After losing to Arsenal both the FA Cup final and Community Shield, Antonio Conte would be seeking revenge as Chelsea welcome the Gunners to Stamford Bridge tomorrow. Arsene Wenger is however optimistic of leaving the Bridge unhurt
Arsene Wenger is confident Arsenal can pick up the points they want at Chelsea on Super Sunday, and says mentality will be key.
Arsenal face a Chelsea side who have won their last three in the Premier League after their opening-day defeat by Burnley at Stamford Bridge, while the Gunners have won two and lost two of their opening four games.
Wenger, speaking to Sky Sports, says Arsenal must not be too obsessed by their opponents, and knows they must perform better defensively following their 4-0 defeat at Liverpool three weeks ago.
“It’s an important game for us,” the Arsenal manager said. “The way we deal with that on Sunday will have an importance on our season. But it’s very early. I’m confident that away from home we will get the points we want, but certainly mentally for our team it is important to play well and get a positive result.
“As always the key is to be much better defensively than we were at Anfield, and to be much more dangerous going forward. By not being too obsessed by our opponent and not to forget to play our football. Chelsea had a surprising early defeat but after that they have responded very well, to beat Tottenham and Leicester away from home. Overall since their first home defeat, they have played three difficult teams and won their games, so it looks again like they will fight for the Premier League.”
Alexis Sanchez returned to the starting line-up for Arsenal on Thursday, scoring a fine goal in their 3-1 win over Cologne in the Europa League group stages.
Wenger says the Chile international is getting back to his best, and once he is physically fit again, will be starting every game.
“It was never a mental problem, because Alexis loves the game and loves to play,” Wenger said. “He came back, I gave him a long breather, over four weeks holiday, because he had not had decent rest in recent years.
“Then he got injured, and now he is coming slowly back to his best physically, in the second half you could see that. His physical performance against Cologne was better, and he is slowly coming back to his best.
“The supporters, of course, can sometimes be disappointed, but as well they acknowledge the performance on the pitch. That’s what they want from their players first. Alexis is a guy who turns up on the pitch and performs for the club when he plays. I think he’s very close now to his best, and when he will be back completely physically, he would be starting every game.”
Arsenal’s dealings in the transfer market were heavily criticised by fans, but Wenger says the club are happy with their business, and also insists the transfer market does not reward sides like Arsenal who attempt to balance spending.
Wenger said: “You have to live with all kinds of opinions, but at the end of the day you have to make decisions, rational decisions, and these decisions are guided first by the sportive interests, but as well by the financial respect of your balance sheet.
“That’s what we do, we try to combine both. That is not easy because the transfer market is completely deregulated for clubs who live the way we live. So you have to be shrewd.
“We brought in (Alexandre) Lacazette and (Sead) Kolasinac and we are very happy with both of them, and we kept most of our players.”
Meanwhile, N’Golo Kante has identified his France international team-mate Alexandre Lacazette as the key to Chelsea stopping Arsenal on Sunday.
Arsenal spent a club-record Â£52million to buy Lacazette in July from Lyon, where he found the net 100 times in Ligue 1.
The 26-year-old has adapted quickly to the Premier League too, scoring in wins over Leicester and Bournemouth.
And Kante, who impressed on his first Champions League appearance in Tuesday’s 6-0 win against Qarabag, said: “I think maybe in England, you donâ€™t know him very well.
“But in France, he was a very good goalscorer who scored for many, many years and he will be a threat for Sundayâ€™s game.
“We have to be ready to stop him but the most important thing is the team and we need to win.”
Another big match in the Premier League this weekend is the Manchester United Everton encounter as the Merseysider travel to Old Trafford in attempt to get their domestic season back on track.
Mourinhoâ€™s men dropped points for the first time this season last weekend after a trip to Stoke City resulted in a 2-2 draw. It was the only time this season that United looked suspect in defence and the Potters took advantage with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting scoring a brace.
The Bet365 Stadium, however, is renowned as a difficult ground to go to and pick up three points. In their only other home game this season, Stoke shocked everyone by beating Arsenal 1-0 when new loanee signing Jese scored the only goal. Mark Hughesâ€™ side is one to watch this season for upsets.
Everton, on the other hand, have had a difficult start to the season. They may have beaten Stoke at Goodison, but theyâ€™re yet to win another game after defeats to Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspurs while picking up an important point against Manchester City.
