With the arrival of Italian manager Antonio Conte in South-West London combined with the mainstay of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, the London derby will certainly take a turn for the better as the two established managers will look to earn bragging rights following their first encounter on Saturday.
The two rivals have enjoyed near-identical introductions to the Premier League this season, with both sides securing three wins, one draw, and one loss thus far. However, in order to relinquish their target of winning the Premier League, the game is a must win for both rivals; otherwise they could face being potentially eight points behind league leaders Manchester City.
Old foes will rekindle their former disputes, new faces will look to make a headline-stealing impact, a new chapter in the ever-growing rivalry between London’s most successful football clubs will certainly go in a bold new direction once the two sides meet this week.
1 – Diego Costa v Shkodran Mustafi
Spanish forward Diego Costa has enjoyed a very positive start to his Premier League campaign alongside his club Chelsea – scoring five goals in five league appearances. Following what many will argue to be a poor season from everyone at the London club last season; it’s more than positive news to learn that the Spaniard has found his feet and become a significant threat on goal once again.
Come Saturday, Diego Costa will be up against one of his biggest threats thus far in the Premier League season. Summer signing Shkodran Mustafi has proven his critics wrong thus far and has been an excellent purchase for the Gunners, and will look to further prove his worth when he comes up against Diego Costa. After playing in the La Liga for years with former side Valencia, the German defender has gathered more than enough experience of learning how to exploit the weaknesses of the opposition’s main striker. This Saturday, Mustafi will be more than ready to put this ability to the test once again.
Taking into account that the meeting between the two will be both players’ biggest test in the Premier League so far this season, it will be interesting to see who deals with the pressure the most and overcomes the fierce battle. Diego Costa is a powerful, but fast, striker who will go to all lengths possible to try and clinch a victory for Chelsea. Shkodran Mustafi is a strong and solid defender who will look to utilise his overall experience and ability to prevent Costa from being a threat on goal.
2 – Hector Bellerin v Eden Hazard
Two of the fastest players in the Premier League will also collide in the ferocious derby between Arsenal and Chelsea. Hector Bellerin has had a slow start to the Premier League, but is slowly getting back to the high standards he set for himself throughout his excellent performances last season. Whilst Sadio Mane was a big threat for the Spaniard on the opening day of the season, his meeting with the Belgian, Eden Hazard, will arguably be his biggest test in the Premier League for the entirety of the season.
Last season was certainly a year to forget for Hazard, who failed to look an outstanding threat in comparison to his phenomenal season the year prior, winning the PFA Player of the Year award in the process. Nevertheless, that poor form is long gone and he now looks as crucial as ever towards Conte’s target of bringing the Premier League title back to Stamford Bridge. Hazard’s overall creativity and passing succession have been key attributes in particular for the blues, producing already eleven goalscoring chances as well as maintaining a 85% pass accuracy rate.
As noted, Hector Bellerin has had a much slower start to the Premier League this season and is yet to hit the top form he reached last season. In his first five games last season, Bellerin had a higher pass accuracy rate, created more goalscoring chances and also had a greater impact when defending in comparison to his first five performances this season. It’s important that Bellerin does not lose any focus, or drop in form, when he encounters one of the best in the league in Eden Hazard. Otherwise, Hazard will completely expose his weaknesses for the entire game and make life that much harder for the entire team, not just the fullback alone.
3 – Alex Iwobi v Branislav Ivanovic
One final interesting battle that will take place between London’s powerhouses this week is between the prolific winger in Alex Iwobi against the experienced right-back in Branislav Ivanovic. Ever since his debut earlier into the previous season, Iwobi has looked a fantastic prospect when attacking and plays as if he has been a part of the Arsenal line-up for years. However, at a tender age of 20, there are still flaws and room for improvement for the youngster – particularly in his overall contribution to the defence.
For all of his performances this season, his lack of support in defence has led to left-back Nacho Monreal being consistently exposed, forcing him to handle more pressure in each game. This will certainly be something that Ivanovic will look to exploit, taking into account that both he and Willian will look to add significant pressure to Nacho Monreal and take control of the entire left flank on the pitch, should Iwobi continue to fail to defend.
Ivanovic has had a bright start this season, playing all five of the Blue’s fixtures thus far, and currently seems more than capable to deal with the pressure from Iwobi. Whilst the pressure of being dropped is certainly looming in the distance for the Serbian, he’ll look to prove everyone wrong and further improve of his defensive work this season.
Iwobi will be looking to put Ivanovic under extreme pressure in the game whilst the experienced right-back will look to exploit the clear weakness that the youngster has.
Here’s hoping the game that marks Wenger’s 2oth year is far better than the one that marked his 1000th match 🙂
John Smith is a lifelong Arsenal FC fan from London, England. He admires players such as Dennis Bergkamp and has a passion for writing.