Chelsea at Arsenal preseason predicted XI: Never mind, still 3-4-3

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LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 26: Kurt Zouma of Chelsea holds off Joe Willock of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on December 26, 2020 in London, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Andrew Boyers – Pool/Getty Images)

Chelsea is now heading into its third preseason game of the summer (fourth if you want to count the intrasquad game that took the place of the cancelled friendly). The Blues won against Bournemouth in their first televised preseason contest last time out, but they had to do it the hard way and come from behind. They got carved open quite easily, though that shouldn’t be a worry comparing the team that played to the team that would be playing in competitive matches. Few players made a case to displace any of the current starters. Chelsea goes into another preseason match, this one meaning a little more to the Blues, who had Arsenal do the double over them in the 2020/21 season. The game is also being played for charity as a part of The Mind Series.

Thomas Tuchel has to start getting his team ready for the new season, but he’s still without a lot of his 2020/21 starters. Therefore, what does his starting XI look like against the Gunners?

Kepa Arrizabalaga (No. 1) Goalkeeper

Kepa Arrizabalaga’s distribution left a lot to be desired in the friendly against Bournemouth, though it’s still preseason and everyone is still rusty. Arrizabalaga is still firmly second choice, even with the arrival of Marcus Bettinelli. He likely gets a nod in this game again to continue to build his fitness. He didn’t concede against Bournemouth, albeit playing only 45 minutes; he was good overall.

Dujon Sterling (NA) Right centerback

Dujon Sterling played relatively well at right centerback against the Cherries. Tuchel seems really interested in training someone to play Cesar Azpilicueta’s position and that’s fair because he has deputies in every other centerback spot except right centerback. The German manager doesn’t seem particularly satisfied with Reece James at centerback. Sterling seems to have impressed Tuchel so far, and he could play a role on the right for Chelsea this coming season. If he stays, he’d have a lot of competition in the right wingback role, but he could see his main minutes at right centerback.

Kurt Zouma (No. 15) Centerback

It’s been a difficult few days for Kurt Zouma. Returning from holiday and barely settling down only to be hearing about a swap deal involving himself through the media. It’s important to note that Zouma has not played outside England since he joined Chelsea in 2013. He has spent seven years living in England and he has a family there. Zouma has his family to think about more than himself and it makes sense for him to want to remain in London. Selfish fans are irritated at Zouma because he’s “holding up the Jules Kounde deal,” but it’s not up to the Frenchman to make transfer deals work out. He can only do what’s best for himself and his family.

Malang Sarr (NA) Left centerback

Malang Sarr has played every preseason game so far and he has looked OK. He made some key interceptions against Bournemouth and was generally and positively busy. Sarr is looking more and more like he’ll stay for the Chelsea season. He may not get much playing time, but he’s left footedness means that he’d likely deputize Antonio Rudiger in that left centerback spot. Left-footed centerbacks are rare and that probably increases Sarr’s stock in Tuchel’s eyes.

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