Photo: Mikel Arteta and Frank Lampard will both be hunting victory when their teams Arsenal and Chelsea face each other at the Emirates Stadium on Boxing Day. (Getty Images)
Do or Die
Arsenal host rivals Chelsea in one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures of the Premier League calendar at the Emirates Stadium on Boxing Day. This game could prove to be make or break for Arsenal’s coach Mickel Arteta while a win for the Blues could see Chelsea’s Frank Lampard break back into the top four.
The Gunners, who are languishing in 15th position in the table, will be hunting for their first league victory since the start of November. In contrast Chelsea will be looking to make it back-to-back wins in England's top flight, having comfortably swept aside West Ham United at Stamford Bridge on Monday night.
Arsenal's tally of 14 points from 14 matches this season is their worst at this stage of a campaign since 1974-75 under manager Terry Neill. Despite Arsenal’s dire form, Arteta will be encouraged by his side’s impressive home form on Boxing Day. The Gunners have not lost any of their last 12 Boxing Day home games since losing 2-0 to Nottingham Forest in 1987. Their lengthy unbeaten run also includes a 2-1 victory over Chelsea in 2001. Chelsea, though, have lost just two of their last 17 Premier League meetings against their London rivals (W9 D6), but both of those defeats came at the Emirates (0-3 in September 2016, 0-2 in January 2019).
A curse or a spell
Arsenal broke a 14-year drought at Old Trafford, beating Manchester United 1-0 on November 1st. Since then, Arsenal have not been victorious in the Premier League, losing five of their last seven, including four of their last five, during a horrendous run of form. The Gunners showed signs of improvement in a come from behind 1-1 draw against Southampton on December 16th, but could not build on the point they gained as they suffered a 2-1 defeat at Everton last weekend, which has further piled misery on under-fire manager Arteta.
The Gunners woes continued in midweek, even though not in league. After dispatching Liverpool along the way to the quarter finals of the EFL Cup, they were faced with a mammoth task to get a good result over Manchester City. But it was another hugely disappointing result for the club as they were brushed aside 4-1 at home to exit the competition at the hands of the defending champions.
A record of four wins, two draws and eight defeats from 14 matches this season is an indication of the team's problems, and they are only four points clear of the relegation zone ahead of Saturday's fixtures.
One cannot imagine using Arsenal and regulation zone in the same sentence, but they are staring down the barrel of relegation if they do not start picking up points soon. In fact, Arsenal were 5 points better off in 8th position at this stage of the competition under Unai Emery last season.
The Gunners have the fifth-worst home record in the Premier League this season, picking up just seven points from their seven matches, scoring just six times in the process. The Gunners away form is not as bad as their home form and with back to back away fixtures at Brighton and West Brom, after Saturday’s home game, they are expected to pick up maximum points.
While it is incredibly difficult to imagine Arsenal dropping out of England’s top flight, the fact that the possibility is even being discussed is a real concern for the 13 time champions.
Arsenal’s major concern is in front of goal where they lack ruthlessness. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on the scoresheet in the recent draw with Southampton, but he has managed just three Premier League goals this season, and two of those were from the penalty spot. The Gabon international has shaken off a thigh injury and is set to make a return to action. However, he may be used off the bench due to match readiness.
Alexandre Lacazette, has three league goals to his name this term, but Willian, Nicolas Pepe and Eddie Nketiah have just three between them. Thomas Partey will again miss out due to a thigh problem. Defensively this season they have actually been quite strong, conceding 18 times in 14 matches, which is fewer than Man United (21), Liverpool (19) and Everton (19)
Lampard needs silverware
Chelsea, meanwhile, are currently fifth in the table, having won seven, drawn four and lost three of their 14 matches this season, collecting 25 points in the process. The Blues bounced back with a win over West Ham following successive defeats to Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers. A first-half header from Thiago Silva and a second-half brace from Tammy Abraham secured victory over their other London rivals.
Frank Lampard's side have two tough matches after this one as they will welcome a dangerous Aston Villa side to Stamford Bridge on December 28 before hosting Manchester City in their first match of 2021. Chelsea will then open their FA Cup challenge for the 2020-21 campaign at home to Morecambe, before a trip to Fulham in the league on January 15, with the matches coming thick and fast during a busy festive period.
There is pressure on Lampard to deliver silverware this campaign due to the amount of money that was spent over the summer. However, is it fair to say Chelsea are still finding their feet, having dropped points in three of their last four matches in all competitions. They were better off last season at this stage of the competition in terms of points tally and table position. Kai Havertz has struggled to justify his large price tag since arriving from Bayer Leverkusen, while Timo Werner has only managed four Premier League goals, and the 24-year-old, who has been moved into a wide area in recent months, is without a goal in his last six league outings.
The Blues are only six points behind league leaders Liverpool on the same number of matches but are just three points ahead of ninth-placed Aston Villa, who have two matches in hand, which is an indication of how quickly things can change due to the nature of this season's Premier League. Chelsea recorded back-to-back away league victories over Burnley and Newcastle United between October 31 and November 21, but have lost their last two on the road to Everton and Wolves, and Arsenal are certainly capable of making it a difficult match, despite the home side's problems this term.
Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech remains on the sidelines with a thigh problem, while Reece James and Ben Chilwell are both huge doubts for the visitors ahead of the contest. Cesar Azpilicueta and Emerson Palmieri are therefore expected to start in the full-back positions at the Emirates Stadium, but Lampard is expected to stick with the bulk of the XI that started against West Ham. As a result, Havertz could again be left on the bench with Werner and Christian Pulisic playing alongside Abraham in the final third of the field. Jorginho and Mason Mount should feature alongside N'Golo Kante in the middle of the park.
Head To Head
Arsenal lead the overall head to head between these two teams, with the Gunners boasting 78 wins to Chelsea's 65, while there have also been 58 draws throughout history. Arteta's side beat Chelsea 2-1 in last season's FA Cup final, while they picked up a point in a 2-2 draw when the two sides locked horns at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League back in January. The Blues recorded a 2-1 victory in the corresponding game at the Emirates Stadium last December, but there has not been too much between the two sides in recent years, with four of their last six meetings in England's top flight finishing all square.
Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3