Arsenal v Chelsea: the continuing assault on the club, and the team prediction

By Bulldog Drummond

There’s an interesting division in the media today between the right-wing Daily Mail and the left-leaning Guardian today.  The Mail gives a positive account of Arsenal and the Guardian rages ever deeper into its continuing anti-Arsenal approach which utterly denies that there was any improvement in the results in the last two thirds of last season, and refuses to acknowledge last season’s dramatic tactical reformation (which as we have seen, is now being copied by Manchester United).

Thus the Mail has an interview with Mr Arteta and quotes him as saying of the Arsenal fanbase and the media, ‘They know what we are trying to do. They can see it. And if you can’t see it and don’t see it, it’s because you don’t want to and you want to see something different.

‘But they really know what is coming, what we’re trying to do and they will be there for us. Because they know, as well, that our young players need them. Arsenal fans, when things are a little bit difficult, they are always behind the team. I can say that for sure as I felt it from when I was a player here.’

There is particular emphasis on the use of young players of whom Mr Arteta says,  ‘They can cope with the level of pressure because of the levels of excitement, the passion and enthusiasm they have.’

For the Guardian, half of its lead football stories today are about Arsenal, and all three are negative, with the main piece headed “Another defeat and Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal DNA may not be enough to save his job.”  And the way the Guardian runs the story is particularly interesting:

“for all the talk of identities and DNA, very few [clubs] actually have a cogent philosophy that binds first team to youth sides, or at least not one that has been in place for long enough to turn out a player who can return almost two decades after their debut to find an academy still turning out players shaped by the same prevailing idea.”

Interesting because the “cogent philosophy” that is denied is exactly what Arsenal have.  Indeed our piece yesterday Why Chelsea can tackle and Arsenal must avoid it like the plague shows exactly what the Arsenal philosophy is and where it comes from.  If you have been following this you will know: when Arsenal tackle almost every tackle is called as a foul.  It was true through last season and was true in the Brentford game.  But the media is in utter denial.

Yet perhaps most interesting is the fact that the Guardian doesn’t debate this huge discrepancy between how the clubs were treated by referees in last week’s game, through the whole of last season, and indeed in the season before.  No, they ignore the issue and instead talk about Mr Arteta getting the sack.  It is the most perfect piece of gaslighting you are ever likely to see.

As for the teams, The Guardian does note that Saka and Aubameyang are available again, but have them in the substitutes.

Sports Mole suggest this line up, to accommodate the Chelsea win that they also predict.   The Guardian also has this self-same selection


Chambers, White, Mari, Tierney;

Xhaka, Lokonga;

Saka, Smith Rowe, Pepe;


The Short Fuse go with


Holding, White, Tierney;

Maitland-Niles, Sambi, Xhaka, Saka;

Pepe, Martinelli, Smith Rowe

The Standard try an interesting approach by refusing to give us a lineup but charging in with a prediction (that Arsenal will lose 1-2).  Also, they do give us their prediction for a Chelsea lineup.  Perhaps the idea is that we won’t be able to put a team out all, possibly with the squad refusing to take the pitch unless all the journalists are removed (although much as it pains me to say it, perhaps they ought to leave the reporters from the Mail in place).

Mad about EPL give us

Bernd Leno;

Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Ben White, Kieran Tierney;

Granit Xhaka, Albert-Sambi Lokonga;

Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Nicolas Pepe;

Gabriel Martinelli

SportsKeeda give us the form guide which I think is rather helpful because all these statistics about how many tackles a team can undertake before a foul is called, and how many fouls equal a yellow card, are all a bit complex and difficult to understand.  Football should be a simple game, as with…

Arsenal form guide in the Premier League: L

Chelsea form guide in the Premier League: W

And the team

Bernd Leno;

Pablo Mari, Rob Holding, Ben White;

Cedric Soares, Kieran Tierney, Granit Xhaka, Albert Sambi Lokonga;

Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Nicolas Pepe

But Sports.bwin deserve a mention because they actually come out and say that Arsenal will win.  They go with


Tierney, White, Chambers, Mari,

Smith Rowe, Sambi Lokonga, Xhaka,

Pepe, Balogun, Martinelli.

I think that is the only mention we have had in Balogun in the starting XI.

Bets are being taken on Arsenal losing their first two league games in a row (which in effect of course means just losing to Chelsea) but as we have already said that is what we did in 2018.

