the old.

      1. Sure, but there’s a better than 50% chance (I’d say more like 80%) that the penalty Dean gave against Chambers in the last game would get overturned. Of course you’re not going to get them all. It’s obvious to me Hazard dived and deserved a yellow, it’s less obvious that it wasn’t also a penalty because I LITERALLY DON’T KNOW WHAT CONSTITUTES A FOUL AND WHAT DOESN’T IN FOOTBALL and I’m a smart guy who spend an inordinate amount of his time thinking about football. There are many, many problems with the laws and how they’re interpreted, and they won’t all get fixed by video replays, BUT it’s an important and necessary start.

        1. PS And personally, if I were the fourth official watching replays of the Hazard pen I WOULD overturn that call, since obviously not all contact constitutes a foul (a good recent example: the scandalous penalty Alli “won” by diving against Burnley), and I don’t *think* that Bellerin’s contact with Hazard foot was sufficient to count as a foul (it’s very hard to tell because Hazard is always *so* clever at diving to make light contact look way worse than it is). But I understand there can be rational, unbiased disagreement on the matter, unlike, say, the Chambers penalty or the offside goal Man City scored against us, both of which VAR, properly administered, would have addressed.

          1. Just a note on how VAR technically works in Germany and Italy AFAIK, the video assistant doesn’t actually have the power to overturn any decision. The assistant can only suggest a review, the ref still has the full authority on the decision.

  6. ……and what referee is likely to front up & admit for the whole world to see that he got it wrong? Needs a lot of work still to be done on it IMO.

  7. On the subject of Wenger leaving at the end of this season, I was one who thought no way but I’m beginning to wonder if he actually could leave. He’s talking like a dead man walking to the press, like he has very little to lose. His comments over Dean’s penalty decision in which he not only brought up that particular call but also the offsides decisions which went against us earlier in the season, almost suggesting a bias against Arsenal. And in the Chelseas post-match conference, he highlighted the inconsistent press coverage of poor officiating decisions by pointing out that there was hardly any coverage of crappy refereeing in the spuds game. He seems to be going out of his way to point out that match officiating at the top levels of the game are horrendously bad but the press doesn’t seem to care about that, only picking and choosing narratives like “there goes Arsene whinging again.”

    1. There are suggestions elsewhere (another Arsenal blog) that the media are contractually bound by the Premier League not to report these referee issues. Not sure how this is implemented (if indeed it’s true even) and what the penalties for breaking the agreement is, but they’re making a big deal out of it again today.

  8. Probably frustration boiling over more than a conscious decision to go to an all out war with the pgmo, a war in which there can only be one winner if the Mourinho’s second spell with Chelsea was anything to go by.

    Take away the recent bad calls for penalties and maybe another one somewhere along the way, discount the few favorable ones as well and Arsenal are still probably short of cracking the top four with their pathetic goals for and against record.

    Czech diving routinely the wrong way makes every penalty decision as good as a goal. 23 consecutive failed attempt at saving a pen from Arsenal keepers I read somewhere.
    Goal keeping coaching change anyone? Fat chance.

    Defenders routinely ball watching and failing to man mark is costing Arsenal far more dearly than the potential referee bias, and it’s something Arsenal coaches could actually do something about, unlike the ref bashing.

    1. Bad defending and bad reffing can both be simultaneously true, Tom. You’re right. Bad defending is costing us points. But strictly (<< keyword) in the context of refereeing howlers, so what?

  9. Just a reminder to everyone that Massimo Busacca (awarder of van Persie’s second yellow against Barca) is still the FIFA head of refereeing.

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