London — Arsenal’s troubled start to the Premier League season could get worse before it gets better as they prepare to host Chelsea this weekend before a trip to champions Manchester City a week later.
Optimism was not sky high among Arsenal’s followers in the lead-up to the new campaign but the manner of the 2-0 defeat at newcomers Brentford last week has made it open season on manager Mikel Arteta’s job prospects, the club’s recruitment policy and just where exactly they are heading.
In the fickle world of football a win on Sunday against Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea would smooth the waters, but few will be wagering much on Arsenal prevailing in the London derby.
Whereas Chelsea are still basking in becoming European champions and look equipped for a title challenge, Arsenal appear to be a club in transition as they seek to recover from finishing last season in eighth place.
According to the bookmakers, Arteta will not be the man to lead the club into a new era with the Spaniard even-money favourite to be the first top-flight manager to be sacked.
Arsenal technical director Edu’s position is also vulnerable after a less-than-impressive player recruitment policy over the past couple of seasons. His judgment is again being called into question with the club apparently on the verge of paying about £25m for Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
There are also reports of friction between Arteta and club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who missed training on Wednesday and is doubtful for Sunday’s clash with Chelsea along with fellow forward Alexandre Lacazette.
It is all in stark contrast to the mood at Chelsea who will probably hand a second debut to new £97m striker Romelu Lukaku this weekend.
Lukaku, unavailable for Chelsea’s 3-0 opening day cruise past Crystal Palace, looks like being the final piece in Tuchel’s jigsaw puzzle — a genuine No 9 who will give his manager yet another attacking option.
“I’ve done a full preseason. For now, I just want to get to know my teammates better,” the Belgium striker who joined from Inter Milan said this week. “The English game is different, but for me it’s not something new. Whatever plan the coach has, I can adapt myself and help the team.”
Liverpool kick off the weekend with a home game against Burnley on Saturday lunchtime while later in the day Manchester City host Norwich City as they seek to bounce back from their surprise opening day defeat at Tottenham Hotspur.
Manchester United’s 5-1 hammering of Leeds United at Old Trafford last weekend has prompted talk of a title assault and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will look to maintain the early momentum as they travel to Southampton on Sunday.
Buoyant Brentford face their second successive London derby, away at Crystal Palace on Saturday, as they look to continue their dream start to life back in the top flight after 74 years.
Tottenham’s new manager Nuno Espirito Santo will be back on familiar ground as his side travel to his former club Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday.
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