Arsenal v Chelsea Saturday 19 January, 17:30 Live on BT Sport
Emery fighting to retain early optimism
We live in polarising and impatient times. Leave v Remain. Democrat v Republican. Frazzles v Chipsticks. The split that characterised Arsene Wenger's final months (and arguably years) in charge of Arsenal was a schism between Wenger loyalists and the Gunners fans who craved change. Now that change has been actioned, with Unai Emery replacing the venerable Frenchman and winning some friends by trying to impose his high-energy style, but there still seems to be a level of disquiet.
Emery was booed recently for taking off Alexandre Lacazette in a handsome win over Fulham, and the club's failure to compete with Juventus for the signature of Gunners stalwart Aaron Ramsey has bemused some supporters, as has the decision to sideline Mesut Ozil. This is all against the backdrop of Emery's admission that the club isn't really in a position to complete permanent transfers this month, and the suggestion that recruitment chief Sven Mislintat is close to leaving because the German doesn't have the influence he expected to have in the post-Wenger era.
There's no doubt that Emery requires time to reshape the team and change a culture that has all too often featured gutless collapses and missed opportunities in the last few years. The recent 5-1 demolition Arsenal suffered against Liverpool at Anfield was an uncomfortable reminder that Emery still has plenty of work to do. That said, Arsenal are still in with a shout of Champions League qualification, and are into the last 32 of the Europa League.
The club's form at the Emirates is a cause for optimism, with the champions Manchester City the only side to best them in north London in the Premier League. Liverpool were held, Tottenham were beaten, and 26 points have been harvested from 11 top-flight home matches.
Lucas Torreira is expected to return to the heart of midfield after he was surprisingly dropped for the defeat at West Ham, while Emery has suggested that Ozil could be fit enough to play some part against the Blues.
Don't expect Sarri to abandon Plan A
Being a football manager is a pretty tough gig, and it's made harder by the fact that some of the criticism coaches receive is based on unrealistic and unfair expectations. When Maurizio Sarri was brought to Stamford Bridge from Napoli, there was a lot of praise for his exciting and attacking style, and some Chelsea fans were thrilled by the prospect of "Sarri-ball." Now that there have been a few bumps in the road, the Italian's being questioned as to what "Plan B" is. As anyone who has followed Sarri will tell you, there isn't a secondary strategy, it'll just be a question of trying to improve the execution of Plan A.
Like this weekend's foes Arsenal, Chelsea were never likely to mount a title charge in their first season with a new coach, not least because there was such a change in style and culture. The Blues are however still in Europe, are in with a chance of reaching the League Cup final, and they are still on track for Champions League qualification. Chelsea have already racked up ten top-flight clean sheets under Sarri (Opta tell us only Liverpool have a better record) and they are looking to secure a fourth straight away win in the PL, something they haven't managed in the same season for over two years.
At time of writing, a loan move for Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain was likely but not completed, and Alvaro Morata looks set to leave, so for the central attacking role Sarri appears to have a choice between Eden Hazard and former Gunners striker Olivier Giroud. Hazard has been involved in 199 Premier League goals, and the terrifically talented Belgian has already scored ten times in the top division this term, setting up ten more goals in addition.
Arsenal's moment to get back on track?
The hosts are 3.20 outsiders here, and I'm not sure they should be. Their home record in the league has been excellent, and although Chelsea have racked up 22 points on the travels, all of those have been claimed against sides outside the top six.
Chelsea have won just six of their last 11 PL games, and although Arsenal have only won five times in that timeframe, I think they are a much stronger proposition on home soil than they are on the road.
This is a tight call, so I'll play this one on price and back Arsenal Draw No Bet at 2.32.
Expect coaches to fight fire with fire
Chelsea edged out Arsenal 3-2 in the reverse fixture, and I can understand why Both Teams To Score is trading at 1.60, and why Over 2.5 Goals is 1.72.
Arsenal have scored 24 goals in their last ten Premier League home games, while Chelsea have scored in all but one of their away matches in the league.
Auba to frustrate club he could have joined
Before Arsenal took the plunge and signed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea was one of several English clubs who were persistently linked with a move for the Gabon international.
Aubameyang's impact has been strong. Opta tell us he has scored 15 goals in his 18 Premier League games at the Emirates, and his goals tend to mean something. His strikes for Arsenal in the league this term have been worth 12 points.
Aubameyang is trading at 2.10 in the To Score market, and that's worth considering.
If you want to use the Same Game Multi option on the Sportsbook, you could back an Arsenal win, Over 2.5 Goals and Aubameyang to score at [5.59].