Five key battles that will decide Premier League clash between Arsenal and Chelsea

Arsenal will welcome a capacity crowd into the Emirates Stadium for the London derby

Dylan Terry
Sunday 22 August 2021 08:05
<p>Arsenal and Chelsea meet at the Emirates in a fascinating London derby </p>

Arsenal and Chelsea meet at the Emirates in a fascinating London derby

Arsenal and Chelsea clash at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday in a huge London derby in front of a capacity crowd.

There were mixed fortunes for these two sides on the opening day of the Premier League season. The Gunners went down 2-0 at newly-promoted Brentford on Friday night. But Chelsea did not suffer the same fate as they comfortably swatted aside Crystal Palace 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.

So where will this one be won and lost? We take a look at five key battles that will determine the outcome of this match.

Ben White vs Romelu Lukaku

The biggest story heading into this one is the return of Romelu Lukaku after seven years away from Chelsea. The 28-year-old Belgian was ruthlessly prolific during his two seasons with Inter Milan and also improved his all-round game to become one of the best strikers in the world.

Providing he starts against Arsenal, he will undoubtedly be targeting Ben White following his nervy display against Brentford. The £50 million centre-back was bullied by Ivan Toney, continually losing out whenever the Bees lofted a high ball up towards the Arsenal box.

Amid all of Lukaku’s improvements, one thing he has always been able to do is bully defenders and hold the ball up for as long as he wants. White will need to get to grips with the Chelsea striker immediately or risk being embarrassed.

Emile Smith Rowe vs Jorginho

If you let Jorginho get a stranglehold of this game, you will lose. That has to be the message from Mikel Arteta to Emile Smith Rowe ahead of this match.

The Champions League and Euro 2020 winner is one of the best in the world at dictating the tempo of a match and ensuring Chelsea control the ball in the deeper midfield positions. And although Smith Rowe does play in the number 10 role, he will be expected to do a sizable amount of tracking back to hussle and harry Jorginho.

N’Golo Kante could also return for the Blues in this one. He is an individual Smith Rowe, Arteta and all Arsenal fans will desperately be hoping is not on the team sheet when it is released.

Kieran Tierney vs Mason Mount

Kieran Tierney and Mason Mount know each other well. They have recent history with each other following the England vs Scotland clash at Euro 2020.

On that occasion it was Tierney who got the better of the Chelsea playmaker as he did what very few managed last season in keeping Mount quiet for 90 minutes. Can he do the same again?

Tierney will start at left-back, while Mount will likely feature off the right of Lukaku as part of an unconventional front three. It will likely be a combination of Tierney and Granit Xhaka who are tasked with keeping Mount’s contributions to a minimum. Easier said than done.

Thomas Tuchel, pictured, has backed Hakim Ziyech for a big role at Chelsea this season (Kieran Cleeves/PA)

Mikel Arteta vs Thomas Tuchel

Mikel Arteta seems to have Chelsea’s number. He has won the last three times he has faced the Blues, including in an FA Cup final. The Gunners did the double over their London rivals last season and managed to score four times past the resolute Chelsea back line.

However, it’s important to remember that only one of those wins came while Tuchel was in the hot seat at Stamford Bridge. In addition, that victory back in May was very much a smash and grab from Arteta’s men, who managed just five shots compared to Chelsea’s 19.

It remains to be seen whether that was a one-off or if Arteta does indeed have the formula to overcome the reigning European champions.

Arsenal fans vs Chelsea players

Of the 16 Premier League games played heading into Sunday’s fixtures, the away team has won just three of them. By contrast, the home side have picked up 11 victories.

The return of fans has clearly had a huge impact on performances, revving up the hosts and intimidating the visitors.

Arsenal will welcome more than 60,000 spectators into the Emirates Stadium for the huge clash with Chelsea, the first time the North London ground has been full in almost 18 months.

Thomas Tuchel’s side have recent experience when it comes to high-pressure situations - the Champions League final being the obvious one. But that does not necessarily mean they will react positively to a hostile Emirates atmosphere.

With that said, the last time Arsenal hosted Chelsea with a capacity crowd, the Blues won the match 2-1.

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