The London derbies come thick and fast for Frank Lampard’s Chelsea as they head back over to North London on Sunday to face an Arsenal side with a new man at the helm.
Following Sunday’s tactical triumph over Tottenham Hotspur where Lampard’s plan was executed to perfection against his former boss Jose Mourinho, Chelsea are taking a bit of a step into the unknown when they face Arteta for the first time.
Arteta makes his managerial debut away at Bournemouth on Boxing Day and whilst that will give us some kind of indication how he might approach the task in hand, the outcome of that game could well dictate how he approaches the Chelsea game.
This makes it tough for Lampard and Chelsea to plan – meaning they are more likely to focus on their own gameplan and make Arsenal look to stop them than spend too much time analysing how Arsenal might set-up.
Leading online bookmaker Eaglebet has Chelsea as 2.25 favourites for this match, pricing Arsenal at 3.00. With that in mind, the onus is very much on Chelsea to take the game to their rivals – much as they did against Spurs in the first half.
What we do know about Arsenal and what cannot be fixed by Arteta in a matter of days is their defensive issues – both in midfield and at the back.
Unai Emery was unable to find the right midfield blend to provide his defence with adequate protection and support the attacking play. If we are to assume that Arteta’s talk of playing football ‘the right way’ and being proactive and attacking, it could be that we will see a Man City style 4-3-3 shape employed. However, Arsenal do not have a deep midfielder in the class of Fernandinho or Rodri, or even of Arteta in his prime. Lucas Torreira does not appear to have the tactical discipline to be the lone pivot and Granit Xhaka, although preferring to occupy deeper spaces is too inconsistent to build a team around. Even if Arteta gambles and plays David Luiz in there, Lampard will feel confident that his Chelsea attacking midfield can cause Arsenal all kinds of problems with the combined movements of Mason Mount and Willian.
In Arsenal’s defence, they have injury doubts at full-back and Lampard will look to target these areas in the same way the exposed Serge Aurier on Sunday.
Hector Bellerin is still a doubt and even if he does return on the right he will be lacking match sharpness. On the left, Kieran Tierney and Saed Kolasinac are both doubtful meaning teenage winger Bukayo Saka could well start there once again. Going forward, the youngster is a top talent but defensively will give Chelsea another area to target.
Centrally, Tammy Abraham will certainly be backing himself against any of the options Arteta can choose from.
But how can Arsenal hurt Chelsea? Like Arsenal themselves, Chelsea are not as strong defensively as they are going forward. If Arteta can quickly implement some kind of urgency in Arsenal’s passing, there is a chance they can progress the ball into the final third where their team is strongest. Lampard switched to a back three against Spurs following an inconsistent run of defensive performances, but if he continues with this then Arsenal would be wise to target Alonso on the left. Leaving Pepe high on that side of the pitch would mean Alonso has to stay, which he won’t, or Tomori gets dragged from his central position. This could create space for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Either way, Eaglebet are calling the right team as favourites for this game. The only way Arsenal can realistically win this one is if they get off to a great start with Arteta by beating Bournemouth by a big score and belief returns instantly. More likely is that this is going to take some time for Arteta to piece together, meaning Chelsea catch them at the perfect time.