Alonso gets Chelsea past Arsenal in thriller

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  • Pedro, Morata put hosts up 2-0
  • Mkhitaryan, Iwobi level by half
  • Winner comes from Alson

Marcos Alonso buried Eden Hazard‘s 81st minute pass to lead Chelsea past Arsenal 3-2 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Alvaro Morata and Pedro helped the Blues build a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, but Unai Emery’s Gunners recovered to make it 2-2 at halftime.

Arsenal next hosts West Ham United, while Chelsea is off to Newcastle United.

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The hosts were up thanks to a left-sided barnstorming, with Willian starting the play with a with a lay-off inside his own half. The next move saw Marcos Alonso racing toward the edge of the 18 to pass across for Pedro to finish with calm.

Ross Barkley came close to doubling the advantage in the 13th minute.

It should’ve been level when Matteo Guendouzi fired Hector Bellerin through the right of the Chelsea back line, but the offside and uncalled Spaniard’s pull back was aired over the goal by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Moments later, it was 2-0 Chelsea through Morata. The Spanish striker ran from midfield and held off a Shkrodan Mustafi challenge before cutting to fire past Cech.

Arsenal blew a second well-worked chance over the frame, this time with Henrikh Mkhitaryan sending a point-blank offering into the stands. Woof.

Mkhitaryan redeemed himself with a powerful shot from outside the box. The Armenian captain was in good position after Alex Iwobi found him with Nacho Monreal‘s inspired interception.

That was not the end of the first half scoring.

It was close to a mirror image of an earlier missed chance by Aubameyang, as Iwobi ran into the 18 to belt  a shot home for 2-2.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The chances did not dry up as the second half began in London, and a N'Golo Kante shot was blocked to the cries of handball from Chelsea’s players.

Jorginho‘s deflected 64th minute rip was collected by Cech after Chelsea introduced Eden Hazard off the bench.

Momentum swung Arsenal’s way as the match reached is final quarter-hour, as Kepa Arrizabalaga made a save and took a beating in the 77th minute.

Kante popped a header over the goal in the 79th minute after running in front of Sokratis.

Scoring defender extraordinaire Alonso put Chelsea back on top in the 81st, slapping Eden Hazard’s hopeful pullback beyond Cech.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Arsenal

Associated Press
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  • Chelsea has won 5 of last 6 home league matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal has lost 5 of last 6 PL away matches
  • Alvaro Morata has 1 goal in last 15 PL matches

Both teams have new managers, but that’s about where the similarities stop with these two London giants that will clash on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET at Stamford Bridge on NBC.

Chelsea’s new manager is looking to instill an additional attacking flair after taking over for a countrymate whose first focus was defensive structure. The Blues dazzled in their opening match, but still have plenty of room for more sharpness up front as they return Eden Hazard to an already dangerous lineup.

[ WATCH LIVE: Chelsea vs. Arsenal live on NBC ]

Arsenal’s new boss, meanwhile, takes over for a club legend who seemed to lose his way, hoping to shore things up at the back after the Gunners seemingly deteriorated as the years under Arsene Wenger waned on. Their defensive frailties were on display in the season opener as they were shredded by last year’s runaway champions, losing handily to what seemed like the clearly better team. They have lost a young up-and-coming star in Ainsley Maitland-Niles to a long-term leg injury, and the starting goalkeeper was shredded for poor play last weekend.

Despite all that, the points don’t care which team is facing what circumstances, they simply find the team with the better scoreline after 90 minutes. So who will come out victorious at Stamford Bridge?

[ MORE: How will Chelsea and Arsenal line up? ]

As stated earlier, Hazard should return to the Blues’ starting lineup after playing 14 minutes in the opener and assisting a goal, while Cesc Fabregas remains out with his knee problem that Sarri called “very unusual.” Ross Barkley could make way for the Belgian star in midfield, or Willian may sit instead. Mateo Kovacic could also see time in midfield if Sarri truly wanted to shuffle the deck so soon.

For the Gunners, Maitland-Niles is out but Nacho Monreal likely returns in time to take his place, although Sead Kolasinac remains out as does Carl Jenkinson. Unai Emery could hand Lucas Torreira his first Premier League start after the 22-year-old was impressive as a substitute for starter Granit Xhaka against Manchester City. Would it be the Swiss to make way for his younger Uruguayan counterpart, or would Aaron Ramsey sit instead? Petr Cech will reportedly retain his place in goal despite a poor performance in the opener.

What they’re saying

Arsenal manager Unai Emery on maintaining spirit: “We need to keep our personality, our mentality. Against [Manchester] City, the team kept their ideas, kept their spirit in the game for the full 90 minutes even when we were losing. That was a good thing. I want us to continue with this work and to be competitive for 90 minutes, but with a better performance both individually and collectively.”

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri on Arsenal under Emery: “For everybody it’s difficult against Manchester City. I think Emery is a very good coach. He won three times the Europa League, he won in France with PSG. I think Arsenal this season will be competitive. I think they will be able to fight for a place in Champions League.”

Prediction

Chelsea’s season-opening test wasn’t exactly of top-drawer difficulty, but they clearly have less distance to go under Sarri than Arsenal does under Emery. For that reason, the Blues should be able to defend home court with ease, winning 3-1 with the Gunners making things interesting at 2-1 before a late goal sends the home crowd comfortably happy.

Top Premier League storylines for Week 2

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
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Week 2 of the Premier League season brings another gigantic match-up, with Arsenal following up its visit from Manchester City by traveling across London to face lively foe Chelsea.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

All that and four more things to watch closely this weekend in England and Wales.