Date Match Result Score Competition
12 Aug 2018 Arsenal v Manchester City L 0-2 Premier League
18 Aug 2018 Chelsea v Arsenal L 3-2 Premier League

And before the point is made that in 2018 we were playing two top six teams, perhaps we might add that in 2018 we hadn’t lost all three of our centre forwards prior to the opening match.  But that, I suppose, is what the media might call “mere detail”.

26 Replies to “Arsenal v Chelsea: the continuing assault on the club, and the team prediction”

  1. Off topic but our women’s round 2 Champions League draw has just taken place and we are drawn against Slavia Prague. This is about as kind a draw as possible. We beat them handsomely two years ago and now have an excellent chance of making the group stage round of 16. First match at home on 31August/1September. Second leg a week later in Prague.

  2. When poor Arteta talking about REAL Arsenal fans, he is making a fool of himself. And he make his own situation beyond repair. A true gooner never forget, never forgive. Have this little man ever met an Arsenal fan? And how is anyone suppose to see what he is trying to do, when he doesn’t know what he is doing? Mikel Arteta is not a profesional football coach, he is just someone given a job he is incompetent for and never in the first place should have been given. He have no experience of managing a pro football team (he ain’t that kind of guy who experience things), and he have no merits. The only thing that could save Arsenal Football Club from relegation 2022 is if the owner and the board realize this and sign an experienced coach/ manager with undisputable merits – a coach the players can listen to and respect for his knowledge. Arsenal players look through Arteta as an open window. He have already got problem with Ben White (like Guendouzi etc). Why do you think Auba and Laca was on strike? They don’t want to ruin the last years of their careers with this ignorant man. The covid talk was just bull.
    Stan Collymore argued for my favourite as new Arsenal coach in the Mirror: Diego Simeone! Yes, that’s the man. It would be boring, boring (bl**dy boring) Arsenal, but nobody would beat us.

  3. Tony

    On the subject of ragging negativity I read this yesterday and it absolutely highlights what you are talking about. I wasn’t going to bother even mentioning it, but it fits perfectly with the theme of this article I thought I’d post it.

    It’s from Kevin Dunne, the betting tipster in The Sun:

    “If gunnersaurus was real, he may have been tempted to start eating his own young after seeing Arsenals opening effort last week. Blown off the pitch by promoted Brentford in predictable fashion. Outrun, out gunned, outplayed”.

    –Hmmm, so bad it makes you want to eat your own young. That is bad.

    How was we ‘blown of the pitch ? How was it “predictable” ? How were we “outrun and outplayed” ??

    We all know the stats. We topped every one, some by some distance, including 22 shots, the most by any team all weekend.

    I know the only stat we didn’t top was the most important one, goals. Our finishing wasn’t good it has to be said. But that doesn’t mean we were ‘blown off the pitch’, Outrun, or outplayed. Ok possibly outgunned as that kind of refers to scoring, but that’s it.

    He continues:

    “And out, out, out is what Emirates boss Mikel Arteta is already hearing, one week into the new season”

    –And who are we hearing that from? Oh it’s from none other than Kevin Dunne himself when he says:

    “The Gunners are already a distant 7-1 with index to make the top 4. Arteta could be a distant memory by Christmas if he doesn’t turn his side around quickly”

    –Clever that, quoting yourself..

    So we are the 2nd best performing side over the last 2/3rds of last season, quite a run of form that. We lose one game, ONE GAME, a game we completely dominated, and all we hear is “out out out” and he needs to “turn it round quickly”.

    Does this kind of reaction happen every time other teams lose ONE GAME !!

    And the negativity just keeps on coming:

    “Tuchel and co look like they’re on the same page. Arsenal looked like they didn’t even know the book was out”

    Very odd how a bunch of players that Dunne seems to think hardly know each others names, somehow contrived to create 22 shots on goal, the most of any team last weekend, and apparently more than we achieved in any game last season, and all without our 3 first choice strikers. Amazing.

    If that isn’t an example of complete and utter over reaction I don’t know what is.

  4. There’s certainly some truth to the fact that negativity sells in the media, but to be fair to them, even last season’s better results look more like a fluke than anything sustainable.

    You can buy into the idea that Arteta is revolutionizing the world of football by instructing his players not to tackle. There’s a clear trend that they’re tackling less that does happen to coincide with the tackling numbers that we saw.

