While there was no surprise in the result of Unai Emery’s baptism into the Premier League against defending champions Manchester City, the ease with which Pep Guardiola’s men cut through Arsenal was dispiriting. The Gunners didn’t seem to land a punch, not even a cursory jab, as the Post-Wenger years truly began for Arsenal.
The fixture list is unkind to Emery as he continues his Premier League sojourn at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea. Like Arsenal, Chelsea brought in a new manager seeking a jolt and renaissance from the tedious final days of Antonio Conte.
Maurizio Sarri’s Premier League debut in the Chelsea’s dugout went rather swimmingly. Admittedly, Huddersfield were a lacklustre opponent who could have serious troubles with relegation this season, and it wasn’t peak Sarri-ball replete with intricate movement and delicate build-up. However, the emphatic scoreline without the team’s standout attacker for the majority of the game was a sure-footed start.
Jorginho, who moved from Napoli with Sarri, looked Chelsea’s most important player and core to Sarri’s principles, the conductor to the band, the director of the movie, as his short, metronomic passing set the rhythm to the Blues’ play. The Italian opened the scoring with an excellent penalty; he led the Twelve rankings with 2202 points.
Perhaps that was what Emery was hoping to see when he courageously handed 19-year old Matteo Guendouzi his debut. Guendouzi certainly showed glimpses of his talent. Despite a number of errors, he requested the ball and tried to be positive with his passing. The youngster, however, is still in need of major brush-ups. Lucas Torreira should make his full debut at Chelsea after he came off the bench in the City loss. The team was more balanced as he battled deep in midfield.
Emery’s opening game could have been tagged an unfair match up against a side that emerged title winners with 100 points, but against a side with a new manager and not too wide a talent-gap, Emery’s side could measure up. Despite not having a style of play christened after him, Emery is a tactically astute manager, and obsessive over details. There were flickers of Emery’s work with the coordinated press and insistence on passing out from the back, but obviously the transformative process will take more time.
Comparatively, Sarri looks ahead with less work to do with the squad at his disposal. Eden Hazard should return to the starting line-up against Arsenal after his fizzy cameo against Huddersfield produced five dribbles and an assist. The Belgian will pose a major threat to the unassured Arsenal back line.
The fixture represents a mutual test for both sides with new managers looking to imprint their philosophies on their teams. While getting a good result remains the ultimate aim, both managers will seek to glean many lessons on how far away their team is from that shiny sparkly side that reflects their image.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal