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Who’ll score first goal in the Chelsea vs. Arsenal EPL clash?

Saturday, September 19, 2015, 9.45pm AEST, Stamford Bridge

Ladder position

Chelsea: 17th

Arsenal: Fourth

Season record

Chelsea: 1-1-3

Arsenal: 3-1-1

Last five games

Chelsea: DLWLL

Arsenal: LWDWW

IT’S almost unfathomable to think the reigning English Premier League champions are languishing in 17th position, just two points out of the relegation zone after five matches.

But that’s the reality facing Chelsea ($2.46 with CrownBet.com.au) as it heads into a clash with bitter rival Arsenal ($2.88 with CrownBet.com.au) (Draw is $3.25 with the same bookie) at Stamford Bridge on Saturday night.

You could forgive them for being whacked by fellow title fancy Manchester City, 3-0 on their home deck, but the Pensioners were woeful in a 2-1 home loss to Crystal Palace, and then, instead of coming out breathing fire against Everton after the international break last week, they were even worse.

They were put to the sword by Everton substitute Steven Naismith, who struck a hat trick to condemn Chelsea to early relegation danger.

Manager Jose Mourinho could only say things are going wrong for his men, who were champions less than six months ago.

“The results are going wrong, too wrong for our quality and that the players deserve,” Mourinho said.

“I know it’s easy to criticise me and the players, but I completely disagree.

“I am the champion, the players are the champion, the way they are playing is not so bad, but in every game things go against us.

”Even against Everton – they start the game with Besic to close the left side, Besic is injured, and the player who came on is scoring three goals.

“Eden Hazard has two shots, they hit the defender.

“Everything goes against us and we have to cope with it.

“I don’t blame my players, myself, I don’t accept the results.

“I am responsible for the team and I’m not happy with the situation, with myself.”

Typical strange stuff from the enigmatic manager – ‘the other teams shots went in, our’s didn’t’ – stating the bleeding obvious.

It doesn’t get any easer for Chelsea, with number one goal keeper Thibaut Courtois ruled out until at least January after undergoing surgery on his right knee.

It’s lucky moneybags Chelsea can call upon one of the better shot stoppers in the Premier League to replace him in Asmir Begovic.

Make no mistake, these are tough times for Chelsea. It’s the club’s worst start to a season in 29 years and it is now 11 points behind leaders Manchester City.

Just don’t tell Jose: “Nobody can steal what we are, nobody can steal our trophies, nobody can steal our history. We know what we are: champions of England.”

Apart from an opening day hiccup when the Gunners turned in a disgraceful performance on their home deck against West Ham, Arsenal has been its usual self, playing plenty of pretty football, but struggling a little in front of goal.

They are on a two game winning streak and will go into this one brimming with confidence, given Chelsea’s struggles.

After accounting for Newcastle, 1-0 at St James’ Park, the Gooners went home and disposed of Stoke, 2-0, thanks to goals from Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud.

But they’ve suffered a double blow, with feisty midfielder Jack Wilshere ruled out for a further three months after complications with a leg fracture he suffered in the pre season. And striker Danny Welbeck undergoing surgery after his troublesome knee refused to respond to rehabilitation work.

Fortunately, there are plenty of men with the capabilities to step in and fill the breach.

They will also be buoyed by their performance in the Community Shield earlier this season, after they defeated Chelsea 1-0, courtesy of a stunning strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

On a lighter note, if you ever really doubted Mourinho as an all time great coach, perhaps his five Guinness World Records will help change your opinion.

Mourinho was this week entered into the prestigious book for his five records as a manager.

Jose Mourinho has had his name entered into the 2016 version of the Guinness Book of Records.

“The fact they gave me the awards in a way that I can put them up in my office is nice,” Mourinho said.

“It’s something fun and as a kid you could never imagine that one day you would be in the Guinness Book of Records.

“You know me, these awards are for something I did in the past and obviously it’s nice, but for me what’s more important is what I can do in the future.”

