Chelsea vs Arsenal Preview: Muted Performance or Goals Galore?

After yet another predictable and uninspiring performance in the Champions League, against Zagreb, we jump back into Premier League today against Chelsea. As we know, Chelsea have just come lost back to back games and we were looking the more threatening team, but after the mid-week games it feels like they may have some confidence back.

I feel this game will go one of two ways. It will either be a game that neither team wishes to lose and will be content to sit, be patient and possibly play for a draw if they can’t nick a win. Or it will be an explosive game and goals will fly in from both sides.

We all have grown accustomed to Wenger’s traditional excuses when we lose and the ‘mental strength’ cliché but in yesterday’s press conference he said he will not use the tired from travelling excuse:

“Chelsea play as well and it is part of our job. I don’t think it will be a massive problem for us, but we will see. I think we have gone down the way where we have to accept that television decides when you are going to play. We have to accept that.”

 

After the baffling team selection against Zagreb we should be back to full force today. Petr Cech returns for his second match against his former club, replacing Ospina. Bellerin, Monreal and Ramsey will come back into the team. I know people complain about Ramsey on the right, I am one of them, but Wednesday’s performance by Chamberlain demonstrated why he has been played ahead of him. When he has an off day then Chamberlain gives the ball away far too much, but on his good day he is superb.

Wenger has also commented on Cech starting against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for the first time:

I just want him to focus on this game and not be influenced by that. You can’t go there and wonder if you’re standing in the right goal or not. He is so experienced that I don’t need to talk to him about that. Our individual performances will be more important than what he knows. There is no massive secret in that.

 

I think Wenger will start Theo Walcott ahead of Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman’s head is down and his confidence is shot. He has the French fans, Arsenal fans and the media on his back and it clearly showed on Wednesday that it is affecting him. But then if it was constantly being drilled into you that you are not good enough to lead the line for Arsenal from all angles, especially from Thierry Henry, then it will have a detrimental affect on your mindset.

The lineup I would love to see us play eventually would be:

my perfect Arsenal

But Theo Walcott only seems to want to play as striker currently which, in my opinion, is not his best position. He scores far more goals from coming inside from a wide position as there is more space to exploit and, most importantly, his back is not towards the goal. Of course you could swap Walcott out for Chamberlain but Walcott is the more established player at this moment in time.

I just hope we don’t kick-start Chelsea’s season with an embarrassing performance. Previous to the midweek game I would have thought we could win the game, and we still could, but currently I would take a draw before kick off. Let’s hope it is the former though.

Chelsea 2 – 0 Arsenal + Other News

Sorry for the delay in this blog, there’s been a few things going on which meant I didn’t have time to write this up. We’ll start with Sunday’s match against Chelsea, which didn’t go exactly how we hoped but slightly better than we expected. We all were prepared for a loss but we didn’t know of which proportions it would come.

Last year we suffered extremely poor results away from home against the big sides. A lot of fans were fearing the worst due to our start of the season being worse this year than last. Which is extremely frustrating given the circumstances, as we have a far better squad than last year but still lack defensive depth.

We actually started the first half  brightly and it was an evenly contested affair. Wenger had set the team up perfectly for this encounter, although there were questions raised about Chamberlain not starting. Maybe he could have provided more cover on the left-wing, in front of Gibbs, and allowed Ozil to the hardship of tracking back, as we all know he dislikes it. We created chances but could not finish (same old story) which is a contrast to the Galatasary match earlier in the week.

Gary Cahill made a ridiculous challenge on Alexis Sanchez and should have been given a straight red, which in turn would have changed the way the game played out. But the referee bottled it and only produced a yellow. From this point you could tell how the game was going to go and that the referee was going to have no control over the match. Unfortunately,  the moments that followed would be more publicised and talked about than the challenge itself. Wenger wanted to see how hurt Alexis was but was blocked off by Mourinho and this sparked the shoving incident.

Hazard went on a mesmerising run past a couple of defenders and made it into the box, only to be brought down by Koscielny. It was a definite penalty and he was lucky to not to receive a red card. Hazard stepped up and sent the Woj the wrong way to make it 1-0. The first real threatening move created by Chelsea ended up with them scoring.

Second half was much of the same. Arsenal piling on the pressure and trying to break through, resorting back to trying to pass the ball into the box rather than someone step up and shoot. I have no idea why the players are so worried about shooting from range and have to pass the ball five times through a mass of defenders in the box before tapping the ball in. Why can’t we just shoot when an opportunity arises and there is space. I’ve said this many times before, we are set up for the counter attack with our pacey players and that requires decisive and instinctive play.

Chelsea scored their second when Alexis Sanchez lost the ball, which got laid off to Fabregas who then played the perfect pass, over the top, into Diega Costa’s path. Costa, who hadn’t really done anything all game, had a superb first touch and lobbed the onrushing Szchesney. Wenger made some baffling substitutions, as usual, with Cazorla coming off for Chamberlain and Alexis off for Podolski. How Mesut Ozil was still on the pitch with his poor performance in a big match, again, had everyone questioning Wenger’s motives.

