This is when the season starts.
Saturday. The Bridge. Arsenal. A top tier opponent and an early chance to inflict some damage on our London neighbors. The Gunners will look to bounce back from their early defeat at the hands of Manchester City and we will aim to improve on an unsure performance against Huddersfield. Sure, the score line says it was a walk in the park but Dave Wagners side gave us far too many problems for my liking and had the post been kinder to the Terriers in the first half, the game may have finished with a different result. Nevertheless, some moments of pure quality saw us through and gave the fans a taste of what is to come. A superb flick from Barkley, a marauding Willian and perhaps an Eden Hazard who will finally score the number of goals his talent deserves.
Our opening fixture was kind, especially compared to Arsenals game, and Sarri’s side took full advantage as they tried to implement the boss’s instructions for the first time in a Premier League fixture and it didn’t work. Not at first. The Terriers lived up to their name and pressured the ball at every moment, pushed us backwards and never stopped running. Jorginho looked overwhelmed and with Kante pushed further forward was forced to pass backwards far more than he is accustomed to. As the half progressed however, we wrestled control and once the second went in, we were in cruise control. As soon as Huddersfield needed to create something for themselves the pressure subsided and we maintained the ball. The knack will be getting an early goal to ensure the opposition have to chase and against the top sides that will prove difficult.
So, we come to this weekend.
Blue vs Red. A fixture long feared by Gunners fans and relished by Chelsea supporters, a certain 6-1 victory on Wengers 1000th game springs to mind. We have had the better of this fixture over the last decade and will hope to continue the trend over the incoming Emery. Our World Cup stars have had enough time to get more or less back to speed and I would be gob smacked if Hazard was not brought into the starting XI. Pedro the likely demotion to the bench. Morata will count himself lucky to stay on the pitch too after another poor afternoon at the John Smith Stadium. David Luiz looks shaky and while he has an eye for a pass that works with Sarri’s system, I think he is a liability that we cannot afford against top teams. Drop him.
We will face an Arsenal side already at a cross roads having been ruthlessly torn apart by the reigning Champions. Will they keep to the idea of playing out from the back along with shift away from Wenger’s one touch football? Either way, Arsenal need a result or face a six point gap from the top teams very early in the season. Lacazzette made a big impact when introduced against City and I would not be surprised to see him start alongside Aubameyang in a dangerous front pairing that will test our frail center backs. Should the Gunners stick to theirs then we are primed for an entertaining game. Scores will be high and the pace fast. Prediction 3-2 Chelsea victorious.