London (AFP) – Arsenal and Chelsea have been reduced to also-ran status by Manchester City’s blistering pace in the title race, but there is still a lot to learn when the London rivals clash at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
With champions Chelsea lagging 14 points behind City and Arsenal sitting six points outside the top four, there’s clearly plenty of room for improvement in both teams.
Here AFP Sport looks at the problem areas for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte:
Rebels with a cause
After boldly deciding against selling Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil before the start of the season, Wenger has seen his gamble backfire as speculation about Arsenal’s contract rebels has been a constant distraction.
Sanchez and Ozil are out of contract at the end of the season and have refused to sign new deals, raising the possibility that both could be sold in January to avoid losing them for free in June.
Making matters worse, Sanchez, who was frustrated by Wenger’s refusal to let him join Manchester City in August, has pouted his way through the campaign — frustrating players, coaches and fans in the process.
City, Paris Saint Germain and Real Madrid are all contenders to rid Wenger of the Sanchez problem, but the damage has already been done.
German midfielder Ozil, wanted by Manchester United and Barcelona, has been less overtly troublesome, but his inconsistent performances have hardly suggested complete commitment to the cause.
No wonder former Arsenal star Martin Keown said: “Wenger puts so much trust in his players but Sanchez and Ozil have been overindulged.
“You wonder where they would be had these two been fully committed for the whole season.”
Although Alvaro Morata has been a qualified success in his first season at Chelsea, the former Real Madrid striker has been virtually the sole goal threat for Conte’s men.
Morata has scored 12 times, but only twice in his last seven league games.
With 39 league goals this season, the Blues have scored less than the other teams currently in the top four.
Solving that problem has been impossible for Conte because Belgian forward Michy Batshuayi, the main back up for Morata, has scored only twice in the league and hasn’t netted since October.
Conte is certain to push for a new striker to be signed in the January transfer window, with Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi and Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi among potential targets.