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Chelsea vs Arsenal Preview: London derby key to top four race

The end of the season is fast approaching. And yet, there is still so much left to play for.

The race for Champions League qualification looks like it could go right down to the wire. Manchester City and Liverpool are all-but confirmed to be there, and Chelsea’s position looks fairly secure as well.

However, the final spot in Europe’s biggest club competition is still very much up for grabs. Tottenham Hotspur currently occupy it, but Arsenal, Manchester United, West Ham United, and Wolverhampton Wanderers are breathing down their necks.

It ought to be a tense end to the campaign, and the clash between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge looks like it could be one of the most important matches in the Premier League over the next few weeks.

Chelsea

Their season so far

Off the back of their European triumph last season, Chelsea were widely fancied to add a sixth Premier League title to their cabinet. And, at the beginning of the term, they looked well on course to challenge for it – they were top of the table at the start of December.

However, a run of two wins from nine saw them suffer a huge drop off. They weren’t able to recover from this, and Man City and Liverpool pulled far clear of the Blues.

Now, Chelsea are in a comfortable third place. They won’t win the league, and they won’t fall out of the top four unless their form goes catastrophically wrong.

Also See: Chelsea’s Fixture List.

Best results

Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea – Following their opening day victory against Crystal Palace, Chelsea went into their second consecutive London derby in high spirits. And they continued their strong start with a reasonably convincing 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium.

Romelu Lukaku was making his second debut after his £100 million move from Inter Milan, and he couldn’t have made a much better return. The Belgian bulled the Arsenal backline all afternoon, and he managed to open the scoring in the 15th minute from Reece James’ low cross.

James got himself on the scoresheet 20 minutes later, firing into the top corner from Mason Mount’s pass. From then on, it was a relatively comfortable afternoon, with Thomas Tuchel’s men cruising to three more points.

Chelsea 7-0 Norwich City – Sure, it’s “only Norwich”, but a 7-0 victory against anyone is an achievement.

A fine performance at Stamford Bridge began in the eighth minute, when Mount fired into the bottom corner from Jorginho’s lay-off. Callum Hudson-Odoi doubled their advantage ten minutes later, and James chipped over Tim Krul before half time to make it 3-0 going into the break.

The hosts didn’t take it easy in the second half, and got a fourth when Ben Chilwell found the far corner from a tight angle. Things got even worse for Norwich shortly afterwards when Hudson-Odoi’s cross was diverted into his own net by Max Aarons.

In the final five minutes, Mount managed to grab two more to secure the match ball for himself. One of them came from the penalty spot, and the other after Ruben Loftus-Cheek unselfishly squared for a tap in.

Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur – Chelsea entered this match off the back of a poor run of form. In contrast, Tottenham had been given a new lease of life after the appointment of Antonio Conte.

But the form book went out of the window when these two met at Stamford Bridge. Aside from a disallowed goal by Harry Kane in the first half, Spurs did little to threaten.

Whereas the Blues were on top for most of the game, and took the three points. Hakim Ziyech’s beauty put them ahead early in the second half, and Thiago Silva’s header gave them an unassailable lead.

Southampton 0-6 Chelsea – Another thumping, with Southampton the victims this time.

Chelsea’s wasted little time in making an impact on their visit to St. Mary’s, taking the lead after eight minutes when Marcos Alonso slammed in. Not long afterwards, it was two as Mount found the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

The visitors managed to double their tally in the next 15 minutes, and the goals came from their German duo up front. Timo Werner raced through on goal and rounded Fraser Forster for their third, and Kai Havertz tapped in on the rebound to make it four.

They showed a little bit of mercy in the second half, but still managed to add two more to the scoreboard. Werner rolled into an empty net for his second, and Mount also got himself a brace with a tap in.

Worst results

Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City – Tuchel’s side laid down a marker early on, picking up 13 points from their opening five matches while conceding just one goal. Optimism was high at Stamford Bridge.

However, they suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of defending champions Man City. The Cityzens were on top for the majority of the match, and claimed all three points thanks to Gabriel Jesus’ strike.

On the surface, this result wasn’t the worst thing. There is little shame in losing 1-0 to Man City. However, this was the earliest indicator that they weren’t capable of competing for the title this year.

West Ham United 3-2 Chelsea – Chelsea recovered well from the loss against Man City, and went into their clash with West Ham at the top of the table. But this was not to last, as they fell to their second league defeat of the season.

