In Gameweek 2, the Premier League’s top new managers go head-to-head. Saturday’s late kick-off sees Maurizio Sarri vs Unai Emery, Chelsea vs Arsenal.
Chelsea and Arsenal are two teams in transition, and it was no great surprise when they were both soundly beaten by Pep Guardiola’s settled Manchester City.
Sarri arrived at Stamford Bridge in mid-July, with only a few weeks to instil his footballing philosophy. It showed against City in the Community Shield, but Chelsea were much better against Huddersfield last weekend. The team’s double training sessions seem to be working. David Luiz has returned at the heart of the new Back Four, while the Jorginho-N’Golo Kanté axis looks strong in midfield. The attack remains a work in progress, with Álvaro Morata struggling and Real Madrid still chasing Eden Hazard.
Emery has had a little longer at Arsenal, but his overhaul of the Wenger era will take months. The Gunners weren’t terrible against City last weekend but the failures were all too familiar. Is Sokratis Papastathopoulos really the solution to their defensive frailties? Will Arsenal ever beat a big team with Granit Xhaka and a 19-year-old debutant in midfield? Or with Mesut Özil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the same team?
Cesc Fàbregas is Sarri’s only injury doubt for Chelsea vs Arsenal. However, World Cup heroes Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud may not be 100% match fit yet.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have a real left-back crisis. Nacho Monreal, Carl Jenkinson, Sead Kolašinac and now Ainsley Maitland-Niles are all out injured. Apparently, Emery even tried Danny Welbeck there in training. In better news, Lucas Torreira should be ready to start in midfield ahead of either Mattéo Guendouzi or Xhaka.
Chelsea’s new £50million man Jorginho made a bright start against Huddersfield with some classy passing and a very cheeky penalty. In goal, the world’s most expensive keeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, is yet to be tested. Loanee Mateo Kovačić could play a part against Arsenal but The Blues aren’t exactly short of midfield options.
Arsenal’s new signings didn’t enjoy the best of starts against City. Guendouzi was the pick of the bunch, and even he made errors. Things will get better, though. Stephan Lichtsteiner is exactly the kind of strong character that the team needs, and so too Torreira the midfield terrier. Even keeper Bernd Leno may soon find himself in the starting line-up.
Player to Watch: Eden Hazard
All eyes will be on Hazard during Chelsea vs Arsenal. First, there’s the question of his body language. Does he look happy, or is he pining for Madrid? And secondly, there’s the question of his role. Will Sarri ask him to cut in off the left as usual, or will he play through the middle, à la Dries Mertens at Napoli? Either way, Hazard may be too hot for Arsenal to handle.