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Capital One Cup Match Preview: Arsenal v Chelsea

This match presents Arsenal supporters with a bit of a quandary. We are starved for silverware. Any silverware. 8 years is a long time and any chance to win something shouldn’t be looked at lightly. On the other hand, not many envisioned the start to the season Arsenal are having right now and don’t want that to end.

This match presents Arsenal supporters with a bit of a quandary. We are starved for silverware. Any silverware. 8 years is a long time and any chance to win something shouldn’t be looked at lightly. On the other hand, not many envisioned the start to the season Arsenal are having right now and don’t want that to end.

Part of it likely depends on where you fall on whether or not you believe Arsenal have a realistic title chance. Pundits like Graeme Souness and Alan Hansen have been telling us all season – Hansen as early as this week – that Arsenal are no better than fourth. Basically calling our success early on a mirage and the poor form of perennial favorites City, United and Chelsea minor blips. All of this done without a shred of any analytic review, just their own rather biased lens.

For my part I do believe that Arsenal have as good a chance at the title as they have in a while. First remember that most of this success has been done without a long list of injured first teamers and impact players. Secondly, we all know firsthand that 3 losses this early in the season while not a death knoll are very hard to overcome when you are challenging for a title.

So, yes we can challenge for the title. It still beggars the question – what do we do about this match today against Chelsea?

It has a pseudo feel of – what if they through a cup match and no one cared. While both managers will talk it up, both Wenger and Mourinho have their eyes firmly focused elsewhere. Both manager’s have to be buoyed with how their teams are performing domestically and both know that the Champion’s League contains riches beyond anything the Capital One Cup can offer.

Mourinho is giving this tie a good go by claiming that the schedule makers were more favorable to Arsenal who played the early game Saturday while his Chelsea side had to play on Sunday late in the day. Basically, Arsenal have had a day and half more rest then his squad.

It’s a valiant attempt by Jose to place some “focus” on a match. But not many are fooled. Both set of supporters are likely to give this match a requisite “meh” on the excitement scale. Sure, bragging rights are at stake. Additionally, you can expect some set of punditry and supporters talking up the effect of either team losing. For us Arsenal supporters it likely will be – (should we lose) – Arsenal met up with another good team and lost. That statement will ignore the squad that Arsene Wenger is likely to field in this match.

I am sure it will have some quality players. I expect Jack Wilshere to start. Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny will likely get the CB pairing.  Naxto Monreal and Carl Jenkinson will likely round out the back four. With either Fabianski or Viviano in goal it’s actually not a bad defensive set up.

The rest of the set up will not be complete novices. Serge Gnabry, fresh off of new deal, will get a nod as will the man looking for redemption, Nicklas Bendtner. Serge Gnabry represents another young player who seems to be coming of age at Arsenal and is one the league’s promising talents.

For my own part, I am known and avid critic of Nicky B. But, I would be lying if a part of me wasn’t hopeful that Nick is maturing and realizing that he is on his last chance to prove to ANYONE that he has what it takes to make it at the top level.

It really is a wonderful chance for him. As all, supporters do, you support a player who wears the shirt, no matter what you may think of their overall skill and it’s why I will be rooting like mad for him to make us all go “take a bow son.” I’m always into the redemptive qualities of a man (and players for Arsenal).

I think you can also expect to see Tomas Rosicky get into this side as he returns to fitness. Again, this is a player I am so ecstatic is still at Arsenal. He may not be the same dynamo who we all fell  in love with when he scored that goal after zipping through the Arsenal defense for Prague or who single-handedly won a match for Dortmund against us or who’s magic led us to call him “Little Mozart.” What he still has is an engine, desire and hunger for Arsenal that I hope many young players emulate.  If he starts (and I expect he does) he will be the driving force to get Arsenal going.

Chelsea are not going to be exactly “light” either as Jose will give starts to bench-warmers Juan Mata (if anyone ever understands why this man doesn’t start for Chelsea let me know), Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel, and Mark Schawarzer.

We are told that Jose and Arsene have buried the hatchet. Heck, Jose even went so far as to praise Wenger this past summer:

“I respect him a lot and I will show my respect always. (In) football sometimes even if you are friends and respect each other, you say something the other doesn’t like and you react.

“But at the end of the day I respect him a lot and I have the feeling that he is the same in relation to me. I wouldn’t bet on one single problem between us.” – Mourinh in an interview with Sky Sports this past July.

It also should be noted that Jose was the first to actually give Arsenal credit as a title contender. After signing Mesut Özil, the player he calls the “best number 10 in the world,” Jose refused to approve the loan of Demba Ba to Arsenal because he felt signing Özil made them genuine title contenders.

All a mark difference from the heyday of when the two managers literally despised each other. We all remember Mourinho playing into the vile paedo chant by insinuating that Arsene was peering at the going’s on at Stamford Bridge. We all knew very well what the Portuguese manager was implying.

But it’s all supposedly toned down now. Still, look for the other to (even internally) want to get one over the other.  After all the acrimony that made Wenger say;

“There are plenty of managers who have won the Champions League who will not be considered great managers.”

Or when Mourinho said:

“Instead of speaking about Real Madrid, Mr Wenger should speak about Arsenal and explain how he lost 2-0 against a team in the Champions League for the first time [FC Braga].”

Something still has to simmer right? Hopefully, because frankly, as stated earlier the interest in this match seems sort of blasé. I don’t think for a minute any of us would be upset if we won. Yes, it adds to the fixture list but as mentioned previously, we are a team and fan base starving for honours. But if we went out of the tournament, while there would be some acrimony from a boisterous minority, overall I don’t suspect there will be much reflection on “what could’ve been.”

Priorities being what they are winning the Capital One Cup is bottom of the list. That list at least for me is:

Premier League
Champion’s League
Champion’s League Qualification
FA Cup
Capital One Cup

Given Arsenal’s early season form, you must forgive me if my focus is firmly affixed on us keeping pace for the title through to January when additional reinforcements can be gotten to hopefully mount a final charge.

Still, expect a good showing from the boys. It’s at home and home is starting to sound a little more like home recently. There is likely a fair mix of youth and experience in the starting XI we’ll field tonight to make a win possible But like many, I won’t get all worked up if we don’t make it through. Though I will be chuffed if we do – of course.

Projected Arsenal lineup:
Fabianski; Jenkinson, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Monreal; Hayden, Wilshere, Eisfeld; Gnabry, Ryo; Bendtner

Predicted Score:
Arsenal: 2
Chelsea: 2

Pens to decide

So go ahead tell us what you think. Should Arsenal focus on the Capital One Cup? What’s your projected lineup? What do you think the score will be?

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