    Conversely, you can head over to Understat and check Arsenal’s xg, xga, and xpts metrics for that stretch. We’re 6th in the league from 12/24 on in terms of xg. We’re 15th in terms of xga. We’re 6th in terms of xpts, and only Leeds outperformed their underlying metrics by a larger amount than Arsenal. That suggests that we had slightly better than expected finishing during that spell, combined with some exceptionally poor finishing from our opponents combined with well above average goalkeeping during the final 2/3 of the season. I think this data probably explains our improved final 2/3 far more reasonably than the idea that tackling is somehow a bad thing. Better than expected conversion rates certainly suggest better than expected results.

    Kudos to you for trying to find as many reasons as possible to be positive. There are certainly plenty of reasons to be happy about the direction we seem to be heading, most notably the fact the development of several young players and the recruitment of more quality, young depth. But please, can you drop this foolish idea that somehow a lack of tackling is suddenly making this team elite? High quality advanced metrics just don’t back this up. xPts suggests that we were probably about 5 pts on the unfortunate side of the ledger for the first 14 matches of last season, and about 7.5 points to the fortunate side of the ledger during the final 24 matches. This lack of tackling hasn’t resulted in an improvement in the quality of shots we take, or a suppression of quality shots allowed. The data just suggests that we improved on capitalizing on our chances while our opponents weren’t able to (at least partially because of Leno). Whether that’s sustainable (and everyone hopes it is) is yet to be seen, but it’s very unlikely that your tackling theory actually has anything to do with better chance conversion numbers.

  5. According to Mail online we will be without White today due to illness, presumably covid19.

  6. No hint of home bias from this ref!

    We could have been better, but not too bad for an 11v12 performance.

  7. We are missing too many of our first choice players for this to be taken as a realistic representation of our proper level of achievement. Chelsea will be fighting to be one of the top three and have spent on one player what we have on our squad rebuild. I didn’t expect us to get anything from this game and the PGMO seem determined to ensure that happens. It definitely should have been a penalty and a yellow card for the Chelsea defender – certainly would have been the other way round.

    Both Chelsea goals were good and our defending wasn’t good enough. Mind you I have no idea how you stop someoneas big and powerful as Lukaku without resorting to a chainsaw

  8. We are 2 down and basically deserve to be. We haven’t let 2 goals in because of the referee

    But that is no excuse for yet another joke of a referee. Personally I thought it was a stonewall penalty but even our own commentator said it wasn’t.

    It also seems this new lenient attitude to tackling only applies to others as Holding got booked for trying to make a block.

  9. Andrew Crawshaw

    “We are missing too many of our first choice players for this to be taken as a realistic representation of our proper level of achievement”

    Very true.

    Against this Chelsea side, who are after all an improvement on what were already European Champions, we needed our best side out and to be at our best. We have neither.

    What do we have ? 5 Potential starters out.






  10. We lost 2 – 0 and nobody can argue with the result, but I still think it’s difficult to judge us given the players we had out and the strength of the opposition.

    They were too strong. Too experienced. Too good.

    Obviously we will be cut little slack by the usual suspects but I will reserve judgement until we get a chance to field our best 11 and we have played a few more matches.

    Ref still wasn’t great, but had nothing to do with us being second best.

  11. Why is Lukaku never penalised for fouling?

    Why do Arsenal players get yellow cards and opponents get a telling off, at most?

    Why is handball by Lukaku ignored?

    Why is it allowed to foul an Arsenal player in the box without a penalty being awarded?

    Why is VAR not used when it might be to Arsenals benefit?

  12. Far better second half. More fire, more engagement, more sense of where each person was. Lukaku could tear any defence into shreds.
    Expecting anything from the PGMO is a waste of hope. They will enact their agenda. The EPL as a circus is built on the PGMO as the ringmaster
    Keeping it down to two goals and playing with more determination is tangible. Obviously the graveyard shift will be on Arteta’s neck but that was a certainty the moment the fixture list was announced.
    I want to see more of this team.

  13. @Nitram,

    I didn’t say or imply that we were two goals down because of the referee.

    Our second half performance was better but probably as much down to Chelsea not quite having the same intensity as in the first half..

    Our games with Tierney in charge over the past couple of years rarely result in us winning and he certainly never exhibits any bias in our favour. No issues with Mari’s booking that was a stupid challenge and thoroughly deserved a card. Chambers tried to block the ball and got nothing on the player – not a foul let alone a card.

    The penalty claim looked nailed on to me both in real time and on the replay.

    Again we were toothless in attack. ESR was great again but he can’t do it all himself. As you say we need our best starting players back as quickly as possible.

