Two teams with new managers, with slightly erratic form and underwhelming results in big games in recent times. How on earth do we predict who’ll come out on top?
If you’re a nerd like me, you look at the underlying statistics. Paddy must be a geek too because we agree on who should be favourites for this match: Chelsea.
The Blues aren’t huge favourites – they are priced at 13/10 with Arsenal at 15/8 and the draw 13/5 – but it’s certainly justified.
Deservedly beaten at Tottenham they might have been, but Sarri’s side have deserved to win every other away league game this season, according to the underlying statistics.
The same can’t be said for the Gunners at home. If the likes of Watford and Wolves deserved to win there on the balance of chances, it’s reasonable to assume Chelsea might. Arsenal were fabulous in their league win over Spurs, in fairness.
Hatred’s a powerful motivational tool though, isn’t it?
But Arsenal’s 22-match unbeaten run feels an awful long time ago now, doesn’t it? Since Southampton put a full stop on that impressive streak of form, the Gunners have lost four of their last eight games in all competitions.
While Chelsea’s form has been better, the Blues haven’t been sparkling recently either. It’s now over a month since they beat a Premier League team by more than a goal, and they’ve been defeated in two of their last seven games.
Since the start of 2016/17, Arsenal have the worst home record in the big six mini-league, with four wins from 13 matches. However, Chelsea have the second worst return on the road, with two victories from 11.
Their only away league match against another big side since Maurizio Sarri took charge saw them beaten 3-1 at Wembley, and they recently lost the first-leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final there too.
These sides haven’t played out a 1-1 draw in the league since 2007 and I don’t expect them to start now. Four of the last five league meetings between these London rivals have seen at least three scored.
Looking at the Emirates Stadium specifically, the Gunners haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last seven league matches against fellow top clubs, and they’ve conceded at least twice in six of them too.
Arsenal haven’t always scored, but Manchester City are the only big side to keep them blank at home in the last three seasons.
Chelsea aren’t without their flaws defensively – their 10 away opponents have averaged 1.3 clear-cut chances against them this season.
A ‘yes’ bet here in both teams to score looks the play and we may as well get on over 2.5 goals too, at 4/7.
Only four players have scored more Premier League goals away from home than Eden Hazard has this season.
However, he only has two in the league against other top English teams since the start of last season, and one of those was a penalty (against Arsenal, awarded by Anthony Taylor, as it goes).
Which is weird, because guys (and it’s always guys) on Twitter with handles like @KingEdenGOAT love to point out what frauds all other players are, but not their Eden. Oh no.
The problem with Chelsea, at least when it comes to goal scoring bets, is how can you suggest betting on Alonso or Morata to score and keep a straight face?
Yet they’ve both got more big six goals in the last 18 months than Hazard has. Strange but true, and a dilemma when placing your bets. Despite all this, Hazard is the logical choice, and he’s 13/10 to score or 5/1 for the opener.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the favourite to score at anytime for the Gunners at 5/6, but I’m inclined to go with Alexandre Lacazette at 11/2 to open the scoring.
Though as he never has in a ‘big six’ league match, I’ll take the 6/4 for him to score at anytime please, Paddy.
His only goal in his last eight league games came against Fulham, the side with the worst defensive record in the top flight.
But he has also missed three of his four clear-cut chances recently, and has already scored against Liverpool and Tottenham at home this season. He’s poised to score here, I tell you, poised.
I’m going to have a few pennies on Chelsea to win 2-1, which is priced at 8/1.
From 22 games unbeaten to potentially five defeats in a month, is there anything more Arsenal than that?
Under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal received 10 red cards against the Blues, including four in his last five seasons. This is more than against any other team.
Could there be one on Saturday evening? Willy Boly’s red card at Manchester City on Monday means these sides are the only two in the division who haven’t gone down to 10 men yet this season. They’re probably due a red before too long.
Anthony Taylor’s the man in the middle for this one, and he’s one of the Premier League’s less card happy refs. Then again, having only brandished one red card since March 2017, he’s due one too.
*Prices are correct at time of publication