Unai Emery suffered a loss in his first competitive fixture as Gunners boss, and his new job won’t be getting much easier in his second game, as we travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea.
The 2-0 loss last weekend to Pep’s City was a chastening one, as pre-season optimism was dampened with a heady dose of realism. This is still by and large the squad that finished 6th last season, and while that may fall on Wenger, we still need Emery’s new methods to eke out the maximum from this talented bunch - which will take time.
How much time is difficult to predict, but with a fixture list that doles out matches versus City and Chelsea in our first two games, time is a commodity that is precious.
At least new Chelsea boss Mauricio Sarri is in the same boat as Emery and has had the same time to prepare his side in pre-season. This will be a truer gauge of where we stand for the season and what we can expect, and we may see some changes in our side too.
New signing Lucas Torreira was left on the bench last weekend, and the Uruguayan may just be the man to put into our midfield, with Kante and Jorginho impressive in the Blues opening game versus Huddersfield. Granit Xhaka looks like he is still finding his feet in the new system, and Matteo Guendouzi showed errors but plenty of willing.
In attack, much of the media talk has centred on how to incorporate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in the same eleven. When Laca came on in the second half of our 2-0 loss, we looked more accomplished up top, but this would mean losing Mesut Ozil or Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with the Armenian the likely casualty.
Emery is known to adapt his side to fit the opponent, and with this being at the Bridge too, Emery may wait to unleash this potent duo for a slightly smaller test. What will be most likely is the same side will play, but with Torreira coming in.
In defence, Stephan Lichtsteiner played well on the left, but now that Nacho Monreal is fit, the Swiss man will again be vying for the right-back spot with Hector Bellerin. With Lichtsteiner offering more security than the Spaniard, this could be the veteran’s first start.
Much was made of the decision to start Petr Cech ahead of new signing Bernd Leno, and Emery commented on this in his press conference, intimating that the Czech stopper will again start, meaning he will face his former club.
Chelsea will probably keep it the same as they did against Huddersfield, with no real reason to change what was a great start. The sole change they may make is for Eden Hazard to return to the starting lineup, probably at the expense of Ross Barkley or Pedro. Tiemoue Bakayoko will be unavailable for the whole season after joining Milan on loan and Mateo Kovacic may make the side after joining on loan from Real Madrid.
This game is a real tough cookie, we have scored just one goal in our last six visits to the Bridge. We have kept clean sheets in our last two trips though, but our win rate is pretty awful, with just one point from the last six games.
Then there is the case for former players coming back to haunt you, and it would hurt quite a bit if former fan favourite Olivier Giroud were to cause havoc for Chelsea against us.
This game is set up for fireworks. If we can galvanise our attack, then there will be very few teams who can handle us. If Chelsea strangle our midfield, then Hazard could have a very effective game.
Let’s hope for an improvement and some signs we are moving in the right direction for now. Patience is key.
Predicted Lineup - Cech, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Mustafi, Monreal, Torreira, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang.
Predicted scoreline - 2-1 to The Arsenal