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Match Preview: Chelsea v Arsenal; Table is Set – Can Arsenal Tip it Over?

Prior to the Dinamo fiasco, I was of the mind that Arsenal would absolutely go into Chelsea and come out winners. Now, with the poor result, I quietly wonder if we have the mindset to go in there and perform like we did last season against Man City.

Certainly, Arsenal have shown recently that they can play against the big boys and come out winners. The tie at the Etihad was a master-class in counter-attacking football and control of the ball to kill off a game. It was a thing of beauty.

Additionally, the FA Cup tie against Manchester United highlighted improved focus on winning away. Throughout the second half of the season, Arsenal kept showing that they knew how to win on the road and do without the aesthetic we have come to equate with an Arsenal squad.

Chelsea away has proved difficult for Arsenal. Chelsea away with Jose Mourinho in charge has been neigh on impossible. Even with Arsenal breaking their duck against Mourinho in the Community Shield you still have to wonder if in the league we can do the same.

The ray of hope is that Chelsea even with their win in the midweek against Champion’s League minnows, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, aren’t in any good shape either.

For a team that walked away with the Premier League last season, they are mired in a fitful start.  They are getting run over in the midfield with the creative players having their creativity sucked away. Instead of the controlling 4-3-3 that was what made Chelsea a juggernaut under Jose the first time around, they’ve shifted to a 4-2-3-1 and it’s had an uneasy effect on their title defense.

The problem there is Chelsea and Jose aren’t a counter-attacking side in their abilities. They’ve tried to work the high pressure system but when it goes wrong, the midfield can’t deal with the attack of the opposition.

Additionally, the left winger whom everyone had christened the next great superstar can’t be arsed to play half the time. Finally their manager can’t seem to find the right strategies to work with the players he has. Chelsea aren’t struggling because of any one player or person – it’s systemic.

It all should play into Arsenal’s hands. We’re adept at controlling the midfield and the ball. With Chelsea breaking down on the press – we could see gaps and exploit them. We’re patient (sometimes too much) and we should be able to find the weaknesses.

We also have speed. Chelsea have shown themselves terribly slow this season. Their back line is getting old and are making mistakes. Even if Giroud were lighting it up right now, the speed of Walcott would make him a preferred choice against this Chelsea side. However, because of Giroud’s midweek antics, we won’t see him get off the bench this week. I think he’ll be in the dog house for the near future – or until he gets his head on straight.

Still, with all the opportunity – the question remains are we mentally prepared to do what we need to do to win this game? Now, we’ve bleated on ad nauseum that we’ve underestimated the lower tiered opponents. Hopefully, we’re looking at this and saying we need to come out strong and take advantage of a Chelsea side that can’t sit back.

Let’s face it both sides need this win. If Chelsea were looking to do their normal look for a draw against the bigger sides they may find this to be a long day. They’ve got to come out and play. If they do, then Arsenal need to see that, react to it and play exactly as they did against City.

If Chelsea want to sit back and try and counter themselves then we’ve got to use our strengths to our advantage. We can’t look to cross the ball to Theo from the flanks. Keep the ball on the ground with quick hard passing to exploit Chelsea’s desire to press. But it has to be done with emphasis and pace.

I’m all for patience but being patient sometimes allows the opposition to get back and clog up the middle. When they do that we are lost. We amble around the pitch, passing, passing and passing some more. We can’t operate this way. Not if we want to pile on Chelsea’s misery.

If there was ever a time to get one over in the league against Chelsea, it’s now. The lads though have to a.) get over the midweek result and the accompanying malaise  and b.) have to come at this match with vigor.

Sure the last is a cliché but it’s true. I just watch this Arsenal side and keep wondering when does it click in. This is a talented group of players. It’s got World Class talents in who are underperforming. It’s got strong, young, talented players who aren’t finding their rhythm. In a nutshell we’re nowhere near the level we could and should be playing at.

Arsenal come out flat and it’s over tomorrow. We’ve ceded the match at the outset. We don’t chase games well. If we have to chase this one – it won’t be pretty.

I am a growing minority in that I still think this team as it’s made up can challenge for the title. However, I accept that we’re not showing that potential on a regular basis. Now would be a very good time to do it.

Players to Watch:
Arsenal. Mesut Özil. If you expect him to take a match by the scruff of the neck you’re going to keep waiting. But if you look for someone who quietly goes about their business and influences the flow of the match and provides flourishes of absolute brilliance – he’s your man. Look for him to be the key to Arsenal’s success in this match

Chelsea. John Terry. The last person to admit a player is on the decline is the player himself. Rafa was chided for saying Terry had to be managed and couldn’t play every game in a season. Are we seeing the results of having him play every game last season?

Probable Lineups:

Click to enlarge

Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal:  Wilshere (leg), Welbeck (knee), Rosicky (knee)

Chelsea: Courtois (knee), Willian (hamstring) Falcao (achilles – doubtful), Oscar (knee – doubtful), Pedro (thigh – doubtful)

Head to Head:

Match Officials:
Referee: Mike Dean (3M 17Y 0R)
Assistant Referees: S Long, S Burt
Fourth Official: M Oliver

Broadcast Information:
UK: BT Sport – 12.45 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network – 7:45 AM EST

YAMA Predictions:
With both teams looking to win this, I see a DRAW of not so epic proportions in the cards. Chelsea, won’t want to expose themselves and play open as trying to win the match requires and Arsenal, smarting from the midweek result will manage to impress slightly but only enough for an equal result.

Chelsea 1 – 1 Arsenal

Match Facts: (Courtesy via Opta)

  • Chelsea are unbeaten against Arsenal in their last seven Barclays Premier League encounters (W4 D3).
  • The Gunners have failed to score in their last four Premier League matches against the Blues and have managed just two goals in their last seven league games against them.
  • Arsene Wenger secured his first win over Jose Mourinho in the Community Shield on his 14th attempt in all competitions (D6 L7).
  • Eden Hazard has scored in the Blues’ last two PL clashes with Arsenal at Stamford Bridge, with both goals coming in the first half from the penalty spot.
  • Jose Mourinho has never lost successive league home games as a manager – he lost his last home league game against Crystal Palace (1-2).
  • Theo Walcott has scored 11 goals in his last 11 Premier League starts for Arsenal.
  • The Gunners have won seven and lost none of their last eight Premier League away matches.
  • Chelsea have kept five clean sheets in their last seven Premier League games against Arsenal, including the last four in a row.
  • Arsenal have fired in the most shots on target in the Premier League (39), while Chelsea have allowed their opponents the most in the top flight (38).
  • Only David James (169) has kept more clean sheets than Petr Cech (165) in Premier League history and the Czech has not been beaten in his last three league outings.



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