Arsenal recently gained victory versus Chelsea in what seemed to be a competitive and intriguing encounter. Whilst both clubs seemed to have millions of pounds of talent on show, it was Arsenal who were victorious, recording a 3-0 win after goals from midfielders Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil. Pre-game, it may have been the blue side of London who were favourites; continuously victorious for five years in the league versus Arsenal, combined with keeping seven clean sheets in the last seven meetings between the sides, may have emphasised this suggestion. Arsenal seemed to relish the situation, seeming to play at a higher standard than Chelsea, who may have been under pressure to win the match due to the aforementioned stats.
Prior to the fixture, both clubs had recorded ten points in their opening five fixtures, and both had won three games. Arsenal started the match with Alexis Sanchez utilised as the focal point of the attack, with Iwobi, Ozil and Walcott supporting him. The other key change seemed to occur in holding midfield: Francis Coquelin coming in for summer signing Granit Xhaka. Chelsea seemed to be looking to utilise the experience gained in the Liverpool match, and the players may have aimed to use this fixture as a catalyst in their quest for the title. £34 million centre-half David Luiz kept his place in the team for Chelsea, a combination of consistent previous form and injuries to captain John Terry and Kurt Zouma seeming to contribute to Conte’s decision. Cesc Fabregas also started the match versus his former club; he seemed to be playing at his peak ability after two goals in the EFL Cup in midweek.
Both Wenger and Conte seem to be amongst the best managers in the world, and combined have won a smorgasbord of trophies, including league titles in England, France and Italy. Both managers may have wanted this fixture to act as a springboard for their respective clubs’ seasons, and thus used their tactical nouse in an attempt to win the match. Both philosophies were on show; Conte attempting to use attacking full backs and a deep-lying playmaker, whilst Wenger may have relied on intricate passing football and pace on the counter. The managers’ contrasting philosophies seemed to contribute to an intriguing local derby, as both seemed to use their tactical nouse to give their team the upper hand.
Arsenal took the lead through an early strike from Alexis Sanchez, and three minutes later winger Theo Walcott doubled Arsenal’s advantage. Chelsea seemed to increase their intensity and work rate on and off the ball at 2-0, and created chances which Diego Costa may have capitalised from, although Laurent Koscielny continued to block any efforts on goal. In the 40th minute, Mesut Ozil made it 3-0 to Arsenal, providing the Gunners with a seemingly unassailable lead. Conte seemed to attempt to change the result, altering his 4-1-4-1 formation to a 3-5-2 as the need for a goal seemed intensified, and made venomous substitutions, including Pedro and £32 million striker Michy Batshuayi. Ultimately, it seemed Wenger’s substitutions provided a more productive impact, and Arsenal seemed to comfortably see the match out, recording the three points in the process.
Both London clubs face away trips in the next fixture, and both play newly promoted clubs; Arsenal face Burnley and Chelsea travel to Hull. Arsenal may be able to use this victory as a catalyst for a successful season, as this may enable them to gain momentum in winning further points in the league, and winning other games versus other top clubs. Chelsea may utilise this experience in a different manner, perhaps integrating younger players into the side, which may enable different players to gain experience alongside the seemingly millions of pounds of talent on show. Ultimately, this match may provide an insight into which team seems to be better equipped to challenge for the title, as while both teams are amongst the top six favourites for the title at under 20/1, it is the red side of London who emerged victorious in this early top of the table encounter.
How may both Arsenal and Chelsea utilise this experience to challenge for the title?