The Blues opened the scoring in the first half when Thiago Silva headed in from Mount’s corner, but they were pegged back by Manuel Lanzini’s penalty. Despite this, they managed to get themselves ahead before half time, with Mount volleying in from Ziyech’s long pass.

The Hammers levelled the scores early in the second half, after Jarrod Bowen brilliantly found the far corner with a low strike. And in the dying minutes, they got themselves a winner when Arthur Masuaku’s mishit cross caught out Edouard Mendy and snuck in.

Chelsea 1-4 Brentford – Brentford made their Premier League debuts this season, and have proven to be a tough test for any opponent. Undoubtedly the highlight of their season came at Stamford Bridge.

When Antonio Rudiger found the net from long distance, it looked like the home side would cruise to a relatively comfortable win. But this wasn’t the case, as Vitaly Janelt equalised just two minutes later.

From then on, it was utter perfection for the Bees. Christian Eriksen scored his first goal at club level since his cardiac arrest during the summer, and Janelt got his second. Yoane Wissa put the finishing touches on a memorable performance, firing into the far corner to make it 4-1.

The result meant very little for Chelsea – they’re not going to win the league, and they won’t drop out of the top four. Nonetheless, they would not have enjoyed a humbling like this from a local rival.

Best players

Reece James – The debate over England’s right-back position rages on, with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, and Kyle Walker putting in consistent performances. But Reece James also continues to be a rising star in this Chelsea side.

Despite a few injuries, the former Wigan Athletic loanee has put up admirable numbers from the right-wing-back position. Only Mount, Havertz, and Jorginho have scored more league goals for the Blues than James, while Mount is the only one with more assists.

In addition, the 22-year-old has also proven himself to be a solid defender. He is an effective player at both ends of the pitch, and ought to be a fine asset over the next decade.

Mason Mount – The attacking midfielder has come under some scrutiny, but his numbers don’t lie. Mount has certainly been one of Chelsea’s standouts this term.

The England international has already achieved his best goalscoring league season in English football, hitting ten, and has also set a personal best for assists with eight. There are only four players in the Premier League who can surpass his assists tally.

Kai Havertz – There were a lot of question marks over Havertz, who took a while to adjust to the Premier League. But now, he is starting to look like the player that commanded a £71m fee.

With Lukaku and Werner both struggling, Chelsea’s striker spot has been a point of concern. But those fears have been eased by the former Bayer Leverkusen man, who has deputised well.

He is technically excellent, good on the ball, links up well, and is capable of scoring goals. There could be plenty more to come from the German.

Run in

As mentioned above, Chelsea’s end to the season doesn’t mean a whole lot. They will almost certainly finish third in the league, and their priority will be the upcoming FA Cup final against Liverpool. Nonetheless, manager Tuchel will still want to finish the season with a flourish.

The next three matches are the toughest league games remaining for the Londoners. After Arsenal, they welcome seventh-placed West Ham to Stamford Bridge, before a trip to Old Trafford.

They follow that up by travelling to Goodison Park, before fixtures against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Leeds United, and Leicester City. Chelsea end the season with a home game against relegation strugglers Watford.

Arsenal

Their season so far

It’s been an absolute rollercoaster of a season for the Gunners. After scoring none and conceding nine from their opening three games, manager Mikel Arteta looked to be in serious danger.

But the Spaniard was able to turn things around at the Emirates Stadium, and took them into pole position for a Champions League place. However, a run of four defeats in their last five league games has seen them fall out of the top four.

As things stand, a place in Europe’s biggest club competition is still just about in their hands. They sit three points behind Tottenham with a game in hand, and still have a north London derby to come.

Also See: Arsenal’s Fixture List

Best results

Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur – The two sides of the north London derby had completely opposite openings to the season. Arsenal lost their first three then won the next three, while Spurs were victorious in their first three and followed this up with three defeats.

On the sixth weekend of the season, these two met, and the Gunners pulled off a resounding victory. Emile Smith Rowe put the home side ahead early on, and then turned provider for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to make it two. Before the break, Bukayo Saka took advantage of a fortunate break to put his side 3-0 up.

Heung-min Son pulled one back for the Lilywhites with ten minutes to go, but it was too little too late. Arsenal took the bragging rights.

Leicester City 0-2 Arsenal – Going into this match, Arsenal had been unbeaten in their previous eight matches in all competitions, winning six. They continued this fine form with an impressive display at the King Power Stadium.

