Chelsea preview: Left-back the only question

A Sunday lunchtime start after Thursday night play is far from ideal, but thanks to BT Sport that’s what we have today as we travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea.

Mikel Arteta ‘rested’ seven of the team that started in the Premier League against Nottingham Forest last weekend, and Granit Xhaka’s suspension gave him the luxury, very punctually, of some rest. Takehiro Tomiyasu’s injury should surely rule him out of today’s game, and it gives the coach a decision to make because I think the Japan international would have started today if he was fit.

Kieran Tierney played well and scored midway through the week, while Oleksandr Zinchenko returned to the bench. The last time he started was the North London derby on October 1, so I’d think he’s unlikely to be included that quickly. However, as Lewis pointed out on the preview podcast, before the win over Sp*rs, his previous start was against Man Utd on September 4. He only missed two games in that period due to an Interlull, this time he was sidelined for nine, so we’ll have to see if Arteta feels he can get into a groove straight away, but there is some precedent for his return.

Beyond that, the team chooses itself. Gabriel Jesus, having saved all of his goals for this game, will be the man to lead the line, and the idea of ​​Gabriel Martinelli running into Cesar Azpilicueta, who is likely to start at right back for Chelsea, is exciting. Bukayo Saka on the right got kicked out of the Forest game, and I hope he’s at the end of one or two big challenges today. Whether he gets another free kick remains to be seen, but if the referees are going to award penalties for the kind of ‘contact’ on Kevin de Bruyne yesterday, there should be jail time for what happens to Saka.

Chelsea have been solid under Graham Potter, and although last week’s loss to Brighton was their first under him, it showed a certain vulnerability. Brighton blew them away from the start, and Arsenal have been off to a fast start this season and I’m sure they’ll be part of the plan today if possible. Chelsea will certainly be expecting it too and will be ready, but hopefully the energy that has helped us do so well so far this season will be there again.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Aubameyang stuff is just a sidebar to the main event. Obviously facing a former player who left under controversial circumstances always adds a bit of drama, but the reality is that we are in better shape now than when he was here. He made a fantastic contribution on his best days, but by the end his level had dropped considerably. He doesn’t mean that he isn’t dangerous yet, a forward of his experience is always someone to watch out for, but hopefully what he does or doesn’t do today is irrelevant to what we do at the other end.

Fine, I’ll leave it there. The start is at noon, as I said. We’ll have live blog coverage for you, as usual, and all things post-game on Arseblog News. See you later for the game.

Come on Reds!

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