Boxing Day may have come and been, but Arsenal v Chelsea in tonight's London Derby promises to be a lively affair as these two rivals go head-to-head. Arsenal watched biter rivals Spurs grab a march on them and braging rights aside, Arsene Wenger knows that tonight's clash takes on added signifigance as sixth faces third in the table.
Who wins? We run the rule over tonight's game and suggest a couple of bets that could see you get 2018 off to a winning start!
ARSENAL V CHELSEA
Arsenal v Chelsea has never been a game for the faint-hearted and given the fact that three places and seven points current separate Arsenal and Chelsea, this match takes on an extra edge as both teams go in search of the win and the points, along with the bragging rights a derby wins entails.
Last time out The Gunners held Conte’s champions to the reverse fixture but after dropping points against Manchester United and Liverpool in December you can expect Wenger’s men to come out with all guns blazing as they seek to keep pace with the top four, who are threatening to cut adrift from the chasing pack. However, that’s easier said than done, as evident by Chelsea’s tight defence, borne during that fateful night in September, 2016, when Arsenal raced into a 3-0 lead and threatened to tear Chelsea asunder. Conte ditched Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 and switched to his favoured 3-4-3 system… the rest, as they say, is history as Chelsea went on to record 13 successive wins, claiming the title that year.
Arsenal come into this game with just two wins in their last seven games, and rumours remain regarding unrest within their team, in particular the future of stars Alexis Sanchez and Mesult Ozil. Despite this, they have shown to be hard to score against at home, keeping it tight at the back whilst remaining expansive up front. They have 10 clean sheets in their last 15 games at the Emirates, whilst of their 38 league goals this season have come from a total of 133 shots on target, a conversion rate of 29%. They’ll hope to add to that stat tonight, for sure!
The Blues arrive in good form, having ditched their early season wobbles, with 10 wins in their last 13 games, and just one defeat. They have a game in hand against second-place United and will move above the Manchester giants if they can secure three points tonight. Before Conte starts counting his chickens it should be remembered that The Blues have drawn a blank in two of their most recent three away matches in the league, failing to score against both Everton and West Ham. True, those sides will have set-up different from how we expect Arsenal to approach this game, but given hey have kept Arsenal a bay in seven of the last nine games between the pair, the west Londoners will be confident that should they get their noises in front, they’ll have the wherewithal to keep the Gunners at bay.
THE PAIN OF SIX
The injuries are starting to pile up for the Gunners, who could come into this game with no less than six first team members sitting it out: Laurent Koscielny and Sead Kolasinac were both injured against West Brom and face late fitness tests, Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Nacho Monreal are all long-term absentees and Mesult Ozil continues to have a bad dose of the flu.
Chelsea arrive with the luxury of resting players for their 5-0 thrashing of sorry Stoke. Eden Hazard, who is quickly reminding people why he was being widely touted as one of the best players in the world, should return to the fold, as might Cesc Fabregas, both players having sat out the Stoke game. Likewise Andreas Christensen has gotten over his cold and is fit for selection.
Possible Arsenal XI: Cech; Chambers, Mustafi, Koscielny; Bellerin, Xhaka, Wilshere, Kolasinac; Welbeck, Lacazette, Sanchez.
Possble Chelsesa XI: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Morata, Hazard.
What We Sayin’?
So, what are we saying? A really tough one to call, we feel. Arsenal’s defence is questionable at the best of times, despite their clean sheet percentage of 66%. We expect Arsenal to start this game on the front foot, so BTTS seems likely (8/13), especially when you consider that Chelsea rested Hazard for this game. The brilliant Belgian is 17/4 to score first, which seems fair, though given the attacking options on both teams - Morata, Pedro, Wllian, Sanchez, Lacazette, Walcott – you could perm any one of six, eight, even ten picks to open the scoring!
As a result, our prediction of 1-2 pays 8/1. Arsenal’s depleted defence could be the difference, which is why we’re pumping for the away side to take all three points. A classic smash and grab, with Fabregas coming on and grabbing the winner against his former side? 1-2, Fabregas last GS returns 55/1.*
*All prices subject to fluctuation. Make sure to check StanJames.com for up to date prices.
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