Mikel Arteta, who spent five years as midfielder at Arsenal FC from 2011 to 2016, is receiving a baptism of fire in his new role as the Gunners’ manager, as the team plays its second game of his tenure just four days after the first one. The native of San Sebastián, Spain took over from interim Gunners boss Freddie Ljungberg, who failed to turn Arsenal’s fortunes around after he himself took over from fired manager Unai Emery.
But after settling for a 1-1 draw in his managerial debut away to AFC Bournemouth, Arteta and his team now host Chelsea FC in a London derby that highlights the Premier League’s final weekend, with a Top 4 spot on the line for the visitors.
Chelsea, of course, are also helmed by a former midfield star for the team, Frank Lampard, in his first top-flight managerial assignment. But after leading last year’s third-place finishers and UEFA Europa League champions back into the Top 4, the Blues have sputtered, with three losses in their last four league matches. A defeat to Arsenal, combined with an upset win by Sheffield United over Manchester City later on Sunday, would drop Chelsea down to fifth — or possibly even sixth if Wolves score an improbable victory at Liverpool.
ESPN FC previews the featured match of the Premier League’s Round 20, in the video below.
Chelsea may have lost three of four in the Premier League, but Arsenal have just one win — 3-1 over West Ham on December 9 — in their last 14 in all competitions, with eight draws in that span, per Soccerway.
That alone may be reason the Gunners, despite playing at home under a new manager, come into the London derby as heavy underdogs. Bookmakers have the odds on Arsenal taking all three points at 15/8, also reflecting the fact that the side has lost three straight home matches, according to Goal.com.
Odds of a Chelsea win are set at 13/10, with a draw seen as unlikely at 11/4 odds.
Neither team has proven to be an offensive powerhouse in recent matches. Arsenal have just one goal in their last three league contests, while Lampard’s side has netted only six in seven games, while watching their margin over the fifth-place team shrink from nine points to just one, following Manchester United’s win away at Burnley on Saturday.
The key for Arsenal will be getting on the scoreboard first. In 15 home matches in the Premier League, the Gunners have never lost to Chelsea when scoring the opening goal, according to stats posted by the BBC.
The match at Emirates Stadium kicks off at 2 p.m. in London, or 9 a.m. EST, 6 a.m. PST in the United States, where NBC Sports Network will televise the derby.