It wouldn’t be matchday without our View From The Enemy, so here is our first one of the new season from the official Chelsea website.
We have had mixed results against the Champions in the last year, but this tactical preview describes that the match will be won or lost by who controls the midfield on the day….
This showpiece is notoriously difficult to predict as coaches are training their squads to reach peak fitness a week later. For various reasons, it might be wrong to draw too many conclusions from the two most recent encounters – the FA Cup final, which went Arsenal’s way, and the recent friendly in Beijing, which the Blues won with great ease.
However, it is worth noting that midfield is usually the battleground that decides the war when these two meet. At Wembley last time out, Arsenal successfully bypassed that usually strong area of the surprisingly lacklustre champions, lifting the ball long to advanced players on the flank.
In China, the Blues duo of N’Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas commanded the game for a long period, with Michy Batshuayi maintaining his fine run of goals in a 3-0 victory.
Of course, Antonio Conte was unable to call on midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko, nor record fee striker Alvaro Morata, or versatile defender Antonio Rudiger at that time. Another new signing, goalkeeper Willy Caballero did, though, keep a second-half clean sheet.
Arsenal have been less active in the transfer market. Six-foot-tall Sead Kolasinac, a Bosnia international defender, has arrived from Schalke, and Alexandre Lacazette joined from Lyon.
At 5ft 7in, Lacazette might be considered short for a Premier League centre-forward, but the 26-year-old hit 27 league goals in France last season, two of them headers.
Unavailable for Chelsea
Tiemoue Bakayoko (knee)
Eden Hazard (ankle)
Santi Cazorla (calf)
Francis Coquelin (ankle)
Mesut Ozil (ankle)
Aaron Ramsey (muscular)
There are no suspensions. Victor Moses is eligible to play as his one-match suspension for his red card in the FA Cup final will be against Burnley next week. Likewise, Laurent Koscielny will serve his two suspensions for the Gunners’ opening two league games.
So who will win the midfield battle? Can Ramsey and Xhaka, who played so well together in the FA Cup Final, control the game? They will be backed up by the Ox and Kolasinac down the flanks, and I like the look of that! Do you think they can win us the game, with Lacazette scoring yet again?