One of the most anticipated fixtures in the Premier League calendar will take place at the Emirates Stadium on Boxing Day as Arsenal welcomes London rivals, Chelsea.
The match between Arsenal and Chelsea could go one of the two ways. Either, all the merry spirit we enjoyed over the course of Christmas could evaporate the very next day or, Santa could hand Arsenal a late gift and extend our happiness for another few days. And, suppose Arsenal claims the spoils in their London derby, it will likely be as a result of magical outside sources, not of internal doings.
Arsenal who are down in the 15th spot will be in search of their first league victory since the start of November. On the other hand, Chelsea will be looking to make it back-to-back wins in England’s top-flight, having dispatched West Ham United at Stamford Bridge.
The Gunners tally of 14 points from 14 matches this season is their worst at this stage of a campaign since 1974/75. Arsenal is in a crisis as they continue to struggle for results and performance.
Not since a 1-0 success at Manchester United on 1st November has Arsenal been victorious in the Premier League, losing five of their last seven, including four of their last five during a torrid run of form.
The capital side showed signs of improvement in their 1-1 draw against Southampton on December 16 but could not build on the point as they suffered a 2-1 defeat at Everton last weekend, which has further piled the pressure on under-fire manager Mikel Arteta.
The Gunners had a welcome break from league action on Tuesday as they faced Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup, but it was another hugely disappointing result for the club as they lost 4-1 at home to exit the competition.
A record of four wins, two draws, and eight defeats from 14 matches this season is an indication of the team’s problems, and they are only four points clear of the relegation zone ahead of Saturday’s fixtures. It is incredibly difficult to imagine Arsenal dropping out of the top flight, but the fact that the possibility is even being discussed is a real concern for the capital giants.
The Gunners have the fifth-worst home record in the Premier League this season, meanwhile, picking up just seven points from their seven matches, scoring just six times in the process.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on the scoresheet in the recent draw with Southampton but has managed just three Premier League goals this season, and the Gabon international is a huge doubt for this game through injury. Alexandre Lacazette, meanwhile, has three league goals to his name this term, but Willian, Nicolas Pepe, and Eddie Nketiah have just three between them.
The team’s defensive record this season has actually been quite strong, conceding 18 times, which is fewer than Man United (21), Liverpool (19), and Everton (19), but a lack of cutting edge in the final third has been a real issue in the early months of the 2020-21 campaign.
Meanwhile, Chelsea is currently fifth in the table, having won seven, drawn four, and lost three of their 14 matches this season, collecting 25 points in the process.
The Blues entered Monday’s clash with West Ham off the back of successive defeats to Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers but managed to overcome the Hammers courtesy of a first-half header from Thiago Silva and a second-half brace from Tammy Abraham.
Frank Lampard’s side has two tough matches after this one as they will welcome a dangerous Aston Villa side to Stamford Bridge on December 28 before hosting Man City in their first match of 2021.
Chelsea will then open their FA Cup challenge for the 2020-21 campaign at home to Morecambe before a trip to Fulham in the league on January 15, with the matches coming thick and fast during a busy period.
There is pressure on Lampard to deliver at least another top-four finish due to the amount of money that was spent over the summer, but it would be fair to say that the team is still finding their feet, having dropped points in three of their last four matches in all competitions.
Kai Havertz has struggled to justify his large price tag since arriving from Bayer Leverkusen, while Timo Werner has only managed four Premier League goals, and the 24-year-old, who has been moved into a wide area in recent months, is without a goal in his last six league outings.
The Blues are only six points behind league leaders, Liverpool, on the same number of matches but are just three points ahead of ninth-placed Aston Villa, who have two matches in hand, which is an indication of how quickly things can change due to the nature of this season’s Premier League.
Chelsea recorded back-to-back away league victories over Burnley and Newcastle United between October 31 and November 21 but have lost their last two on the road to Everton and Wolves, and Arsenal are certainly capable of making it a difficult match despite the home side’s problems this term.
Arsenal’s main fitness doubt surrounds captain Aubameyang, who has missed the team’s last two matches with a calf problem. The Gabon international might be available for selection but could ultimately be used off the bench due to the nature of the issue.
Gabriel Martinelli is also a doubt, having taken a blow to his shin during the EFL Cup defeat to Man City, while Thomas Partey will again miss out due to a thigh problem.
Granit Xhaka has now served his three-game suspension and will be available, though, and it would not be a surprise to see the Switzerland international return to the starting XI on Saturday night.
There will be changes from the side that started in the EFL Cup with Bernd Leno, Kieran Tierney, and Bukayo Saka all returning, but Lacazette could keep his spot ahead of Nketiah.
As for Chelsea, Hakim Ziyech remains on the sidelines with a thigh problem, while Reece James and Ben Chilwell are both huge doubts for the visitors ahead of the contest.
Cesar Azpilicueta and Emerson Palmieri are therefore expected to start in the full-back positions at the Emirates Stadium, but Lampard is expected to stick with the bulk of the XI that started against West Ham.
As a result, Havertz could again be left on the bench with Werner and Christian Pulisic playing alongside Abraham in the final third of the field, while Jorginho and Mason Mount should feature alongside N’Golo Kante in the middle of the park.