Gabriel Magalhaes put the visitors in front with a header from a corner, and Smith Rowe doubled their advantage in the first half. In addition, a spectacular performance from goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale caught the headlines, with many now tipping him to be England’s first choice.

Norwich City 0-5 Arsenal – The Gunners’ final match of 2021 came at Carrow Road, where they faced newly-promoted Norwich. It was about as comfortable as possible.

Saka kicked things off with a tidy finish into the far corner, and Kieran Tierney struck in off the post to extend their lead. Saka got his second and Arsenal’s third with a lovely strike in the second half, and Alexandre Lacazette and Smith Rowe scored late on to complete the rout.

Arsenal 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers – Just two weeks on from their victory at Molineux, Arteta’s men came up against Wolves again in a key fixture in the race for Champions League football.

It was the travelling side who struck first, with Hwang Hee-Chan capitalising on a mistake by Gabriel before finding the net from a tight angle. The South Korean almost grabbed a second after the break, but his shot was diverted wide by the leg of Ramsdale.

Going into the final ten minutes, Arsenal seemed to be heading for defeat. But they stepped up when needed, and managed to turn the game around.

First, Nicolas Pepe turned brilliantly from Eddie Nketiah’s cut-back and slotted in at the near post. Then, in the final moments of the match, Lacazette’s shot was diverted into his own net by Wolves goalkeeper Jose Sa.

Worst results

Brentford 2-0 Arsenal – The Premier League season kicked off with a meeting between Brentford and Arsenal on a Friday night. The former were making their first top flight appearance since 1947, with all but two of their players getting their first taste of Premier League football.

And the game went according to the fairytale, as the Bees took a surprising three points from their first match. Sergi Canos rifled in a shot at the near post in the 22nd minute, and Christian Norgaard headed in after some disastrous defending from a long throw in.

Everton 2-1 Arsenal – Everton went into their home clash with Arsenal off the back of a nightmare run of form, picking up just one point from their last seven matches. And, when Martin Odegaard volleyed in just before half time, it looked like this run was set to continue.

But the Toffees fought back after the break, and got themselves level. Richarlison, who had previously had two goals ruled out by VAR, headed in on the rebound from Andre Gomes’ shot to equalise.

The London side had two glorious chances to snatch a winner late on, with Eddie Nketiah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both squandering their opportunities. Then in injury time, Demarai Gray scored a beauty to nick the three points for the home team.

Crystal Palace 3-0 Arsenal – Since the dramatic New Years’ Day defeat to Manchester City, Arsenal had been near-perfect in the league. They had picked up 19 points from the next eight matches, losing only to title-chasing Liverpool.

That hot streak came to an abrupt end when they travelled to Selhurst Park. Crystal Palace came flying out of the traps, going 2-0 up early on with goals from Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jordan Ayew.

Smith Rowe and Odegaard both wasted chances to get themselves back in the game, before the Eagles put the result beyond all doubt. Wilfried Zaha was brought down in the box, and then stepped up and confidently dispatched his penalty.

Best players

Aaron Ramsdale – A lot of eyebrows were raised when Arsenal made the decision to splash out up to £30m on Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale. The Englishman had suffered back-to-back relegations, and hadn’t been a standout in either side.

But it has proven to be a shrewd piece of business. Ramsdale has been one of the goalkeepers of the season, ousting Bernd Leno from the starting XI with a string of impressive displays.

Martin Odegaard – Another one of Arsenal’s summer signings, and another who has been a hit at the Emirates Stadium. Odegaard has been a joy to watch since his move from Real Madrid.

The Norwegian is the Gunners’ third-top scorer in the league, hitting six to go along with his three assists. His class and incisiveness makes him a threat to any side.

Bukayo Saka – Saka has always been a promising youngster, but this season he seems to have reached another level. The England international is enjoying the best campaign of his career so far, and will likely only get better.

No one in the Arsenal squad has got more than his nine goals, and only Lacazette has assisted more for the club. His goal tally includes strikes against the likes of Man City and Tottenham.

Run in

On paper, the match at Stamford Bridge is Arsenal’s toughest remaining match. Nonetheless, they still have a number of tough tests to come.

Arteta will lead his side into three crucial six-pointers in the race for top four. Manchester United still have to visit the Emirates Stadium, while Arsenal have away fixtures against West Ham United and Tottenham to come. These will be the games that determine their fate.

They should take nine points from their other three matches, but this is easier said than done. The Gunners have home fixtures against Leeds United and Everton, as well as a trip to St. James’ Park to play Newcastle United.

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