Predictions

Match result: Arsenal wins ($2.88 with CrownBet.com.au)

Correct score: Arsenal wins 2-1 ($10 with CrownBet.com.au)

Total goals: Over 2.5 goals ($1.84 with CrownBet.com.au)

Arsenal is not scoring a huge amount of goals, but Chelsea is certainly leaking them. So what does that translate to? It’s hard to say. Stamford Bridge has not been a happy hunting ground for the Gooners in recent years and you just know Mourinho will want to keep the wood over his arch rival Wenger. But can he do it? Are Chelsea up to it? It seems like a ridiculous question, but their performances and ladder position more than justify it. This feels almost like a make or break game. Normally you’d fancy the Pensioners on their home deck against Arsenal, but there’s no way this one is clear cut. The Gunners won the Community Shield and certainly have the cattle and ability to capitalise on whatever is causing this funk for Chelsea. We think the mighty might have fallen, due to perhaps complacency and some regression from their midfielders, especially former Gunner Cesc Fabregas. If Crystal Palace can win at Stamford Bridge and Everton can whack Chelsea three goals to one, the Gooners are every chance.

Possible team line ups

Chelsea: Asmir Begovic, Branislav Ivanovic, Kurt Zouma, John Terry, Cesar Azpilicueta, Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fábregas, Pedro, Willian, Eden Hazard, Diego Costa

Arsenal: Petr Cech, Hector Bellerín, Gabriel Paulista, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sánchez, Olivier Giroud

First goal scorer predictions

Chelsea

Eden Hazard ($8 with sportsbet.com.au)

This guy has been a thorn in the Gooners side in recent years. Actually, he’s been a thorn in most club’s side, but you can almost guarantee he will either score, or set one up against Arsenal. Loves showing his skills against the best clubs in the world and it’s hard to go past him in first goal scorer bets. Hard to believe he hasn’t scored yet this season and has just one assist to his name. Perhaps he’s suffering from a hangover from winning the PFA Player of the Year award – and Premier League title last season. Whatever his issues are, he’s far too talented for them to be long lasting and we expect him to turn in a big performance against the Gunners in a bid to turn Chelsea’s floundering season around. Starting with the first goal of the game would go a very long way to achieving that goal and leading them to a win over Arsenal.

Diego Costa ($5.50 with sportsbet.com.au)

This guy fired in 20 goals last season and finished third in the golden boot race behind Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane. How times change. Costa has been starved of opportunity and as a result, has scored just once in five matches. Not a creative force up front, this guy is a finisher and his form pretty much goes the way of his midfielders’. That translates to poor form at the moment because he is just not getting the supply he enjoyed last season. Since we’ve tipped Hazard to have a big one, and we believe Pedro will be much better for the run mid week, we think the tide might turn for Costa and he has the talent and ability to fire in the first goal of the match.

Arsenal

Theo Walcott ($7.50 with sportsbet.com.au)

Often gets criticised for being too wasteful in front of goal. Often that’s justified. He’s only scored once from 13 shots this season. But you just feel like he’s enjoyed a nice start to the 2015-16 campaign and it just feels like he’s getting more opportunities, getting back to fitness and finding a little more faith from Wenger. Is still as quick a player as there is in the Premier League and provides an absolute nightmare on the ground for those big centre backs. He will be keen to be on target and will be hoping for an early one. Chelsea have been murdered early in games, making very slow starts. if they’re slow on this one, Walcott will light them up.

Mesut Ozil ($13 with sportsbet.com.au)

It’s hard to understand why this guy cops so much flack. I guess we expect more from our most talented players. And that’s exactly what Ozil is. Arsenal’s most talented player in a team of super skilled men. Ozil has created more scoring opportunities than anyone else in the league this season and has been on the record as saying he needs to be more selfish in front of goals. “I have to become more dangerous in front of the goal. I was injured for long spells last season, and scored only five in 32 competitive games. I want to improve this. To achieve it, I have to be a bit more egotistical.” That bodes well for the creative attacking midfielder to reward punters with the first goal of the game against Chelsea. Forget about setting them up, Mesut, put them in the back of the net.