There was one moment where it looked like we had a clear penalty for a handball by Fabregas. Nothing was given. I don’t know how it was not given as handball as his arms were up and it diverted the course of the ball. Welbeck increased his status among Arsenal fans by sliding in to tackle Fabregas, barely making a connection, deserved of a yellow card though.

Rosicky on for Wilshere was the last roll of the dice. Jack was the most threatening player on the pitch. He was the one making the charge through the middle, taking players on and looking like creating a chance. By then the game was over and we had lost, Wenger had lost yet again to Mourinho. Questions had to be asked of the referee. Why did Oscar get away with so many fouls before picking up his yellow? The amount of fouls he racked up he should have had four. Cahill should have been given his marching orders and if he was then so should have Kos.

Flamini did well in the holding role, compared to his other appearances, but these performances are sporadic and not consistent. Why didn’t we make sure we field this specific area of the pitch where we know we are weak? We all cried out for a proper defensive midfielder who is strong, commanding and athletic. We’ve not had someone do this role since Vieira and Gilberto left the club. It leaves our defence vulnerable.

There were the inevitable comparisons, on Twitter, between Fabregas and Ozil. “We should have sold Ozil to Munich and bought Cesc” “If we bought Cesc we would be in a much better position” “Cesc is a far better player”. Potentially, yes we may be in a better position with Cesc. Yes, Cesc may be a better player currently as he has played 7 years in the PL. But we didn’t sign Cesc and we have Ozil, who even Mourinho cited as the best number 10 in the world. We just have to get behind the sensitive German and hope he turns his performances around.

We are now 9 points off Chelsea, at the top, and sit in 8th. West Ham, Spurs, Man Utd, Swansea, Southampton, Man City and Chelsea are all above us. Albeit early in the season and just five points between us and second, it just feels we should have done so much better against some of our opponents. Especially with the attacking talent we brought in over the summer.

There are rumours out today about Ozil having a scan on his knee, whilst out training with Germany. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the German and it’s just a precaution as he was training yesterday. I’ll leave this post here for today so there is still content to write throughout the dull international period.

Arsenal vs Chelsea preview: Will someone’s 0 go?

Will today finally be the day Wenger beats Mourinho? I hope so but it isn’t likely, unfortunately, unless he becomes less predictable. I’d be happy to take a draw before kick off  but I have a feeling someone’s 0 is going to go. We are the only unbeaten teams left in the league and it would be beautiful if we were the first team to beat Chelsea, especially on their home turf.

I think we’ll set up with the usual back four, consisting of Szczęsny, Gibbs, Kos, Per and Chambers. Now it gets tricky, who do we play in the deeper roles? I have a suspicion it will be Diaby and Flamini, which c0uld work very well as long as Diaby doesn’t get injured in ten minutes and can get stuck in. He can break the play up very well and launch us on a counter rather quicker. Flamini is there to just kick people and get booked. But this is Wenger and he’ll probably play a less physically imposing midfield duo of Cazorla and Flamini, who would probably get bullied and given no time on the ball at all. Although Wilshere and Flamini wouldn’t be as bad.

In front of them two I reckon we should stick with the same front four as against Galatasary.

  • Chamberlain is in form at the moment and once he gets going he is a force to be reckoned with. Physically strong, makes direct runs and always looks to go forward.
  • Alexis Sanchez, the pick speaks for itself. World class player who has scored five goals already, in his first season, and is always a danger.
  • Ozil in the middle pulling the strings and doing what he does best. In games like today, you need your best players in their best positions playing their optimal game.
  • Welbeck in the central striker position, which he is proving all his doubters wrong about his ability in that role (mainly Van Gaal), will definitely be a threat. His pace is electric, finishing is improving and he is also a physical presence who doesn’t mind letting others know about.

If we don’t concede within the first twenty minutes I think we could a result out of this, be it a draw or a win. The key will be the midfield. Last year they harassed our midfield players into having no time on the ball and then stealing it for a counter. Our full backs will hopefully play a bit more defensively and only attack when they feel it is safe to do so. As soon as they start pushing up, and concentration can drop, the Chelsea players will  put pressure on the ball to exploit the space left by them.

We need to play to our strengths today and for me that is our pace on the counter. Mourinho knows our game extremely well and has it sussed. He normally lets us have the ball and pass it about and gain confidence, only to destroy it by shattering the illusion he has created for us by hitting us with pressure  then flooding the spaces with players. We should shore up the spaces and then hit them with our pace, especially against John Terry who is not getting any younger.

I really do hope we do not revert back to the formation which has seen us so lacklustre, where Ozil is stuck out on the left. This leaves Gibbs with no support as Ozil does not like to track back, it’s not part of his game. Yes he should put the effort in for the team but the manager should know better. If he wants someone out on the left to track back then use Chamberlain. I do not want a repeat performance of last year’s fixture.

Brief blog today as I have a few things to do before the match. C’MON THE ARSENAL!