Chelsea and Arsenal were both in action in the Europa League on Thursday night, both experiencing contrasting fortunes.
Neither side played particularly well but while the Blues were able to hand minutes to an important player and emerge with three points, the Gunners lost more personnel to injury.
We’ve got all the key talking points in this latest Scout Notes article.
BATE Borisov 0-1 Chelsea
Goals: Olivier Giroud (£7.7m)
Assists: Emerson Palmieri (£5.2m)
Eden Hazard (£11.3m) recorded an encouraging 62-minute spell against BATE Borisov on Thursday night to calm any fears of him missing out of Gameweek 12. The Belgian midfielder’s recent back injury caused him to be absent from the Gameweek 10 win at Burnley and play just 26 minutes in last week’s 4-1 win over Crystal Palace. However, getting a run-out in the Europa League, which he completed without any obvious problems, does increase the possibility that he’ll be back in the starting XI when Everton visit Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
Things were more discouraging for Ross Barkley‘s (£5.9m) 9.6% ownership as he played the entirety of the match. He has been competing with Mateo Kovačić (£5.9m) for a space alongside Jorginho (£5.0m) and N’Golo Kanté (£4.9m) thus far, so the fact that he played more minutes than him on Thursday could suggest he will miss out against his former club. Kovačić featured as a 64th-minute substitute against Borisov while Jorginho played the whole match and Kanté remained on the bench.
Kovačić’s entry into the match was at the expense of Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£5.2m) who did not have his best game for Chelsea. His passes were sloppy and he struggled to offer much either offensively or defensively. That was disappointing for him after making a case for inclusion in the first team regular when he scored a hat-trick in the reverse fixture against Borisov at Stamford Bridge. Loftus-Cheek still has a lot of work to do to get into the side with so much aforementioned competition in central midfield.
However, Loftus-Cheek was not the only one to put in a poor performance. In fact, it was viewed by local press as the worst performance of the Sarri era so far. There were claims that Chelsea rode their luck in Belarus with their hosts hitting the woodwork on three occasions. With a bit more fortune for their opponents, they could have easily found themselves on the end of a 3-1 defeat. This is not the first time this season that the local press have claimed Chelsea were fortunate not to lose a match. They continue to suggest there may come a time when the Blues’ luck will run out and their undefeated streak will end.
“We didn’t play very well. I didn’t like the first half because we moved the ball only horizontal and slowly, so it was really very difficult to be dangerous. Better in the first 20-25 minutes of the second half. Then we managed not the end very well, the last 15 minutes. The best situation this evening is the result.” – Maurizio Sarri
Centre-forward Olivier Giroud (£7.7m) scored the winner in the match and he will be delighted to finally get his first goal under Sarri. It was a long wait for the Frenchman as he’d gone 792 minutes without finding the net for the Blues, his last strike coming against Liverpool in May. Giroud faces serious competition in Álvaro Morata (£8.7m), who has four goals in his last four Premier League appearances, so may still have to up his game. That said, Sarri has always explained he is a fan of what Giroud offers outside of goal-scoring.
“Yes, I’m pleased for him. He’s a very important player for us because he’s very useful for the team. But I know very well that strikers want to score. And so, for his confidence, I think it’s very important. But I don’t want him to be worried about scoring because, for us, he’s very important and very useful. Very important.” – Maurizio Sarri
Sarri named a completely different back four to the one which faced Crystal Palace in Gameweek 11. Emerson Palmieri (£5.2m) started at left-back and also put in the ball for Giroud’s goal. That meant another European night off for the popular Marcos Alonso (£7.0m). Emerson played alongside Andreas Christensen (£5.0m), Gary Cahill (£5.1m) and Davide Zappacosta (£5.1m).
Meanwhile, Ethan Ampadu (£4.4m) was deemed fit enough for a place on the bench following a knee injury that kept him out for several weeks.
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Kepa; Emerson, Christensen, Cahill, Zappacosta; Barkley, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek (Kovačić 64′); Hazard (Willian 62′), Giroud, Pedro (Hudson-Odoi 85′).
Arsenal 0-0 Sporting CP
The result itself was not really the headline news to come out of Arsenal’s 0-0 draw with Sporting CP. Striker Danny Welbeck (£6.5m) was forced off after just half-an-hour with a serious-looking ankle break. For a player who has struggled with knee injuries for much of his career, this really was a horrendous stroke of misfortune. Although the extent of the injury is not yet known, it is probable that Welbeck may not feature again this season, and with his contract up at the summer, last night could prove to be his last for Arsenal.
“The other injuries (he has had in his career) are different. This one, he broke something in his ankle. It’s a different injury than the other. He has been taken to the hospital. We are going to wait for news on this injury, but we think it is serious.” – Unai Emery
Welbeck’s exit from the match certainly had an effect on his team-mates, most notably 19-year-old Mattéo Guendouzi (£4.5m) who looked on the verge of tears. It is possible that this was what caused Arsenal’s performance to be so flat as they were unable to create much on the night, even with the addition of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.9m) as a 30th-minute substitute.
The Gunners’ injury problems worsened in the second-half when Stephan Lichtsteiner (£4.6m) was taken off a with a hamstring problem. Hector Bellerín (£5.4m) should slot back in for Premier League matches, but if his Swiss colleague misses several weeks there will be little cover in the right-back area for cup matches. Lichtsteiner’s withdrawal was also frustrating for 19-year-old striker Eddie Nketiah. The youngster was about to get his first appearance of the campaign but it was the services of Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£4.4m) that were required once Lichtsteiner pulled up injured. The 21-year-old is only recently back from injury himself but has little experience of playing at right-back. He has been used at left-back and right-midfield before but has not been asked to perform defensive duties on that side of the pitch before.
“Lichtsteiner’s injury changed our idea on the match, we wanted to change for Eddie Nketiah and give another chance for the striker. But when he had the injury we needed to play with a right-back which was the reason we played with Ainsley [Maitland-Niles]. But for us, this was good because he needed minutes for the pace and to take confidence and get our rhythm. So it only changed our idea tactically for the last 25 minutes.” – Unai Emery
There were 90-minute outings for Rob Holding (£4.4m), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (£5.1m), Guendouzi, Aaron Ramsey (£7.4m), Alex Iwobi (£5.5m) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£6.7m). All of those options may well be considered only for the bench in Gameweek 12 accordingly.
Key players not involved on Thursday night, and therefore more likely to start against Wolves were Bernd Leno (£4.8m), Bellerín, Shkodran Mustafi (£5.4m), Mesut Özil (£8.4m), Granit Xhaka (£5.3m), Lucas Torreira (£4.9m) and Alexandre Lacazette (£9.7m).
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Jenkinson (Kolasinac 60′), Holding, Sokratis, Lichtsteiner (Maitland-Niles 74′); Guendouzi, Ramsey; Iwobi, Smith-Rowe, Mkhitaryan; Welbeck (Aubameyang 30′).
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