London (AFP) – Chelsea and Arsenal’s new regimes under Maurizio Sarri and Unai Emery got off to contrasting Premier League starts, but Saturday’s clash between the two will provide a truer test of where the London rivals stand.
Failure to qualify for this season’s Champions League provoked big changes at both clubs.
But while Chelsea are used to the upheaval of coaches coming and going under Roman Abramovich, Arsenal are still settling into Emery’s new era after 22 years with Arsene Wenger in charge.
The early signs suggest it will take Emery time to stem years of decline towards the end of Wenger’s reign.
However, the Spaniard had the misfortune to face champions Manchester City on his Premier League debut as Arsenal were outclassed in a 2-0 defeat on home soil last weekend.
Sarri has also insisted it will take at least two months to implement the free-flowing attacking style that made him a coach in demand at Napoli.
But, despite a disrupted pre-season due to his late arrival at Stamford Bridge to replace Antonio Conte, the departure of Thibaut Courtois and speculation over a host of other key players, Chelsea were too good for Huddersfield in an opening day 3-0 win.
There were already clear hallmarks of Sarri’s influence as Jorginho, who followed his boss from Napoli to Chelsea in the summer, controlled the midfield.
Chelsea are likely to be even stronger this weekend as Eden Hazard could return to the starting line-up after he shone in a 15-minute cameo at Huddersfield following his World Cup exertions with Belgium.
Conte won just one of eight meetings with Arsenal in two seasons in charge. A quick reversal of fortunes this weekend would suggest Sarri is headed in the right direction.
Spurs’ home from home
After failing to sign a single player in the transfer window, Tottenham’s poor month off the field continued with the news this week that the club’s new stadium won’t be ready until at least October.
That means Mauricio Pochettino’s men will play their first three home games of the season at Wembley, starting with the visit of Fulham on Saturday.
Pochettino has vowed to deliver wins for fans frustrated by the delay.
And more fixtures at the home of English football might not be a handicap on Spurs’ ambitions. After failing to win any of their first three home games last season, Tottenham won 13 of the next 16 Premier League games at Wembley once they adjusted to their new surroundings.