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Match Preview: Chelsea v Arsenal; Win Or It’s Bust

With Arsenal’s loss in the midweek to Watford, the timing of this match against Chelsea couldn’t be more unfortunate. Had we managed a win then, drawing or even (gasp) losing to Chelsea might have been okay. But with that loss when Chelsea v Arsenal kicks off, anything other than a win and it’s another bust in the title tilt for the Gunners.

The unexpected loss to Watford has left a pall over the Gunner faithful. Sitting second in the table and seeing Chelsea draw to Liverpool mean that all we had to do was play like we did against Southampton and we’d be looking at a tasty match up this weekend.

As it stands, we’re all left wondering if we’re going to be on the reverse end of a mauling.

When the two teams met earlier in the season, Arsenal had the best of it. Heading into half time the Gunners sat at 3-0 and were on course to handing Chelsea their biggest defeat in recent memory. At half time of that match Conte switched from a 4-3-3 to 3-4-3 and hasn’t looked back since.

In the 4-3-3 against Arsenal, the pattern play Conte was looking to create out wide, left his midfield terribly exposed. With Arsenal having the technical players who could take advantage of that space in the midfield it was the catalyst for the Gunners first half success against the Blues.

Switching to the 3-4-3 gave Conte some more stability with his team falling back into 5-4-1 without the ball. Combined with Arsenal sitting back and the second half of the match looked a little more balanced. Coming out of that match Chelsea would go on a 13 game unbeaten run and Arsenal while solid would have some slips that were consistent with well, being Arsenal.

So as the season has come to this point Chelsea have settled down a little. They still look pegged on for the title at this point, but if Arsenal are going to have anything to say about that, they will have to go to Stamford bridge and come out with the win.

Easier said then done.

When Spurds beat Chelsea and ended their run, Pochettino went with his own 3-4-3 and tried to match system for system with Conte. For a while the two systems negated each other. But what set Tottnumb up for success was they way they pressed against Chelsea.

They pressed harder and forced Chelsea to play more direct. In the 3-4-3 Conte employs he loves to see diamond pattern play out on the wings. The wing backs, forward, midfielder and outside defender usually making up the play. If you can take that away from Chelsea they become more predictable and direct.

By pressing from the front on the back three and simultaneously pressing the two midfielders Chelsea couldn’t move the ball with any sense of purpose or creativity. This meant they were pushed back and they couldn’t commit to the style of play Chelsea like to play.

Arsenal aren’t going to play a 3-4-3. It would be interesting to see but as well know Wenger will likely opt for his favorite 4-2-3-1 looking to exploit the middle.

What will dictate this match for us is the lineup Wenger chooses. If he wants to press up front, he has to go with Sanchez up top, Danny or Iwobi on the left, and Theo or Lucas on the right. This gives him enough speed up front to press from the front.

Then he needs his two deep midfielders and Özil at the 10 to press in the middle of the pitch at the same time the press is coming from the front. This should be enough to force Chelsea to be more direct and forgo trying to through the nice little diamonds they like to create.

If we sit off and start with a slower lineup, Chelsea will likely have a field day. They will their wide play, especially through Willian and Moses on the right to exploit the space and look for that killer pass to Costa.  Simply put putting Giroud up top makes us easy prey for Chelsea.

After the horrific way the midweek match played out, Arsenal need to come into this with the desire and purpose of winning the match. It’s not likely easy given Chelsea’s form since we last met. It won’t be easier with the likes of Xhaka and Santi Cazorla unavailable. But its got to be done. There is a blue print for it and they should follow it – even if that scummy lot are the one’s that established the plan.

Players to Watch:
Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez. If Arsenal do intend to press the hell out of Chelsea he’s the man that has to lead the line.

Chelsea: Victor Moses. Never even considered by Jose Mourinho, he’s a man reborn especially in Conte’s new system.

