Two wins in our last two games have allowed the green shoots of recovery to sprout, but now we have our toughest test so far this season to truly test whether this is another false dawn.
Do we have what it takes to end our awful away record?
In the last thirteen games away from home versus the Top6 sides, we have failed to win ANY of them. Not exactly the form befitting of contenders. Then there is the small matter of seven defeats in the last eight visits to Stamford Bridge.
There are reasons to be cheerful though, at least three of them.
We have defeated Antonio Conte’s team in three of the last four times we have faced them. The problem is though, is that the one defeat from that four was at the Bridge.
So, Arsene Wenger’s choice of tactics will certainly be in focus. Can he muster the team which goes for the jugular from the first whistle? Or will it be the ponderous, plodding Arsenal which are merely reactive rather than proactive?
Wenger at least has a nearly full bill of health in his squad. The only injuries are Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla. In his latest press conference, the Arsenal coach said that Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil should make the team after picking up slight knocks. There will be many changes to his side after defeating FC Koln in the Europa League in midweek however.
The strength of our squad was on show against the Germans on Thursday, but the team which does battle with Chelsea today will most likely closely resemble the team which defeated Bournemouth last weekend.
The only point of consternation is regarding Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez.
Welbeck is this seasons top scorer and even without his goals, his team play and work rate is second to none. Does he deserve to keep his place? Definitely. Will he? Alexis may have something to say about that.
The Chilean’s fight for match sharpness reached new highs so far this campaign against Cologne. His excellent goal showed exactly what he brings to the table, and it may well give him the edge over the England striker.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte will likely have Eden Hazard available, and the Belgian winger is in line to make his first start of the season. It is the new boys that are really firing the Blues so far though. Zappacosta and Tiemoue Bakayoko are showing great signs of melding into the Italian’s way of thinking, and the blistering form of Alvaro Morata means Laurent Koscielny and co will have their hands full.
No clean sheets in twelve games at the home of the Blues could perhaps be telling too. Petr Cech must relive his former glories, as well as the defence ahead of him really keeping tabs on the Chelsea attackers. The first goal could prove huge, and a clean sheet will go a long way to providing a foundation for a decent result.
It is easy to type, far harder to achieve though. Part of our frustrations is knowing what our team are capable of, but only seeing it come to fruition on very rare occasions. We have lost our only two away games this season, and a loss here could compound our malaise.
It really is win or bust, and at such an early stage this season that shows how far we have dropped. It won’t mean an end to our hopes, but the mental effect it could have would have far deeper ramifications.
Time to send a message that the reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Welbeck, Lacazette.
Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal. Forever the optimist.