Betting Odds: Chelsea vs. Arsenal
- Chelsea moneyline: -119
- Arsenal moneyline: +348
- Draw: +295
- Over/Under: 2.5 (Over -157/Under +142)
- Kickoff: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET
- Channel: NBC
>> Download The Action Network App to get real-time Soccer odds, track your bets and follow all of our experts’ picks.
The Premier League game of the weekend is the London derby between Chelsea and Arsenal. Both teams are in the process of dramatically remaking themselves from last season.
Chelsea are transitioning from the defensive, positionally conservative back-three system instituted by previous manager Antonio Conte to the swashbuckling attacking style of Maurizio Sarri.
Arsenal are going in the other direction. After a generation of loosely structured possession soccer under Arsene Wenger, new manager Unai Emery is beginning to implement a more conservative approach.
Both teams have two unanswered questions about them heading into Saturday’s matchup. First, how good are they right now? Second, how good can they be once their managers have fully instituted their game plans?
It’s fairly unusual, even this early in the season, to have a match between two sides with this much uncertainty about both their form and their potential.
It doesn’t help matters much that in week one Chelsea comfortably beat Huddersfield, a team markets rate as the second-most likely to be relegated, while Arsenal lost to Manchester City, the defending champions and clearly the best team in the league.
Despite very different results, both teams looked like works in progress last weekend.
Chelsea handled Huddersfield, 3-0, but struggled to break the defensive side down, scoring once with N’Golo Kante being the somewhat unlikely recipient of a cross he volleyed home and a penalty.
Although when star winger Eden Hazard entered the game in the 76th minute, Chelsea quickly went into overdrive and he set up Pedro for a third goal to well and true finish the game.
Meanwhile, Arsenal got overwhelmed by City, who scored the opener in the 14th minute, and then, while leading, proceeded to outshoot Arsenal 14-8, out-pass them 377 to 268, and entirely dominate play until Bernardo Silva put the game away in the 64th minute.
There’s also uncertainty surrounding who will be on the field for these squads. Hazard starting for Chelsea is obviously important. He unsettles defenses like few players alive. Also important is whether Sarri deems Mateo Kovacic, acquired on loan from Real Madrid right before the transfer deadline, sufficiently integrated to get on the field.
A midfield of Kovacic, Kante and Jorginho, who performed as a ball-controlling midfielder in Chelsea’s opening week, is frightening. When Ross Barkley started in Chelsea’s opener, his lack of positional sense clearly stood out; and Kovacic, whenever he’s ready, will be a clear upgrade.
Emery meanwhile, made a surprising lineup decision when he threw 19-year-old Mattéo Guendouzi a start over fellow new Gunner Lucas Torreira.
Guendouzi performed about as well as a teenager who most recently played in France’s second division could hope to perform while being outnumbered against the fire-breathing monster that is City.
Still, it remains somewhat unclear who Emery’s preferred 11 will be against Chelsea, and whether Guendouzi is simply ahead of Torreira right now, or whether he was chosen for tactical reasons. That’s a lot of uncertainty to pull a projection out of.
Nevertheless, Arsenal at +348 is a big price for a game with this much uncertainty. Yes they’re on the road, yes we don’t know what their midfield is going to look like and surely they looked overwhelmed by City. But at the same time, we don’t have a lot of evidence that Chelsea are ready for prime time either.
These are two teams headed in different tactical directions that are both still several steps away from whatever the finished version of their approach will look like.The odds suggest that we should be confident that Chelsea are a much better team than Arsenal, but that doesn’t make sense.