Arsenal might have to wait until the second period before they unlock the Chelsea defence.
The final match of the weekend is undoubtedly the biggest as Arsenal face a derby with relegation threatened Chelsea. The Gunners have picked up just two points in their last two games, but trips to Liverpool and Stoke were never going to be easy and those results still look better than Chelsea’s last two results – draws at home against West Brom and then, luckily, against Everton.
Arsenal are unbeaten at home since the opening day and in nine matches here since they’ve conceded just four goals. So Chelsea certainly have their work cut out if they to protect their unbeaten streak under Guus Hiddink. Looking at Chelsea as a middle-third team, which is generous on this season’s form, Arsenal have won seven of their last eight home matches against such teams with all those wins coming after leading at half-time and six by a margin of more than one strike.
Of course Chelsea have greater potential than that, and they’ve not lost in their last eight games against Arsenal. In fact they’ve not conceded in the last five of those meetings but defensively this season they’ve been a shambles and it’s hard to make an argument for that sequence extending. Hiddink might be unbeaten but performances haven’t really improved, as a win against a woeful Sunderland side has been followed by four draws in five games. They’ve lost half their 10 away matches this season and it’s not just the defence that has struggled as they’ve also failed to score in three of the last five and even when they’ve found the net this term it’s often been from set pieces or speculative efforts.
The Blues have taken just two points from six trips to the current top seven this term and they’ve scored just twice in these matches. Eden Hazard looks like he might be fit for Sunday but the Belgian is yet to score this campaign and the more significant news could be that Diego Costa is a major doubt after picking up a knock last weekend. Chelsea are yet to win this season without Costa in the starting XI and they’ve not even scored in the last three he’s missed. There’s better news for Gunners fans though as Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez should be fit to start.
It’s not a given that Arsenal will win this though, as Chelsea showed when they won the reverse fixture 2-0 that they can raise their game, and while they’ve not won in their last eight trips to top-six teams five did finish all-square. However, while Chelsea have been level at half-time in 12 of their last 19 matches they’ve gone on to lose five of those games (W2-D5-L5). Arsenal tend to be a good second-half team and have gone W9-D7-L2 in their last 18 matches to be level at the break. So if the Blues are trying to hang on in the second half the scars they’ve picked up this season could well be reopened.
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