Morata out, Kovacic in? How Chelsea could line up against Arsenal

Chelsea will be looking to inflict a second successive Premier League defeat on Unai Emery when they entertain Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Despite strong performances from his players against Huddersfield, Maurizio Sarri will be acutely aware that Arsenal represent a far sterner test than the Terriers and he could tweak his tactics accordingly.

Here’s how Chelsea could look to counter Arsenal’s threats and take advantage of their weaknesses.

Hazard as a false 9?

Alvaro Morata’s failure to get on the scoresheet against Huddersfield means that he has scored just once from his last 14 Premier League fixtures.

It might be too early to discard Morata from his starting line-up but Sarri’s post-match press conference comments weren’t exactly a ringing endorsement of the Spaniard’s qualities.

“Against Huddersfield, I think he was better than in pre-season. He needs to score, but every striker in the world needs to score,” he said.

While Morata is no slouch, Sarri could be tempted to field Hazard alongside Pedro and Willian in a zippy three-pronged attack, in an attempt to unsettle Arsenal’s rearguard.

Summer signings Sokratis and Stephan Lichsteiner are both in their 30s and vulnerable against pace while Petr Cech demonstrated against Manchester City that he may not be the sweeper-keeper that Emery craves.

Although Hazard appeared reluctant to play on his own up front under Antonio Conte, Sarri is far less pragmatic than his compatriot and his tactical philosophy could make such a switch work to the Belgian’s benefit, rather than his detriment.

Kovacic debut in midfield?

As part of the deal that saw Thibaut Courtois move to Real Madrid, Mateo Kovacic was loaned to Chelsea for the season in a bid to get the Croatian more first-team minutes.

It could be argued that Kovacic isn’t necessarily the kind of player Chelsea needed given Sarri seems to be a fan of Ross Barkley and also has Ruben Loftus-Cheek to call upon.

The three all possess similar qualities and attributes in that they are technically gifted ball carriers who can pick apart defences with intuitive passes around the 18-yard-box.

There is no question, though, that as talented as all three are, Kovacic is by far the most advanced in terms of his development having played a part in three successive Champions League wins.

Presumably, Kovacic would have been given assurances that he would feature regularly for the Blues too as it wouldn’t be worthwhile taking a step down to remain a squad option.

With Jorginho slotting into the base of midfield and N’Golo Kante being pushed into a more advanced box-to-box role, Sarri needs to settle on a first-choice creator to complete his midfield triumvirate.

Given how Arsenal struggled to contain Bernardo Silva’s roving runs from a No 8 role on Sunday, Sarri could be tempted to unleash Kovacic this weekend.

Predicted line-up: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger, Alonso; Jorginho, Kante, Barkley; Pedro, Willian, Hazard

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