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Chelsea vs Arsenal: Enzo Fernandez and Raheem Sterling impress but Blues must back up progress against Gunners

Chelsea have won three consecutive matches for the first time since March but are 11th in the Premier League, nine points behind Arsenal; watch Chelsea vs Arsenal on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Main Event and Premier League from 5pm; kick-off 5.30pm

Chelsea's 4-1 thrashing of Burnley at Turf Moor earlier this month stands out for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it marked just the second time in a year that they had earned three successive victories, coming as it did on the back of a Carabao Cup win over Brighton and three points being claimed at Fulham.

The result was also the first time Chelsea had scored more than three goals in a competitive match since a 6-0 thumping of Southampton in March 2022.

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If any further evidence were needed of just how bad the Blues had been for the past year, the success at Burnley also meant Chelsea went into a mid-season international break on the back of a win for the first time in 19 months.

Being able to spend the last week and a half relaxing in the belief that their side may have finally turned a corner has been a rare luxury for Chelsea supporters.

But are these results evidence that the west Londoners are getting back to where they think they belong or simply the product of favourable fixtures? Moreover, is there a rude awakening on the horizon when Arsenal visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday, live on Sky Sports?

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Charlotte Marsh is joined by Zinny Boswell to discuss Chelsea's recent improvement in form and a revitalised Raheem Sterling

Pochettino's undeniable influence

Anybody watching Chelsea closely this season would have been able to see the positive impact Mauricio Pochettino has made since taking charge.

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The results - just two wins from their first seven games - may not have backed it up, but Pochettino's Chelsea are easier on the eye than either of Graham Potter or Frank Lampard's sides.

Whereas Chelsea's underlying numbers last season showed they were nothing more than a mid-table team, the former Tottenham boss has generated clear improvements all over the pitch.


Chelsea now rank seventh for expected goals in the Premier League after coming 12th last season, while they are fourth for expected goals conceded compared to 11th in the previous campaign.

What is more, Chelsea have gone from seventh to second for possessions won in the attacking third per match, pointing to obvious improvements in their ability to press the opposition.

But before getting too carried away, it's important to note Pochettino continues to grapple with the issue that undermined Potter - Chelsea's continued underperformance in front of goal compared to their expected output.

Last season, the Blues had the worst expected goals differential in the Premier League, hitting the net 12.08 fewer times than they should have done.

That profligacy continues to be a problem, with only Everton's misfiring forwards outdoing Chelsea in that particular metric this season.

Pochettino will no doubt hope that routine win at Burnley was the moment the floodgates finally opened.

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Sky Sports' Josh Hayward quizzes Chelsea's Conor Gallagher on his career so far, including encounters with Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea goalscoring records and even who runs his baths!

Fernandez is key - but where are the goals?

The player that perhaps best represents the changes Pochettino has implemented is Enzo Fernandez, the midfielder who shone as a No 8 when helping Argentina to World Cup glory but then saw himself replacing Jorginho in front of the back four after joining Chelsea in January.

Fernandez only showed glimpses of his quality as Chelsea limped to the end of a dispiriting season but Pochettino was in no doubt of Fernandez's ideal role when speaking to Sky Sports in August, firmly stating the 22-year-old "is a No 8".

Harry Wilson of Fulham is challenged by Enzo Fernandez of Chelsea
Image: Enzo Fernandez in action against Fulham as Chelsea claimed a 2-0 win

The wins over Fulham and Burnley coincided with Pochettino settling on a three-player midfield, with Moises Caicedo as the pivot and Conor Gallagher and Fernandez on either side.

The World Cup winner has quickly become key to Chelsea's set-up, ranking second for completed passes and third for final-third completed passes per 90 among all Premier League midfielders this season.

He is a No 8. One of the first things when we met him is to talk about his position and how he feels comfortable, and then to talk about his quality. He needs some freedoms. He has the quality to assist, to shoot from outside the box.
Mauricio Pochettino on Enzo Fernandez, August 2023

But, as with Pochettino's team, there is still plenty of room for improvement - particularly in front of goal. Fernandez is yet to score in 26 Premier League games, while he has just two assists.

Extracting more of his compatriot's undoubted potential would go a long way to helping Pochettino sustain his side's improvement.

Sterling embracing leadership role

The pivot to youth under Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali's leadership has been so drastic that, at just 28, Raheem Sterling is the third-oldest player in Chelsea's first team.

The four-time Premier League winner looked lost after joining Chelsea last season, at times selected as a striker by Thomas Tuchel and a wing-back by Potter, with injuries also restricting his progress.

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FREE TO WATCH: Raheem Sterling claims a goal and assist as Chelsea cruise past Burnley

But with Pochettino consistently asking him to play in his favoured role on the wing - and perhaps spurred on by his ejection from the England squad - Sterling has attacked his second season at Stamford Bridge head on.


The former Manchester City forward ranks above all his team-mates for goals and successful take-ons per 90 in the Premier League, while he also has the rare distinction of being a Chelsea forward that is outperforming his xG total.

Sterling revealed during pre-season that he feels "great" after changing his diet in a bid to shake off his injury troubles and the decision appears to be paying dividends as he looks to lead Chelsea's youthful dressing room by example.

Arsenal provide acid test

As with most things, there are two ways of looking at Chelsea's progress during the first few months of Pochettino's reign.

Fernandez and Sterling have been impressive, a first-choice XI is beginning to emerge and the team are on the up across a variety of metrics - but eight games represents a small sample size.

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Ahead of their clash live on Sky Sports, we look back at a classic match from Stamford Bridge where there were theatrical antics between Arsenal's Jens Lehmann and Chelsea's Didier Drogba, plus a screamer from Michael Essien

For any Chelsea supporters getting carried away after league wins over Fulham and Burnley, it's worth noting Opta ranks the Blues' fixture list to be the third-easiest so far this season - yet they are still in the bottom half of the table.

Whether Chelsea's improvement is sustainable will become clear between now and Christmas, with matches against Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City, Newcastle and Manchester United all contributing to a schedule that Opta rates as the fourth-toughest during that period.

The Gunners are first up and will arrive in west London having won seven of their last eight matches against Chelsea. In fact, having not claimed victory at Stamford Bridge in nearly 10 years, Arsenal have now won on their last three visits.

Beating up the Premier League's weakest sides is all well and good - but ending Arsenal's dominance of their rivalry will provide the proof that is needed to take Chelsea's resurgence seriously.

Watch Chelsea vs Arsenal on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Main Event and Premier League from 5pm; kick-off 5.30pm.

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