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Battle at the Bridge: Pressure on Emery as Sarri seeks home win



Battle at the Bridge: Pressure on Emery as Sarri seeks home win

Today’s mouth-watering clash in England between Chelsea and Arsenal – like many of the corresponding fixtures in recent time – will not just be about who will be having the bragging rights regarding the leading team in London, but will also put the managers of the two sides on the spotlight. The sides underwent change in the summer by replacing their previous managers with Maurizio Sarri and Unai Emery, who have since ushered in new playing styles at their respective clubs. Former Napoli coach Antonio Conte replaced Antonio Conte at Chelsea while the legendary Arsene Wenger was succeeded by Unai Emery, who left French multi-billionaire club, PSG Both managers endured defeats to start lives at their new clubs with Sarri losing the Community Shield to Man City while the Citizen’s also forced Emery to taste defeat in his first competitive game with the Gunners last week with a 2-0 defeat.

While Sarri could be said to be under no pressure, the same cannot be said of Emery who will have to get Arsenal to winning ways if they are to be among the top four at the end of the campaign – a position they were accustomed to for much part of last decade which proved their regular route to Champions League football, a feat they were unable to achieve in the last two seasons.

With five of their major rivals: Man City, Man United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea already three points ahead, Arsenal cannot afford to slip further and another defeat might bring about the nostalgia of Wenger, who many submitted caused heartaches than joy to the Gunners’ fans while he reigned at the club.

While it’s hard to judge the Spaniard after just a game, Gunners’ fans weren’t happy with the manner of the loss in his first game, especially the first half performance, which provoked negative reactions. Emery, expectedly, has brought a new style to Arsenal which was noted against City, in which the Gunners play out from the back and press their opponents higher up the pitch.

This change in playing style saw Arsenal unnerve the champions although, in the end, they still lost 2-0. On a good day, this fixture is noted for producing great memories with Arsenal on a few occasions bulldozing the Bridge while at other times they were easily disarmed by their hosts.

The hat-trick by Nwankwo Kanu in a come-from-the-dead 3-2 win in 1999 and that of Robin van Persie in a 5-2 win in 2012 still live in the memories of Gunners faithful and those that have been following this fixture while for Chelsea, the 6-0 win in the 2012/2013. Former Napoli coach Sarri, who replaced Antonio Conte, a fellow Italian, somehow turned the fortunes of the Blues around which led to a 3-0 win at Huddersfield Town last week while after Antonio Conte was sacked despite winning the Premier League and the FA Cup titles during his two-year spell at Stamford Bridge.

Sarri has since gone about switching from the 3-5-2 formation that Conte largely used in his second season in charge of the Blues to a 4-3-3 set-up, which saw Chelsea score three goals away to Huddersfield on the opening weekend of the new Premier League season. Arsenal, meanwhile, opted to appoint Emery as Wenger’s successor at the Emirates Stadium – with the Spaniard implementing a new style, in which his side play out from the back and press their opponents higher up the pitch. Sarri and Emery will now come up against each other for the first time since arriving in the Premier League when Chelsea host their London rivals Arsenal at Stamford Bridge and it would be interesting to see how the game turns out.

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