Arsenal’s penultimate Premier League fixture before the World Cup break is a big one as they face London rivals Chelsea.
The Gunners do have a good recent record at Stamford Bridge having avoided defeat on each of their last three visits – winning the previous two – but Mikel Arteta is coming up against a manager he has a mixed record against in Graham Potter who replaced Thomas Tuchel as Blues head coach in September.
In five meetings between the pair, each has two victories to their name with the solitary draw coming last season when Arsenal withstood heavy pressure to secure a point away at Potter’s former club Brighton and Hove Albion.
For both managers, all three points on Sunday are crucial for differing reasons, aside from local pride and supporter bragging rights. Arteta’s side will need to respond to whatever Manchester City do against Fulham and in all likelihood, they’ll require a win to go back to the top of the Premier League table.
Meanwhile, Potter will be looking for another response from his side following their 4-1 defeat at Brighton last week as his first return to the Amex Stadium was one to forget. Although, he will have to do so without Ben Chilwell after the left-back pulled up clutching his hamstring in the fourth minute of added time against Dinamo Zagreb in the midweek Champions League game.
“He is going to go for a scan later this afternoon, so we’ll find out how he is then and there will be an update tomorrow,” Potter said of the England international during his pre-match press conference. “He feels ok but obviously aware of the injury. We need to let the swelling settle down, hence the delay with the scan. But we’ll know more after that.
“I wouldn’t say fear the worst; it’s just we all saw the nature of the injury. I can’t say it looks positive. But until we get the scan, it’s difficult to say. “He’s ok, but I suppose until you get the diagnosis…at the moment we’re just hopeful and fingers crossed. From there we’ll get him back fit and strong. It’s disappointing, of course.”
With that said, Chilwell isn’t the only senior Chelsea player whom Potter will be without for the visit of Arsenal as Reece James and Wesley Fofana (both knee) have been in Dubai this week to continue rehabilitation and it was revealed last month that N’Golo Kante will be sidelined until the new year following a successful operation on his hamstring.
Furthermore, as Potter revealed that he doesn’t expect Kepa Arrizabalaga to feature before the World Cup and that a hamstring problem explains Carney Chukwuemeka’s absence, that makes it six first-team Chelsea players that are unavailable for selection against the Gunners.
Although the good news for the Blues is that midfielder Mateo Kovacic is in contention to return after missing the win over Dinamo Zagreb: “Kepa no. It’s his plantar fascia, so I don’t think he will play before the World Cup,” Potter added. “[Mateo] Kovacic trained today, so he’s in contention. Carney [Chukwuemeka] has a slight issue with his hamstring that we are getting to the bottom of.”