Probable Lineups:

Probable Lineups for Chelsea v Arsenal 04 February 2017

click to enlarge

Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Ramsey (calf strain), Cazorla ( foot), Xhaka (suspended 3 of 4)

Chelsea: None reported

Last 5:
Arsenal: WDWWL

Chelsea: WLWWD

Goals Scored Per Game:
Arsenal: 2.22

Chelsea: 2.09

Goal Conceded Per Game:
Arsenal: 1.09

Chelsea: 0.70

The Manager’s Perspective (courtesy

“Yes, of course,” he said. “Why not? If you look at our recent record, we have played some fantastic games. Even on Tuesday night, we did not have a disastrous performance, we just missed the first 10 or 15 minutes but after that we produced a decent performance and could have come back.

“I don’t know [if a defeat means our title challenge is over], but in a press conference you always have to deal with the ‘ifs’ and the consequences.

“I believe what’s most important is that we turn up with a positive performance. We have shown in the first game [this season] that we can beat Chelsea so let’s turn up with the same quality and show a straight response. What is at stake is how well we respond, in a united way and in a determined way, to get there and play our game.”

“When we beat them 3-0, I didn’t expect them to go 13 games unbeaten but I feel they found a better defensive balance,” said Wenger.

“They are very good in transition. I watched their game against Liverpool and N’Golo Kante had a huge impact in their team. It’s no coincidence that they are in the position that they are and Leicester were in the position they were last season.

“Eden Hazard and Diego Costa have come back to very strong form compared to last season, so they are very efficient when they go forward.

“It was a little bit of a wake-up call for them [at the Emirates] and Antonio Conte managed to change things in the right way. They benefit a little bit from the fact they are not in the Europa League or Champions League. They can prepare properly and if they want to change the system, they can work on it all week.

“That gave Conte time to prepare, to know the players better, and that certainly helped. The integration of N’Golo Kante has had a huge impact.”

Match Officials:
Referee: Martin Atkinson (16M 59Y, 1R)
Assistants: S Burt, S Child
Fourth official: S Attwell

Broadcast Information:
UK: Sky Sports 12.30 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network 7:30 AM EST

YAMA Predicts:
Chelsea 1 – 1 Arsenal

Match Facts (courtesy via Opta)

  • Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in September was their heaviest against them since April 1997 (also 3-0). They were previously unbeaten in nine Premier League games against Arsenal (W6 D3).
  • Arsenal have not done the double over Chelsea in the same season since 2003/04 – the season in which they last won the Premier League.
  • The last Chelsea manager to fail to win either of his first two league games against the Gunners was Jose Mourinho in 2004/05, while the last Chelsea boss to lose both was Glenn Hoddle in 1993/94.
  • Arsene Wenger has lost his last four league games at Stamford Bridge. The only away ground where he’s lost more in succession is Old Trafford (2009-2013).
  • The 3-0 loss to Arsenal in September was Antonio Conte’s heaviest league defeat since October 2010 when he was manager of Siena (0-3 vs Empoli).
  • Arsenal scored more goals in the first half against Chelsea in their last Premier League meeting than they had in their previous nine clashes with the Blues.
  • The Gunners have had three players sent off in their last three Premier League games at Stamford Bridge (Gabriel, Santi Cazorla and Kieran Gibbs).
  • Theo Walcott was the last Arsenal player to score at Stamford Bridge, in January 2013 in a 2-1 loss. He also scored in Arsenal’s last Premier League win there, 5-3 in October 2011.
  • Diego Costa has scored in two of his four league games against Arsenal and has been booked in the other two.
  • The Gunners have won three of their four Premier League London derbies this season (W3 D1 L0) – this after winning just one of their eight in 2015-16 (W1 D4 L3). They are the only team still unbeaten in London derbies this season.
  • Chelsea have won eight successive Premier League home games – their best run in the competition since a sequence of 10 wins that ended in January 2015. The aggregate score in these eight games is 24-3 in Chelsea’s favour.
  • Arsenal have lost as many of their last eight Premier League games as they did in their previous 30 in the competition (3)

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