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Predicted Chelsea lineup against Arsenal: All first-choice for the first time all season

Chelsea FC v Qarabag FK - UEFA Champions League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Last season, Chelsea navigated the long and arduous and treacherous waters of a Premier League campaign with nary an enforced, or, for that matter, voluntary change to the starting lineup, with Antonio Conte relying on the same 12-13 players for victory after victory. Week in and week out, we knew what lineup to expect, with Matic and Pedro the only two players who actually had a direct competitor in Fabregas and Willian, respectively, for their first-team minutes

This season, Chelsea have yet to establish that comfort zone and given the return of midweek Champions League football, are unlikely to be able to do so anytime soon. That said, for the most crucial matches, if we’re using the squad smartly, we should be able to field the strongest theoretical lineup. And so it must be for Arsenal on Sunday.

The setup in this case is pretty simple, with an easy lead-in (Qarabag) and easy follow-up (Nottingham Forest in the League Cup) that should allow Conte to rotate as needed. On Tuesday against Qarabag, he changed five starters and he should be able to do that again, if not more, on Wednesday against Forest.

The five who rotated to the bench on Tuesday should now all be back: Morata, Bakayoko, Moses, David Luiz, Rudiger. This means Moses over Zappacosta and Rudiger over Cahill. Zappacosta impressed, to be sure, but Moses has not done much wrong. Same can’t be said for Cahill, in whose enforced absence Rudiger showed plenty of quality to justify his acquisition over the summer.

The only question that remains is regarding Eden Hazard, and that’s purely a fitness issue. Conte has not made a definitive call yet either way, but all signs seem to point towards Hazard starting, which would drop either Pedro or Willian to the bench. My money’s on the latter but there’s no obvious answer — Willian played the full game on Tuesday and Pedro did not, but Willian played better than Pedro; that said, Pedro’s direct running (versus Willian’s more measured approach) should be a useful asset in helping to disrupt the Arsenal backline.

Courtois | Rudiger, David Luiz, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Kante, Bakayoko, Moses | Hazard, Morata, Pedro

Based on the WAGNH community’s preferred lineup survey, looks like we’re all pretty much in agreement. The closest battles were at right inside forward (Pedro 56% vs. Willian 43%), right wing-back (Moses 61% vs. Zappacosta 38%), and left-center back (Rudiger 67% vs. Cahill 26%). Fabregas also finished in the 30s, with many of those coming alongside a vote for a 3-5-2 setup instead of the 3-4-3.

3-4-3 (73%):
Courtois (99%) | Rudiger (67%), David Luiz (98%), Azpilicueta (98%) | Alonso (98%), Kante (99%+), Bakayoko (82%), Moses (61%) | Hazard(78%), Morata (99%), Pedro (56%)

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