44 min: Sterling spins past Zinchenko into space and tears off down the right. He slips a pass infield for Gusto, who has Fernandez to his left and Sterling to his right. Gusto goes for it himself and whistles a shot towards the top right, but a smidgen too high and wide.
42 min: Mudryk’s poor clearing header falls to Jesus, whose volley is so poor it doesn’t go out of play near the left-hand corner flag. Martinelli revives the attack but his cross goes straight down Sanchez’s throat. Arsenal have been uncharacteristically stodgy in attack.
40 min: Odegaard has been very quiet. He pops up here, and plays a cute pass around the corner and down the inside-left channel. Only problem being, neither Martinelli nor Jesus have anticipated it.
38 min: A ball comes in from the Chelsea right. Fernandez heads down the inside-right channel for Gallagher, who nearly rounds Raya but can’t quite force the ball past the keeper. It’s not a goal kick, though, because the flag correctly goes up for offside. Arsenal’s defence was a wee bit all over the place, however.
36 min: Fernandez takes the ball away from Rice, then Chelsea enjoy a bit of possession. Saka, somewhat frustrated, clips Cucurella on the back of the heel. You’ve seen yellow cards given for less, though this one’s no great outrage.
35 min: It’s all pretty scrappy right now.
33 min: Arsenal continue to hog possession, but Chelsea maintain their shape.
31 min: Martinelli’s presence forces a corner of Colwill down the right. It’s worked back to Jorginho, who floats a harmless speculative ball into the box. It’s easily cleared. Sanchez hasn’t had much to do yet.
29 min: The game restarts and Chelsea nearly double their lead. A refreshed Gallagher rolls a pass down the inside left for Palmer to chase. Palmer enters the box and threads a shot across Raya and inches wide of the right-hand post.
27 min: White and Jesus combine to win an Arsenal corner down the right from which Chelsea break upfield. Gusto rampages down the right. He’s stripped of possession by Martinelli, who starts dribbling back upfield only to be dispossessed by Gusto, who he then fouls. Lucky for Martinelli that nothing comes from the resulting free kick, other than Gallagher taking a fierce clearance under the ribs.
25 min: A speculative ball down the right. Sanchez comes racing out of his area to clear. Jesus gets there first and rounds him on the outside, but can’t find anyone in the middle with his cross. Arsenal have enjoyed 80 percent of possession since the penalty.
24 min: Silva comes sliding in for a 50-50 with Martinelli. He gets the ball, which is just as well because he catches his man too. Martinelli holds his leg in pain but the referee doesn’t see anything sinister in it. To be fair, Silva looked just about in control, but no doubt other opinions will be available on the world wide web. At least Martinelli is OK to continue, springing up soon enough.
22 min: Rice comes again, though, and his powerful run down the left wins a corner off a combination of Gusto and Caicedo. But nothing comes of it. Better from Arsenal, mind you. “How on earth is using your arms for leverage when jumping to head a ball unnatural?” asks Jakob Mathiszig-Lee. “At least we know what the handball rule for this week is. Excited for next year’s kits which will surely be tubes that fix players arms to their sides to avoid infringement of this ever-fluid rule?”
20 min: Zinchenko strokes a pass down the inside-left channel for Rice, who with Jesus on the edge of the six-yard box, sends in something that’s neither a shot nor a cross. It is a goal kick, though.
19 min: Jorginho plays a simple pass out of play. The Chelsea fans enjoy baiting their former hero. “I don’t really know the handball rule anymore, but the two pens given today are 100% handballs, clear cut,” writes Declan O’Brien. “People seem to be addicted to controversy.”
18 min: Arsenal have had 57 percent of possession so far, but to little effect. Meanwhile, here’s Alex Whitney: “Mudryk, going for the header, had both arms spread wide. As did Sailba. The rule, as written, is stupid.”
16 min: That’s got Stamford Bridge singing in the rain. Chelsea have been the better side since the get-go, and this is a big test for Arsenal now.
Palmer slots so calmly into the bottom left. Raya went the wrong way. That’s such a confident dispatch, and Chelsea lead thanks to Saliba’s carelessness!
14 min: Saliba’s arm was adjudged to be in an unnatural position, and the referee points to the spot. After the Diaz-Keane incident at Anfield earlier today, that’s a consistent decision. Palmer to take.
12 min: Sterling crosses from the right. Mudryk heads forward. The ball clanks off Saliba’s arm, which is held shoulder high. The referee isn’t interested, but VAR checks, and when play eventually stops, he’s ushered over to the monitor for a second look.
10 min: Colwill miskicks violently and is very fortunate that Odegaard can’t take advantage from the edge of the box. Then Zinchenko trips an in-flight Mudryk and goes into the book. This is a bit of a comedy of errors so far.
9 min: Palmer spins Rice and is clipped from behind. It could easily be a yellow, but it’s just a free kick, and Palmer is furious. The referee’s not for changing his mind. Are they ever?
8 min: Palmer catches Jesus with a poor one from behind, studs on heel. It’s a yellow card and could easily have been a red. VAR double-checks and the decision stands.
7 min: Palmer plays a cute pass down the right for Sterling, who again fails to find anyone with his cutback. Chelsea are working this flank well.
5 min: With Chelsea quickly out of the blocks, Arsenal haven’t really got going yet, so they slow things down with a bit of sterile possession at the back.