It remains to be seen after a decent summer whether Ronald Koeman can utilise his new group of players and gel them together quickly. If the Dutch manager can make them click in the opening months, thereâ€™s no reason why Everton canâ€™t challenge the top Premier League clubs.
Michael Keane will return to Old Trafford where he came through as a youth graduate before Louis van Gaal agreed to sell the player to Burnley. It was under the management of Sean Dyche that Keane became an England international and earned a move worth approximately Â£30m to Goodison Park.
Moreover, Keane was a target for United before Mourinho opted to sign former Benfica defender Victor Lindelof. The Everton defender will get a good reception at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho has said Wayne Rooney will be welcomed as a “real legend” when he returns to Old Trafford.
England’s record goalscorer left United to return to boyhood club Everton this summer after 13 successful years with the Red Devils.
Rooney, who since returning to Merseyside has retired from international football, is also the highest scorer in United’s history and this Sunday returns to the club where he scored a record 253 goals in 559 appearances.
Mourinho expects the Old Trafford faithful to show the 31-year-old the appreciation he deserves, but the United boss hopes supporters put that welcome on hold during the match.
“I think that he will get the welcome that he deserves,” the Portuguese said.
“I think sometimes in this country the word ‘legend’ comes too easily. That’s not his case, he’s a real legend of the club. The number of appearances, the number of goals, the number of trophies – I think clearly he’s one of the most important players in the history of Manchester United. And I think the stadium will show him that respect that he deserves, I hope before the match and after the match, not during the match.”
Ronald Koeman’s men have conceded eight goals in defeats to Chelsea, Tottenham and Atalanta, with that three-match losing streak the tail-end of a five-game winless run.
While Everton have threats in their armoury, they know better than anyone what a handful Romelu Lukaku will pose.
Signed from the Toffees for an initial Â£75million over the summer, the Belgium striker has netted six goals in as many games in a seamless start to life at United.
“I think he came to us at the right moment – at a good age, with a good number of years of experience in different clubs in the Premier League,” Mourinho added.
“Clearly he is a player who has adapted to the Premier League, with good friends already in this dressing room, with an easy integration in our group and the way the team is trying to play also has a good relation with his qualities as a player. So I think he came in the right moment in his career.”
However, big-spending Manchester City having a chance to go top of the Premier League today is no surprise, but the possibility their opponents Watford will climb to the summit of English football if they win at Vicarage Road certainly is.
Table-toppers Manchester United and Manchester City, currently second on goal difference, both have 10 points from their opening four Premier League games.
But with United not playing until Sunday, City have a chance to leapfrog their local rivals.
With the club desperate to make an impact on the Champions League in particular after bowing out in the last 16 last term, John Stones scored twice for Pep Guardiola’s expensively-assembled side as they won 4-0 away to Dutch champions Feyenoord in an impressive start to their Champions League campaign on Wednesday.
Spanish manager Guardiola was delighted by his side’s positive approach, saying: “We did not play back. We were aggressive.”
It was an ominous result for Watford yet Marco Silva’s men are unlikely to feel over-awed knowing that a home win today would take them to 11 points. That would mean Watford were at the summit of English football ladder for the first time since topping the old First Division in 1982.
Watford are still unbeaten under Silva and the Portuguese manager said: “It’s important at the moment that everyone, starting with myself, keeps their feet on the ground.”
Liverpool will look to put the frustration they felt at failing to beat Sevilla in a 2-2 midweek draw in the Champions League when they face northwest rivals Burnley at Anfield today.
Poor defending again proved a problem for Liverpool, who failed in an attempt to sign Virgil van Dijk from Southampton during the transfer window.
However, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp, speaking after the Sevilla match, said: “I know a lot of people are looking around and they are always talking about the defence. That we didn’t sign this or that.”
The German boss added: “It’s not about this. It is about being dominant and losing, a bit, the grip on the game. We need to learn to be dominant and not give easy goals away.”
Tottenham Hotspur will hope to prove their commanding 3-1 midweek win against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League at Wembley â€“ just their third in 13 games at the national stadiumÂ was no fluke when they welcome Swansea City to their temporary home on Saturday.
Meanwhile basement club Crystal Palace will play their first game under former England manager and boyhood Eagles fan Roy Hodgson when they face Southampton at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Hodgson has replaced the sacked Frank de Boer after the Dutchman’s four games in charge all ended in defeat, with no goals scored during his brief time in charge of the south London club.
“You are looking for character really, you’re looking for desire, you’re looking for people with enthusiasm,” Hodgson said when asked what he wanted to see from his players.