New managers Emery, Sarri helm big London rivalry
Chelsea vs. Arsenal — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC [ STREAM ]

Antonio Conte‘s probable hopes that Chelsea would be a shambles without him didn’t look true when the Blues bashed Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium on opening weekend, while some extreme Arsenal fan hopes that their stumbles were simply down to Arsene Wenger were washed away in a haze of Man City ball possession.

Now Chelsea has a chance to soak the Gunners’ early season in misery, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal will know they can make opening weekend a thing of the past by joining the Blues on three points with a big away win.

London Derby tests Kane’s August record
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fulham — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN
[ STREAM ]

Harry Kane still hasn’t scored in August, and Fulham allowed a pair of goals in their return to the Premier League last weekend against Palace. The Cottagers have enjoyed Wembley recently in earning promotion through the playoffs, and new player Jean Michael Seri — a reported Spurs target before joining Fulham — looked exceptional in the loss to Palace.

Ryan Sessegnon of Fulham battles with Kieran Trippier of Tottenham Hotspur during an FA Cup fifth round match in 2017 (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Will Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds keep roaring at Selhurst Park?
Crystal Palace vs. Liverpool — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Liverpool has won four-straight matches at Selhurst Park, but its record against Palace overall isn’t phenomenal over the last half-decade. That said, Jurgen Klopp’s men are clearly favorite to catch Manchester City if anyone can, and getting wins from matches like this is what contenders do along the way to Titletown.

Take two for Leicester and Wolves
Leicester City vs. Wolves — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold
 [ STREAM ]

Ruben Neves of Wolves announced his entry into the Premier League with a super performance in Wolves’ 2-2 home draw with 10-man Everton at the Molineux, but the one point gained somehow feel less than expected from the newly-promoted side. Leicester was outplayed by Manchester United in its opener, and will hope the King Power Stadium is what will kickstart their season… and maybe help save Claude Puel‘s job as Foxes’ manager.

The Premier League returns to Cardiff with a perceived six-pointer
Cardiff City vs. Newcastle United — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN
[ STREAM ]

Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds couldn’t get the job done at Bournemouth in Week One and their “doable” three-match stretch to restart life in the Premier League will feel really rough if they cannot land a point or better against Rafa Benitez‘s Newcastle.

This is Newcastle’s best chance at three points over the first month, and the Magpies could be staring at zero points through four matches if they fail to get the job done in Wales (which is a long way from St. James’ Park).

Cech talks tactics in Arsenal loss, Wenger-Emery differences

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Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech had himself an adventure on Sunday, playing the ball out of the back far more than his usual routine at club level.

But that’s how new Gunners boss Unai Emery wanted to attack Manchester City in what became a 2-0 loss to the reigning champions.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 0-2 Man City ]

The philosophy made sense to Cech, who spoke with NBCSN’s broadcast team of Arlo White, Robbie Earle, and Robbie Mustoe on the Emirates Stadium pitch after the final whistle.

“When you play a long ball you don’t always win the second ball,” Cech said. “We didn’t want them to have the comfort of them always starting with the ball. … They are used to pressing really high. They do it really well so at times we put ourselves under pressure but it’s a work in progress. Although we lost today, it’s going to give us a lot of positive thinking for the next game.”

Naturally, Cech was also quizzed about playing for Emery after three seasons under longtime Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

“Arsene is more about leaving the freedom to the players to decide how they want to do the actions, how they feel in that moment,” Cech said. “With Unai, we work specifically we want to do and how we want to do it. Obviously we had a big task today to do the same thing we worked on since the beginning of preseason. I thought we did it pretty well.”

Arsenal’s text match comes Saturday at Chelsea, Cech’s old team. Another performance like this, and Cech may have to give way to Bernd Leno when West Ham visits on Aug. 25.

Which new regime has better Top Four chance: Chelsea or Arsenal?

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Arsenal changed managers for the first time since 1996.

Chelsea’s flipped bosses for the 13th time in that time span.

Both are hoping for similar results.

WATCH LIVE: Transfer Deadline Day show, August 9 at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com 

The London giants sat outside the Top Four when the dust settled on the Premier League season, Chelsea one year removed from the league throne and Arsenal staring up at four or more clubs for the second time in-a-row.

So which one has a better look at finding a way back to the Top Four?

The Chelsea argument is pretty straight-forward: Their temperamental players bailing on a manager then rebounding to win the Premier League with another has happened before, and it was just two seasons ago.

Maurizio Sarri has brought in Jorginho to help instill his system and team up with N'Golo Kante to make the midfield a no-pass zone. The defense is back, and both Alvaro Morata and Tiemoue Bakayoko now have a year’s worth of PL experience. The young studs, perhaps with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ethan Ampadu atop the list, are also prepared to break into the fold if given a chance.

As for Arsenal, the club needed to sort its back line in a big way, and have taken great steps to do so with Stephane Lichtsteiner and Sokratis. Granit Xhaka was maligned for his mistakes but had more good performances than bad. The Gunners have a terrific pair of forwards in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, and no shortage of playmakers to pull the strings (including an inspired and supported Mesut Ozil and industrious but unheralded Aaron Ramsey).

The hope for Arsenal is that life really was stale on Arsene Wenger, that the great man was genuinely holding them back over the past two seasons.

Both clubs have better hope to challenge the best clubs in the league this season, but Chelsea’s record of spinning poor seasons into good ones keeps them a head above the Gunners in our book.