Before he jumped ship to Arsenal, David Luiz warned that Frank Lampard will only get about six months of honeymoon before Chelsea fans run out of patience and start demanding results. That may have sounded harsh at the time, but given the reactionary nature of modern fandom, fueled by the vile cauldron of social media, it may have actually been fairly generous.
Either way, Thursday’s home defeat to Southampton was greeted by audible grumbles of discontent, both in the stadium and very much online. And we’re not talking about the shameful #LampardOut crowd, whom you should ignore and unfollow.
Like the rest of his young team, Lampard and his young coaching staff are learning on the job. We either give them time to do so, or we rip the soul out of the club once again. Let’s not do that. The honeymoon is over. Time to get behind the team!
Date / Time: Sunday, December 29, 14.00 GMT; 9am EST; 7:30pm IST
Venue: Emirates Stadium, London, England
Referee: Craig Pawson — Pawson’s only Chelsea game so far this season saw us lose to Duncan Ferguson’s Everton, 3-1
Forecast: Cool, breezy, maybe a bit of sunshine, even
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); NBCSN, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); Canal+ Sport 2, SuperSport 3 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live, Universo Now (USA); HotStar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Arsenal team news: It’s new boss Mikel Arteta’s first home game, although his new manager bounce didn’t reach great heights in his first match in charge, a 1-1 draw against Bournemouth on Boxing Day. The atmosphere at the Emirates is even more fragile than at Stamford Bridge, too, and an early goal from the visitors could do wonders.
Arteta’s also dealing with a whole host of injuries and off-field distractions, especially in defense. Kieran Tierney, Sead Kolašinac, and Sokratis Papastathopoulos are all out while Hector Bellerín and Rob Holding are doubtful. David Luiz remains the rock for the Gunners, as hilarious as that may sound, and will likely partner Calum Chambers, who returns from suspension. On Thursday, Bukayo Saka was shoehorned in at left back, Kenedy-style, and that may have to happen again.
Meanwhile, Granit Xhaka is set for his final appearance for Arsenal after getting booted out (set to join Hertha Berlin in January) and Mesut Özil may yet follow at some point.
Still, Arsenal have plenty of potential firepower thanks to the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, and Nicolas Pepe, and if they can figure things out, they will be dangerous once again.
The Gunners have just 2 wins since early October — NOT a typo: 2 wins, 8 draws in their last 16 games in all competitions — but given Chelsea’s generosity as of late, that hardly matters.
View from the enemy: The Short Fuse
Chelsea team news: Lampard’s second experiment with the 3-4-3 was just as short-lived as the first, once again following a great away win (5-2 v Wolves, 2-0 v Spurs) with a stupid home defeat (0-1 v Valencia, 0-2 v Southampton). So, back to the drawing board?
More worrying than formations and tactics is the team’s overall inconsistency and tendency to play up or down to the level of opposition. That should be expected to some extent from a young team, but we’ve taken it to extreme levels as of late, failing to create, let alone convert chances at one end and giving away extra silly goals at the other.
We’ve been trading wins and draws since October, with a couple draws thrown in for good measure — W-L-W-D-W-L-D-L-W-L-W-L-W-L — so if the pattern holds, we’re winning this one!
Mateo Kovačić will be back after serving a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation. Marcos Alonso and Reece James were both late scratches on Thursday; the former could also be back, but the latter’s out at least until the new year with some sort of ankle issue (hopefully not the same one as his surgically repaired one this summer).
Previously: Europa League final, 4-1 to the good guys. (Chelsea haven’t won at the Emirates since January 2016.)