    Not sure who we will pick in the Carabao Cup midweek at the Hawthorns. I’d go with most of the youngsters and give the senior players some extra time on the training pitch before City next weekend.

  14. Andrew

    Sorry Andrew, not trying to imply that.

    Agree with every word of your latest post.

  15. I’d tell the other 9 to get the ball to Smith Rowe or have a seat in the stands.

  16. Zedsaunt

    “Obviously the graveyard shift will be on Arteta’s neck but that was a certainty the moment the fixture list was announced.”

    Exactly. It would of been a tricky start if we had our full strength team out. Having those last minute withdrawals in the 1st game and half the first choice players out today made it doubly difficult.

    But I can live with the defeats as I can see the reasons. I’m still confident we’ll be okay.

    What worries me more is the referees who yet again seem to referee us in a completely different way to everyone else.

    Apparently they have been instructed to referee in a far more lenient way yet we still get booked for just turning up. And 2 blatant errors last week in the build up to goals not looked at by VAR, and a blatant penalty not given today.

    It’s going to be tough enough without playing 12 players every week.

  17. Nitram
    “What worries me more is the referees who yet again seem to referee us in a completely different way to everyone else.”
    Exactly. Mari was deservedly yellow carded for going through the back of Lukaku but when a Chelsea defender did exactly the same on Martinelli in the second half the yellow card was nowhere to be seen. Even the Sky commentator commented “what was the difference between that tackle and Maris one which got a yellow card.

  18. Two games played, lets be generous and say a fifty fifty penalty claim in each of them, so we should have been awarded at least one of them.
    We only ever seem to get the absolutely dead cert ones given to us, and often not even those.
    Last week Leno held down and prevented from moving, not given as a foul and no help from VAR official. Everton’s Calvert-Lewin yesterday held in the penalty area, not given by the ref, but decision reversed and penalty awarded by VAR intervention.
    I am sick of being screwed by PIGMOB every week.

  19. Mike Arteta has come close to calling out the unfair treatment by media and, more importantly, referees and football authorities.

    Each game provides more evidence of unfair treatment.

    I hope that there might be an official Arsenal response soon. We have had to endure this for several years and that is more than enough.

    Chelsea were overall the better team today, so probably worth the win. This doesn’t alter the blatant unfairness in the referee performance. Our fans should be able to see this for what it is, regardless of how well Arsenal play.

  20. Take 5 starters and 4 top subs out from any team and they’ll suffer bigtime. Let a referee favour your opponents and you are doubly f**ked. As Arteta intelligently noted in his post-match commentary, the season isn’t decided in August. We are, as usual, severly disadvantaged by Covid and by injuries. Once we get back our squad fully fit and fully engaged, we will be a force to reckon with.

  21. Nitram

    Anyone who could anticipate Arsenal doing well and winning points with the three opening fixtures seriously needs professional help.
    Game 1 – A team who had not played in the top tier for 74 years is a red hot favourite because their win makes great TV and the greatest day in the football life of the fans.
    Game 2 – European Champions.
    Game 3 – Premier League Champions.

    It was certain to be the most torrid two weeks of Mr Arteta’s career.

    Even in the absence of first team choices due to Covid/injury, the outline of the team is there.

    This leaves the PGMO. The ringmasters of the EPL circus their decisions shape each game and maintain the circus as an occupying army bestriding the world of screened football.
    A lawyer mate of mine, hearing about Mr Klopp’s comments about the foul on Leno, reckons transparency has to rule football through agreement between clubs, fans, referees, on the interpretation of the rules.

    I can’t see Riley agreeing to that, nor can he. We create the most beautiful game for the human being and a rod for our own backs in the administration of justice in that game.

  22. I thought we have 3 points by the time we meet Norwich loseing the first game thrown me there but after watching the same refs with their obvious biais 2 pens not given I should have know better to
    calling for the manager to be sack won’t help now not the time to panic get behind the team it will get better
    Oh and just saw kloop shoot down the idiot from talkshit over Brentford second goal has put a smile on my face

  23. Fellow untolders we see the game and yet there are others that do not see.
    I am not chasing the obvious cheats but the little disturbance and stoppages of free flowing movement by nonsense fouls. The PGMOL are now masters of this corrupt slope method. They stop the game and delay the movement with no good reason.

    How these corrupt officials survive is because the fans sing ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ when they should be singing ‘you cheating whistling pigs head’!

    The LMA and other organisations that represent the game are so busy counting their income that the game is gone down the pan. The game has now become the rich mans toy and no longer belongs to the people.

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