“I didn’t know anything about Steve Rowley, and don’t know much about scouting, but what a time to have worked as a scout!” says Jamie Tucker. “I imagine that scouting Tony Adams would have been an entirely different world to the one in which they scouted Cesc, and yet really not that many years apart. Another way, perhaps, in which that Wenger-era Arsenal seems to span the birth of Football Today.”
There will be a reduced crowd at Stamford Bridge the night. The sanctions against Chelsea mean that season-ticket holders are the only home supporters allowed at the game, though they will be a few thousand Arsenal fans in the away end.
Arsenal’s formation There are some suggestions that Arsenal will play a back three, with Saka and Tavares at wing-back. We’ll find out soon enough.
“Edu and company almost got away with not fixing holes in the team mid-season but as an Arsenal fan when I saw Partey’s injury I knew we were doomed,” says Zach Neeley. “The biggest area of need wasn’t his position but skill at one spot can balance out lack elsewhere (plus I think his presence is key to better, consistent performances from Xhaka).”
Thing is, how do you replace one of the better midfielders in the world? He allowed them to almost cheat by playing 4-1-4-1; without him they were always going to struggle a bit. And then there’s the elephant in the room, or rather than Nou Camp.
The boy’s a bit special
Arsenal will wear black armbands tonight in memory of Steve Rowley, the former chief scout who has died aged just 63. Rowley was responsible for signing many Arsenal legends, including Tony Adams and Cesc Fabregas, and was by all accounts a thoroughly decent man.
It looks like Arsenal will play two holding midfielders tonight, which proves that you really do need two men to replace Thomas Partey. He is a phenomenal player, good enough for any team in the world.
I’ll be honest. When I saw this headline I thought, ‘What’s his problem?’ But Thomas Tuchel’s comments are as measured and eloquent as ever. If I was a Chelsea fan, I’d adore the man.
Romelu Lukaku starts a Premier League game for the first time since 19 February, when he infamously had only seven touches away to Crystal Palace.
In all there are four changes from the side that beat Palace in the FA Cup on Sunday. Malang Sarr, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, N’Golo Kante and Lukaku replace Antonio Rudiger, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Kai Havertz.
It looks like Ben White will play at right-back for Arsenal, while Eddie Nketiah is preferred to Alexandre Lacazette. There are three changes from the weekend defeat at Southampton: Rob Holding, Mohamed Elneny and Emile Smith Rowe come in for Cedric, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Gabriel Martinelli.
Chelsea (3-4-1-2) Mendy; James, Christensen, Sarr; Azpilicueta, Loftus-Cheek, Kante, Alonso; Mount; Lukaku, Werner.
Substitutes: Arrizabalaga, Chalobah, Thiago Silva, Barkley, Jorginho, Saul, Pulisic, Ziyech, Havertz.
Arsenal (possible 3-4-2-1) Ramsdale; White, Holding, Gabriel; Saka, Elneny, Xhaka, Tavares; Odegaard, Smith Rowe; Nketiah.
Substitutes: Leno, Cedric, Swanson, Azeez, Lokonga, Hutchinson, Pepe, Martinelli, Lacazette.
Referee Jon Moss.
There are three other Premier League games tonight, including Everton v Leicester and Manchester City v Brighton. Oh sod it, I might as well tell you that the other match is Newcastle v Crystal Palace.
More importantly, we have a special Clockwatch for those games.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of Chelsea v Arsenal from Stamford Bridge. I doubt anyone connected with Chelsea will agree, but to the neutral liveblogger this game feels far more important for Arsenal.
Chelsea are going to finish third, barring a tale of the seriously unexpected, whereas Arsenal are involved in an increasingly messy struggle for fourth place. A disturbing run of four defeats in five games has wounded their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17.
Injuries, outgoing loans and the inherent irreplaceability of Thomas Partey have left Arsenal short in recent weeks, and few people fancy them to get anything tonight. But a win or even a draw at Stamford Bridge would change the mood for the umpteeth time in their topsy-turvy season, especially as their top-four rivals all have imperfections of their own.
Spurs, despite Antonio Conte’s best efforts, are still Spurs, Manchester United are a laughing stock and West Ham are understandably distracted by the Europa League. To borrow a phrase beloved of Arsenal fans, fourth place is still up for grabs.
Kick off 7.45pm.