Gunner Thoughts

Another Chance to Prove Ourselves, Keys to the Game, Projected Lineup

It’s match day!! Big opportunity for Arsenal to prove themselves once more, but they have to earn the right to win.

“They’ve been really consistent,” said Arteta as he looked ahead to Chelsea, “the results that they’ve had recently since Graham took over you can see what he’s trying to do and we will be ready and will start to prepare for the game from tonight.”

“You can see that he [Potter] has put his ideas in, like he did with Brighton. We need to play better than them, earn the right to win, and score one more goal than them.”

Earning the right to win is something that I have come close to talking about in the past. After Arsenal’s win over Leeds earlier this season, people got caught up in the idea of “deserving or not deserving” to win, and I wrote that we may get bogged down in the phrase and forget the more important concept of “earning” a win. The idea that in football there are moments that aren’t defined by what you deserve, but what a side goes out and earns. Away fixtures are prime examples of doing whatever it takes to get a result and earning points that change the course of your season’s result.

Yesterday, I wrote about the target that Arsenal carry on their back. Everyone is looking to be the side that disproves Arsenal’s quality and starts Arsenal’s fall from grace and tumble from atop the table. They all want to play their best and it means Arsenal have entered the level in which they can expect to face each club’s most motivated side.

Arsenal will certainly need to bring their finest form, or the form that got them five goals versus Nottingham Forest, when they walk into what has oddly been a happy hunting ground in the recent past. Arsenal haven’t lost at Stamford Bridge since 2019 and are aiming to win their third-straight game at the venue for the first time since 1974.

To do that, Arsenal will have to overcome Graham Potter, the coach that worked brilliant stuff from Brighton, but whom has faced some turbulence lately. Arsenal also know Aubameyang will be leading the line and he’s more than capable of damaging a defense if he’s given the opportunity. After this week’s heated lead up and promotions, I think nothing would make him happier than to score against Arsenal, and nothing would make Arsenal fans happier than blanking him and keeping a clean sheet.

Neither team is healthy

Both teams are coming into today carrying injuries, but if I had to take a stance, Arsenal seem to be in a better place with injury periods to Zinchenko and Elneny coming to a close. It was incredibly unfortunate to lose Tomiyasu who was excellent in relief, it felt a lot like one step forward, one step back. With Zinchnko getting his first minutes after injury, there’s a chance that this injury to Tomiyasu comes a game too early — assuming fate had deemed it had to happen.

Arteta has adopted a clear vision for his fullbacks which emphasizes the need to be able to invert and offer technical quality to help support the team’s progression, to push the fluid attack, and route out opposing transitions that leak past the counter press. All of Arsenal’s left backs seem to fall in different locations across three spectrums that give us a better idea of how Arteta is making his selections. If Zinchenko is fit enough, I would expect him to get the selection, even if there is a preplanned substitution around the 60-minute mark. He offers the greatest technical ability and that seems to rank far and above as top priority in Arteta’s mind. If not, Tierney will get the opportunity to prove himself in a major way coming off a Man of the Match performance against FC Zurich.

Chelsea also have their defensive injury woes as Chillwell was added to the list already containing Reece James and Wesley Fofana.

Keys to the game + Projected Lineup

The key for this match goes right back to what Arteta said about this game: Arsenal need to “earn the right to win”. They need to earn the right to play their way, control stretches of the game, bend the match script to their will as much as possible, and adapt to the difficulties that arise when you go away from home in the Premier League.

To do this, everything starts with a fast start. Arsenal have been really good as establishing themselves away from home when they hit the ground running early. Yes, they tend to cede that territory and superiority as the match hits the 25th minute mark, but the opening 20-25 minutes of a match can be devastating for away sides that are on the back foot from the whistle. They can’t allow that to be the case when they go to Stamford Bridge.

To avoid that, Arsenal need to possess the ball. It’s no mystery that Arsenal are a possession-based team, and they look their best when they can dictate the game with the ball. It’s the foundations of their play and it’s the best way to keep their opponents off the scoreboard. This makes Saliba, White, Partey, and the left back four of the most important people to this game in my eyes. It’s also why I would be really happy to see Arteta call upon Zinchenko. He immediately raises the technical security and tempo control that Arsenal can impose on the game. He’s can’t be forced given his health, but if he’s truly available, he’s a must-start for me.

Third, Arsenal need to bring their cleanest play. It’s obvious and it goes hand in hand with needing to control the ball, but you can’t afford mistakes in big matches on the road. When Arsenal have made mistakes it seems to come from the back which is a problem. It makes sense given how much of Arsenal’s attack starts with that backline, but the margin for error in those spaces is little to none. Im’ not necessarily looking directly at Gabriel, but I’m definitely looking intently in his general direction.

Finally, Arsenal have to find a way to score more than one goal. That’s a big ask, and of course there is nothing to say there can’t be a tight 1-0 scoreline, but winning games on the road when you only score one goal is a big ask. Jesus hasn’t score in eight games, but I refused to discredit the contributions he is providing this attack. He’s created goals for others, he is getting into the right areas to have shots, sooner or later these are going to start converting again and Chelsea would be a wonderful time to start. Two goals, people, it’s going to take two goals.

With a relatively full bill of health — as far as we know — I think there will be very few surprises in the line. Left back feels like the only major question mark, but given he put in some minutes mid-week and Arteta will want extra technical security to possess the ball, I truly believe Zinchenko will get the start and at least sixty minutes. In the same breath, I am very pleased to say that if Tierney gets the call, I have no fear about what he provides this Arsenal team in terms of energy, defensive quality, and ability to aid the attack.

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