Morning Gooners – happy matchday! We’re back! FINALLY!

And it’s a tough one to get us back in to the swing of things, as I think this Chelsea team will be bang up for an upset this evening. Their season started off with a respectable draw against Liverpool at home and I watched that game. It was a classic ‘start of the season’ affair and neither side really got in to their stride, but I did watch a few periods in which Chelsea caused the Scousers some worry; they had 65% possession, they out-passed Liverpool with 645 to 316 in completed passes and they force Alisson in to three of our saves. Their starting line up that day was almost the same as we’re going to expect it today and although they’ve had some pretty poor results at home (Forest defeat at home and Villa defeat at home) in both of those games I think they came up against clear underdog teams they were expecting to beat who were able to sit back and absrob pressure a bit more. In the Villa game they had Gusto sent off so Villa were a man up for the last 35 minutes which obviously also impacts the game too. So I don’t think that this will be a game between a title challenging side and some mid-table side that we should be expected to win comfortably. These teams all sat off and let Chelsea have the ball, which is something we aren’t going to do. We aren’t going to low block our way to being difficult to break down; Arteta will want to have a go at Chelsea and he’ll want us to impose our game and that will suit Chelsea because when they have teams that want to play against them, they are able to create more space.

Chelsea have also just started to hit form with three wins in a row and they have players that are starting to click. They are starting to find their goalscoring form and players like Nicholas Jackson is looking like he’ll be good, with Sterling also realising that he was, once upon a time, a world class footballer. Last season their Achilles heel was their lack of goals but they have the pace and the players who can catch us out and we need to be really mindful of what is in store later this evening.

Having said all of that, if you really want to compete for the title these are the types of games that you need to go and win and if we really do have any ambitions of standing any chance against the juggernaut that is Man City, this is a game that by hook or by crook we have to get a result in. We still have to go to Anfield, The Etihad, St James’ Park and also the Toilet Bowl stadium and each of those will be really tough grounds to get three points on. So a team like Chelsea, with players only just returning from injury, has to be a game that you look to pick up points in. So for us it is all about the personnel that are available today. As predicted the training ground pictures published bt the club yesterday were all carefully hand-picked to ensure that nothing is given away; so we got plenty of shots of players that we all know are fit and available – Martinelli, Ben White, Smith Rowe, Elneny, Odegaard and Thomas Partey to name but a few. There was no Saka, no Trossard, no Saliba to see but as I mentioned yesterday, Arteta has alluded to them training yesterday so the hope is that they are back for this match. We will need as many of those first teamers available as possible.

So who does Arteta go with today then? Does he bring Havertz back in to the fold against his old club? If so, where does he play them?

I think this all depends on the fitness of Saka. If he is only good for the bench, I would have no problem seeing Havertz up top with Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus out wide. Last game in the second half we saw that and it was Havertz who played a big part in the goal to win us the game against City. He would form a decent focal point and I think it would be the best placed to play him. Whether or not Arteta wants to risk him in an environment where he’s getting a fair bit of hostility, however, remains to be seen. The other option if Saka isn’t quite ready to start is to have Eddie through the middle. I don’t mind that as much either to be fair; he will get space to run in behind with those Chelsea defenders and he’s also been to the Bridge and scored before, so he will remember what that feels like. But clearly the preference for us all is to finally get to see our best front three, which would be Saka, Martinelli and Gabby Jesus through the middle. That trio starting would give us all a real boost and I’d certainly have hope that we stand a chance of causing those Chelsea defenders problems; Martinelli up against a returning Reece James could be interesting, as would it be if he was up against Cucurella. Then on the other side Colwill is a good defender, but he’s a centre half and you’d hope that Saka could have a good go at him if that is the match up. I do have a slight concern in that when Saka has been up against centre halves playing left back, he hasn’t always faired great against them (Ake and Dan Burns come to mind), but hopefully if he’s fit and with two weeks rest under his belt, he can come out with a bit of a spring tonight if he starts.

The biggest battle of the day is the midfield though. That could be where this match is won or lost and it is where Chelsea are at their strongest. We all know about the qualities of Caicedo, but Enzo Fernandez has shown just how good a ball player he is and with Conor Gallagher providing more legs, this is a midfield that will run all day and all night. Which is why I am hoping we go with our smartest midfield of Partey, Rice and Odegaard. That trio has the craft and guile, but they also have great work rate too and if we match up in distances covered, then you’d hope we have a little more craft about us compared to those in blue this evening.

I think this is a lot harder a match to call than the pundits are suggesting. Most of them are predicting an Arsenal win and off the back of the home victory at City then you can understand why, but we know we have not clicked loads this season and if we are going to get anything today then we are going to have to be at our best I think.

I am hopeful, but as usual with these types of games, I’m not expectant. Fingers crossed the boys do the business and we can continue our good form away from home.

Catch you sexy bitches tomorrow on this platform, or if you fancy it, we’ll be doing an ‘after the whistle’ at 8pm on the Same Old Arsenal podcast this evening. Hopefully it doesn’t turn in to a rage fest.

If you want some bonus listening, Cookie did a good show on Thursday with a Chelsea fan to preview the game. Have a listen here.