3 min: Another Chelsea attack ends when Sterling can’t find Caicedo, and the latter aquaplanes about 20 yards on his behind. The surface is slip-and-slide slick all right.
2 min: It’s absolutely belting down. Stair rods. Sterling breaks into space down the right but can’t find anyone with his cutback from the byline. The ball breaks to Fernandez, though, who attempts to steer a shot into the top right from the edge of the D. Over the bar it flies. Bright start for Chelsea, though.
Chelsea get the ball rolling. They’ll be kicking towards the Shed in this first half.
Pochettino emerges from the tunnel and his old Parisian buddy Arteta can’t suppress a big, warm smile as the pair embrace. A lovely moment. Then a silent one as a moment of reflection for the victims in Israel and Gaza is pretty much perfectly observed. Both teams will wear black armbands.
The teams are out! Chelsea in blue, Arsenal in red. It’s tipping down in south-west London. The hosts line up for the pre-match pleasantries wearing waterproof jackets, as though they’re heading out for 18 holes of golf. Might as well whip them off now and get used to the conditions, chaps. Anyway, slick-passing entertainment ahoy!
Mauricio Pochettino, who once played with his opposite number Mikel Arteta at PSG, speaks to Sky. “Reece James is available and is able to get time in the competition … if we need him for 15 or 20 minutes, or a little bit more, it is possible for him to play … [he and Arteta] will say hello, shake and have a big hug, then compete to win.”
His old pal Arteta adds: “Aaron Ramsdale is not available for the most beautiful reason in life … Bukayo Saka had to work really hard to be in the game today, and we’ve managed to bring him back … we must make sure we are at the right levels of focus at the beginning because it would be a tough test … the beauty of this game is that 20 years later you find each other managing two big clubs in a London derby … we have to enjoy this moment … [friendship is] absolutely suspended!”
Arsenal have the chance to go top tonight. They’ll need to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for the fourth time in a row if they’re to do it. Earlier this afternoon, Liverpool beat Everton 2-0 at Anfield and were in pole position for a couple of hours before Manchester City beat Brighton 2-1 at the Etihad. Spurs don’t play until Monday evening, when they host Fulham.
Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville pays his respects to Sir Bobby Charlton on Sky. “Manchester United’s greatest representative around the world and has been for 50 to 60 years … he was one of the original Busby Babes … he lost a lot of his team-mates and colleagues … he came through … he won the European Cup, the World Cup, and was a director at the club … he used to come into the changing room after every match, win lose or draw … you would take it for granted that an icon would be walking around saying well done, or trying to pick you up if you’d lost a game … it’s obviously a great loss, but it’s obvious that he was English football’s greatest player and ambassador … a champion on the pitch and off it.”
It’s a small but poignant coincidence that tonight’s big game is at Stamford Bridge, for that’s where Sir Bobby played his 751st and last match for Manchester United in April 1973. Before the game Chelsea presented him with an inscribed silver cigarette case and formed a guard of honour; after the hosts won by a single Peter Osgood goal, the 35-year-old Charlton rode off into the sunset (via Preston, where he’d spend a couple of seasons as player-coach). Charlton’s innate modesty and sense of honour led to him apologising for what he considered a below-par personal display … like anyone would ever have loved or respected him any less.
It’s a sad day for football with the news of Sir Bobby Charlton’s passing. Both Chelsea and Arsenal have paid their respects to the Manchester United and England legend on social media.
Chelsea make two changes to their starting line-up after the 4-1 win at Burnley. Malo Gusto and Mykhailo Mudryk replace Axel Disasi, who drops to the bench, and Armando Broja, who picked up a knee knock while on international duty with Albania and sits this one out altogether.
Arsenal also make two changes from their last game, the 1-0 win over Manchester City. Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli replace Eddie Nketiah and Leandro Trossard, who both drop to the bench. There’s no Aaron Ramsdale, who is on paternity leave after his wife gave birth to a baby boy.
Chelsea: Sanchez, Gusto, Thiago Silva, Colwill, Cucurella, Gallagher, Caicedo, Fernandez, Palmer, Mudryk, Sterling.
Subs: Disasi, Badiashile, Madueke, Jackson, Ugochukwu, James, Petrovic, Maatsen, Deivid Washington.
Arsenal: Raya, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Odegaard, Jorginho, Rice, Saka, Gabriel Jesus, Martinelli.
Subs: Partey, Smith Rowe, Nketiah, Kiwior, Tomiyasu, Trossard, Nelson, Havertz, Hein.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire).
After their near miss last season, Arsenal are taking a tilt at the title once more. Chelsea by comparison are simply trying to sort themselves out after a season-and-a-bit of wild flux. So given Arsenal have won each of the last three meetings between these two grand London institutions, to the aggregate score of 8-3, have won on their last three visits to Stamford Bridge, and haven’t lost on Chelsea’s patch since 2018, you can see why the Gunners are fancied to win this one tonight.
However the traditional Guardian MBM Preamble Ah-buts™ apply. Arsenal may be coming off the back of that statement victory over champions Manchester City, but Chelsea are slowly beginning to piece things together under Mauricio Pochettino. They’re on a run of three wins on the bounce, and are beginning to take some of the chances they’ve in fairness been creating this season from the get-go. So this is set up deliciously, not least because it’s a local matter with all the concomitant folderol. Should be a cracker. Kick off is at 5.30pm BST. It’s on!