Mikel Arteta
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Arsenal vs. Chelsea betting tips: Tuchel’s title-contenders to crank up the pressure

August 17, 2021January 5th, 2022

Stephen Tudor previews the upcoming clash between Arsenal and Chelsea.

It was a nice moment at Stamford Bridge last Saturday when Trevoh Chalobah capped his league debut for Chelsea with a goal, but beyond the feel-good vibes there was also real significance to the strike. For only the second time during Thomas Tuchel’s tenure, the Blues had scored more than twice in a game.

The other occasion was also at the expense of Crystal Palace, but that curio pales to the timing of the 22-year-old’s career highlight to date, it arriving on the opening day of a campaign that is seeing many tip Chelsea for the title and just a matter of days after the club confirmed their purchase of Romelu Lukaku. Should Chelsea add goals to their arsenal they have to be considered a serious proposition this season.

Because last term, their lack of prolificacy was a hindrance, or rather it would have been if not for a startling transformation across other areas of the team, with Tuchel tightening the defence to its tautest setting and reviving N’Golo Kante and Jorginho in midfield to their absolute best. Both these considerable strengths will likely be repeated across this season but they cannot be relied on so wholly again.

From the German’s arrival in late January to their lifting of the Champions League, Chelsea kept 19 clean sheets in 31 competitive fixtures, but upfront they managed only 1.2 goals per game. In that same period their opponents this Sunday at the Emirates scored 1.6 goals per game and languished in mid-table throughout.

Lukaku will surely address this shortcoming, a formidable and reliable hit-man who scored on average every 120 minutes in Serie A last season, though to what extent the Belgian will feature against the Gunners remains to be seen. Having now completed his mandatory quarantine, the striker is available, but with so few training sessions under his belt nobody knows for sure if he’ll start or appear from the bench. “Hopefully he can be on the pitch,” was his manager’s equivocal response when asked about this and the uncertainty means Lukaku’s +135 price to score anytime should be swerved.

Instead, far more value lies in backing Kai Havertz at +235 to notch his first since equalizing for Germany against Hungary at the Euros. Given his upsurge in impact and confidence in recent months the gifted youngster will be looking to reach double figures this year.

If ambiguity surrounds Chelsea’s attack, that goes double for Arsenal, only their predicament is not one that lends itself to idle speculation. Rather, it is nothing short of alarming.

Prior to the Gunners’ curtain-raiser at Brentford, it was revealed both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette had pulled out due to an unspecified illness. If that raised a fair amount of suspicion, the raft of transfer rumours that have subsequently peppered various sites has prompted serious doubts about their future in North London. Neither is expected to be on show at the Emirates.

For the record, Aubameyang has previously scored three in six against Chelsea but that is irrelevant if Arsenal’s captain is AWOL and into his boots steps Folarin Balogun, a teen of genuine promise but without a Premier League goal to his name. Making his home league debut, Balogun takes on a probable backline boasting 233 international caps between them; a backline that has now kept 20 clean sheets in 33.

The visitors are +195 to win to nil, something they’ve done a remarkable 48.4% of the time under Tuchel.

Being deprived of your two main goal-sources so early into a season, and in such contentious circumstances, would be a hammer-blow to any coach. For Mikel Arteta at present, it must feel like vast quantities of salt poured into an open wound.

Last season, Arsenal appeared to be in a perpetual state of crisis while Arteta’s job security came under serious scrutiny several times, most notably following a defeat to Everton in December – the Gunners’ eighth in 12 games – that left his side 15th in the table and subjected to jokey talk of relegation. He was spared then, with ironically a 3-1 win over Chelsea on Boxing Day leading to a desperately needed upturn in fortunes, but already knives can be heard sharpening just one game in and if that seems ludicrous consider the context.

Firstly, speculation on Arteta’s position is an over-spill from last term, fair or otherwise, but let’s not downplay either just how abysmal they were against Brentford on Friday. With Chelsea and Manchester City waiting, followed by an international break, the signs look ominous for the struggling coach.

Even seeking out positives for Arsenal brings caveats. It is pertinent that they did the double over their West London rivals last term but they also lost to the Blues pre-season, just a fortnight ago.

Amidst their wretched defeat to the Bees meanwhile, Arsenal oddly managed to improve on a real problem from last year, that of creating chances. In all, 22 shots flew in the general direction of the Brentford net but without Auba or Laca to offer a finishing touch they were all to no avail.

-125 for a Chelsea win may not smack of value, but with Partey, Gabriel, Aubameyang, and Lacazette all absent from a side shorn of inspiration, it’s the safest bet of the weekend.  more

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