Football is an unpredictable game. Who’d have thought that after 5 league matches, the reigning Premier League Champions Chelsea would already be 11 points adrift of Manchester City, and just 2 points outside the relegation places? The team that was so dominant on their way to the title just a few months ago, now have just a solitary win to their name and an incredible 3 losses, the same amount that they suffered in the whole of last season.
Last week a Steven Naismith hat-trick condemned the Blues to a 3-1 defeat against Everton, while the fixture before they suffered a home defeat to Crystal Palace. To put that into context, it was just the second defeat Jose Mourinho has been on the receiving end of at Stamford Bridge in 100 Premier League matches.
They’ve had off-field troubles this season too – the opening day row with club doctor Eva Carneiro made all too public and remains ongoing. On the pitch, they have looked unsettled and drastic moves such as John Terry being subbed off at half time during their 3-0 defeat to title rivals Manchester City only serving to highlight early cracks in last years’ solid armour.
And this Saturday they face Arsenal, a side who on their day can beat any team in Europe, let alone the Premier League. The Gunners have achieved back to back wins against Stoke and Newcastle respectively and, as ever it seems, occupy 4th in the league.
But what a difference a week can make in the never ending rollercoaster that is football. This Wednesday’s Champions League ties saw Chelsea dominate Israel’s Maccabi Tel-Aviv, winning impressively 4-0, while Arsenal floundered away to Dinamo Zagreb, losing 2-1.
Chelsea took the opportunity to rest some key players but didn’t lack any quality as a result, and this year their squad shows a depth that was arguably absent in the previous campaign. Centre back Kurt Zouma and Wednesday’s Man of the Match Ruben Loftus-Cheek showed that they are ready to mix it in the Premier League and will have sent a clear message to established team members that no one’s place is guaranteed. Striker Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas both hit the back of the net, they’ve brought in Falcao and Pedro to add to their attacking bite and Wednesday’s game could be the turning point that Chelsea needed to kick start their league title defence.
Arsenal, meanwhile, look thin on the ground. They badly needed a striker to come in during the transfer window which failed to happen, and instead are relying on the misfiring duo Olivier Giroud to lead the line. They have long-term absentees in Jack Wilshire and Danny Welbeck and the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are yet to make an impact this season.
They were the only club in the top 5 leagues in Europe not to sign an outfield player, and it may be starting to show.
There’s no love lost between the managers of these two London rivals and Arsene Wenger has only beaten Jose Mourinho once in 14 encounters, a 1-0 win in this seasons Community Shield. I don’t see that record being improved on Saturday, regardless of current league position. Chelsea remain a class act who will be challenging for multiple domestic and European trophies this season, even if they are 17th at the moment.
Their kick up the backside midweek will be the spark they need to get their season back on track, and I see them coming out on top on Saturday. My tip for the game is Chelsea to win 2-0 at 11/1, or add Diego Costa to a first goalscorer and 2-0 scorecast for 35/1. Catch the action on BT Sport from 12.45.