In the week that marks the 20th anniversary of Arsène Wenger as Arsenal manager, Gameweek Six of the Premier League sees the Gunners host Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium this Saturday in one of the most highly-anticipated match-ups of the weekend.
Both sides come into the clash locked on 10 points, occupying 4th and 5th spot, and a defeat from either of the two sides could see an eight-point-gap form between the eventual loser and league leaders Manchester City, providing the latter defeats Swansea City prior to the 5:30pm kick-off.
For Wenger, the London derby offers him a shot at redemption, with the north Londoners having lost their last two encounters against Chelsea in somewhat ill-tempered fashion both home and away.
The Frenchman’s stronghold over the west Londoners ebbed away throughout his second decade of management at Arsenal, meanwhile Chelsea are now just one win away from leveling the 14 victories amassed by Wenger against Roman Abramovich’s club.
The Gunners will have to go back to October 2011 for their last league triumph against the Blues, a 5-3 victory at Stamford Bridge that has since seen their rivals come out on top in six out of the last nine games between the two in the Premier League.
So often the bane to Arsenal’s hopes of success has been Chelsea striker Diego Costa, who was central to Gabriel Paulista’s sending off approximately a year ago and has found the back of the net twice in three league games versus Wenger’s men.
The Spain international is sure to pose a threat to Arsenal’s backline off the back of five goals in five league games so far this season, but at the other end, Antonio Conte could be without John Terry once more, as the Chelsea captain nurses an ankle injury.
Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey continues to struggle with a hamstring injury picked up against Liverpool last month, which would leave him out of Wenger’s plans for a fifth consecutive league game, whereas Olivier Giroud, yet to start for the Gunners this season, is also a doubt.
Predicted XI: Petr Čech; Héctor Bellerín, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal; Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla; Theo Walcott, Mesut Özil, Alex Iwobi; Alexis Sánchez
If the EFL Cup selection versus Nottingham Forest is anything to go by, it’s plausible to believe Wenger will opt for a totally different and familiar line-up, as far as Arsenal’s last Premier League outing goes.
Big performances from both Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin in the Gunners’ 4-1 win against Hull City last weekend might see the two midfielders extend their presence at the heart of midfield for another game, although Granit Xhaka’s recent form could interfere with the eventual decision made by the Arsenal boss.
Lucas Pérez’s chances of featuring also won’t have been done any harm after his midweek brace versus Forest, but, in Giroud’s absence, Arsenal’s three-pronged attack of Iwobi, Walcott and Sánchez is likely to remain untouched.