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Back Arsenal to beat Chelsea this weekend. The Blues have won two games on the bounce but Arsenal remain further ahead in their development.
Stamford Bridge has not always been a happy hunting ground for Arsenal. Arsene Wenger’s last victory there came in 2011. Arsenal won only three games at Chelsea’s home stadium between Roman Abramovich’s takeover in 2003 and the end of the 2010s.
During that time, Chelsea were the more successful side overall. Since Arsenal’s last Premier League title in 2004, the Blues have been crowned champions of England five times.
In head-to-head clashes between the pair, Chelsea frequently showed themselves to be a more rounded team. Arsenal often dominated possession, but they lacked a cutting edge and could not compete with Chelsea’s physically. That trend lasted for several seasons.
Yet Arsenal have now got the Stamford Bridge monkey off their backs. Their last three visits to that corner of west London have all ended in victory. Arsenal have lost just one of their last seven encounters in front of Chelsea’s supporters.
They now have the chance to make it four wins on the bounce - and the best online sportsbooks have the Gunners down as favorites to do just that. Since Tottenham Hotspur in top spot do not play until Monday, Arsenal will move into first place if they get the better of Chelsea.
A win here would further underline Arsenal’s title credentials, just as their 1-0 triumph over Manchester City did before the international break.
That was an even encounter at the Emirates Stadium and a draw may have been a fairer result on the balance of play, but getting over the line against the champions will have given Mikel Arteta’s men plenty of belief. The key now is that Arsenal build on that success.
In some ways the international break came at the wrong time for Chelsea. Prior to the pause for Euro 2024 qualifiers and friendly matches, Mauricio Pochettino’s men had won three games on the bounce in all competitions.
The first of those, a 1-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion in the EFL Cup, was followed by back-to-back triumphs in the Premier League, as Fulham and Burnley were put to the sword.
Have Chelsea turned a corner? It is too early to say for sure. After all, one victory from their first six games of the campaign had left them closer to the relegation zone than the top four. Even after those defeats of Fulham and Burnley, Chelsea remain in the bottom half of the table.
There were certainly some positive signs from their last two Premier League performances, though, and Pochettino would argue (with some justification) that his team were unlucky before that.
The expected goals table is instructive in this regard. A measure of chance quality at both ends of the field, Chelsea rank fourth - behind only Manchester City, Newcastle United and Arsenal. Had they been less wasteful in attacking areas, Chelsea would be higher up the standings right now.
At the same time, the jury remains out on the Todd Boehly project. Chelsea have spent more than £1 billion on new signings since the American and his partners completed their takeover in the summer of 2022.
There has been a conscious shift towards youth in that time, as Chelsea embark on a long-term project. But this is a club used to winning trophies on a regular basis. The Chelsea fan base is among the least patient in the Premier League. It will be fascinating to see how they react if the Blues are still halfway down the table as Christmas approaches.
Saturday’s game marks the start of a very difficult run of fixtures for Chelsea, who will face seven of last season’s top nine in succession. A victory over Arsenal would be a fantastic way for Pochettino’s charges to start such a demanding sequence.
However, we are forecasting the opposite result at Stamford Bridge. Put simply, Arsenal are a better team than Chelsea right now. They are a much more well-oiled machine under Arteta, whereas the Blues are still getting used to Pochettino’s demands.
This Arsenal team has demonstrated that it is capable of winning away to Chelsea, which was formerly a tough fixture for the club. The Gunners ground out a 1-0 victory last term and would no doubt settle for the same outcome here.
Chelsea are unlikely to finish in the bottom half of the Premier League as they did last season, but they remain a work in progress. Arsenal, conversely, are the second-favorites to win the title. Back them to come out on top this weekend.
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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