The Pride of London
Chelsea’s preseason marches on with a midweek match against London rivals Arsenal. It will not be the real deal but it will be a taste of the future.
Preseason results do not matter no matter what anyone says. Taking too much stock in a friendly is sensationalist. That goes for both the good and the bad.
What preseason matches and results can show, however, are trends. The further into preseason a team is, the more the trends will apply to the coming season.
With Chelsea facing a Premier League rival in their third friendly of the summer, the trends are starting to show stronger and stronger. The match will be a taste of the Premier League season to come. Only a taste, not an indication. The result will not matter, but how the Blues get there is starting to.
New manager Unai Emery has gotten right to work as the first new Arsenal manager in over two decades. Expectations are high and so far he has been trending in the right direction.
They started off with a softball friendly against Boreham Wood. They thrashed them 8-0. They settled for a draw in regular time against Atletico Madrid before falling on penalties (because the International Champions Cup must have a winner that no one will ever remember for marketing purposes). Their most recent victory was a beat down of Thomas Tuchel’s Paris Saint Germain to the tune of 5-1.
The biggest note from those three matches is the simple fact that Arsenal has an additional match under their belt. They have also had Emery around for the entirety of their preseason, something Chelsea obviously did not have with Maurizio Sarri.
So Arsenal will be more fit and more acclimated to their new system than Chelsea. They also have many more of their starters back because they either were not in the World Cup or they were out early (hello Mesut Ozil).
All in all, the signs point towards Arsenal having the upper hand. That is fine because this Chelsea squad needs to have a punch in the teeth. Perth Glory was hardly a test and Inter Milan was only difficult after fatigue and substitutes hit.
Chelsea versus Arsenal will be a friendly on paper but both sets of fans and players will want the arbitrary three points in the ICC. The match will be tough for Chelsea but they need to be actually tested before the season begins. With three preseason matches remaining, Arsenal is one of the two real remaining opportunities to see what hurts and to cover the cracks.
The trends that come out of the match will hint at how the coming Premier League season will go for both teams. Chelsea needs to show that their new style can work against the top six. Arsenal needs to show that anything they do can work against the top six.
Manchester City awaits on the weekend in the Community Shield to further battle harden the Chelsea squad. Between those two matches, the Blues need to find their weaknesses and learn how to overcome them. Arsenal will be the first test of Sarri’s preseason preparations.