Chelsea’s first match against Arsenal back in August, a 3-2 win for the Blues at Stamford Bridge, was a good summary of the first half of the season. Fun in attack, danger in defense, and a hefty dose of luck gave Chelsea all three points as Sarri’s Blues opened the season with an 18-match unbeaten run despite plenty of underlying issues. But of course, those issues were slowly and surely revealed and exposed. In response, Chelsea have improved defensively — second best record in the league! — but have dropped off in attack — by far the worst among the top six.
Now along comes under checkpoint. But in addition to serving as a litmus test to see how far Sarri’s Blues have (or haven’t come), Chelsea have a chance to open up a 9-point gap to the Gunners in this top-four six-pointer, effectively dealing a knockout blow to their top-four hopes. On the other hand, an Arsenal win today blows open the top four race once again, and now with Manchester United back in it, too.
Date / Time: Saturday, January 19, 2019, 17:30 GMT; 12:30pm EST; 11pm IST
Venue: Emirates Stadium, London, England
Referee: Anthony Taylor — Taylor refereed this exact same fixture last season, too (2-2), in addition to Chelsea’s losing efforts against Arsenal in the 2017 FA Cup final (2-1, Pedro red) and 2015 Community Shield (1-0).
On TV: BT Sport 1 (UK); NBC, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BT Sport Live (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); Fubo TV (affiliate link — USA only)
Arsenal team news: As much as Chelsea’s 18-match unbeaten streak flattered to deceive, Arsenal’s 22-match run was similarly unimpressive and, in the end, useless. In fact, the Gunners are seemingly entering crisis mode on and off the pitch, the proportions of which might have impressed even Arsene Wenger, were he still in charge. They have won just 3 of their last 8 Premier League games, but they haven’t lost a league match at home to a non-Manchester team in almost two years.
That’s not to say that Arsenal should be taken lightly, especially with a largely healthy squad — outside of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Danny Welbeck, and Rob Holding, all players should be available — that features some of the league’s fastest and most dangerous players.
View from the enemy: The Short Fuse
Chelsea team news: Chelsea have had a rare full week to prepare for this match, as well as the second leg of the League Cup semifinal that follows a few days later, so perhaps we have figured out some solution to our continuing goal-scoring woes.
Outside of Álvaro Morata (who’s reportedly on his way out anyway) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (expected out for a few more weeks with a back injury), Sarri should have a full squad to pick from.
Previously: Marcos Alonso’s late winner was the story as Arsenal missed a hatful of glorious chances.