Friday, 28 September 2012

Arsenal's Premier League Game With Chelsea Previewed

Arsenal play Chelsea in the early kick off tomorrow in the Premier League. It's the second big challenge in a row for Arsenal after they drew away to current champions Manchester City last week. There was the midweek distraction of the Capital One Cup, but this game is the real thing.

At the moment Chelsea are on top of the Premier League with four wins and a draw from their first four games. They are looking solid at the back with only two goals conceded in those five games. They also spent an awful lot of money in the summer to add to their attacking options.

It was more than a little curious to see them spend so much money on attacking midfield players without adding to their striking options. Fernando Torres has been given the responsibility of leading the line for them, but it's been a couple of years since he has been at his best. Their failure to replace Didier Drogba could be a costly one as the season progresses.

So far Chelsea haven't faced any of the so called bigger teams in the Premier League and this will be their first real test of the season. A couple of seasons ago they started in fantastic style by winning their first six games, but they fell away when they came up against the better teams. The outcome of this game might be a better pointer towards how good Chelsea really are.

Arsenal had a slowish start to their Premier League campaign with a couple of 0-0 draws. Since then they have won 2-0 away to Liverpool, 6-1 at home to Southampton and of course there was last weeks draw at City. Goals were tough to come by in those opening games, but they have come as the new players have blended in.

Including Wednesday night's demolition of Coventry City they have scored 12 goals in their last two home games. The defences they played against in those games weren't as good as the Chelsea defence, but they could only beat who they faced.

Whether Chelsea captain John Terry will play or not is anybody's guess. After being found guilty of the charges against him by the FA and getting a four game ban he now has 14 days to lodge an appeal. He can still play during that time, but I suppose it depends on his frame of mind.

I would love to see him play and put in another performance like the one he put in for Arsenal's 5-3 win away to Chelsea last season. One of my favourite sights of last season was Terry lying flat on his face as Robin van Persie raced through to score for Arsenal. Van Persie plys his trade elsewhere now but that's a different matter altogether.

I can't see Chelsea being so open in this game and Arsenal are certainly a lot tighter at the back too. The home game for Arsenal against Chelsea was a much tighter affair last season and it ended in a scoreless draw. I can see this game being a lot closer to that one in it's outcome than the game at Chelsea.

Arsenal should have a similar team to the one which played against City last week with no new injuries to worry about.  Thomas Vermaelen should be available again after recovering from the virus which caused him to miss last week's game. I would be surprised if he didn't return to the starting line up which will probably see Laurent Koscielny miss out.

Koscielny will be unlucky if he doesn't play but Vermaelen is the club captain and looks certain to return. I cannot see Per Mertesacker missing out as he has played so well at the heart of the Arsenal defence this season. His reading of the game and ability to intercept the ball are second to none at the moment.

The only other possible change I can see for Arsenal could be in the central striking role. Olivier Giroud got his first goal against Coventry on Wednesday night and he could be the man to get the nod in that role. Gervinho played there last week against City and he had a very mixed bag of a game.

He was prepared to run all day, but twice he got into great goal scoring positions and made a complete mes of things. I really don't see him as a central striker, but he did manage three goals in his previous two games. It would seem the goals are being spread out among the team already this season since the departure of Van Persie.

I can see this game being very tight and it could take a piece of magic from one player to open things up. Santi Cazorla could be the Arsenal player with the key to unlock the Chelsea defence. He has settled into the club very quickly and he already looks like a real bargain.

Chelsea have a few players who are capable of causing Arsenal real problems, but they could find their opportunities to do so limited. Arsenal are dominating possession and outpassing every team they have played so far this season. It's not so easy to score against a team if you don't have the ball.

It promises to be a fascinating game and I'm predicting a 2-1 win for Arsenal. It certainly won't be easy for them, but I think this team has already shown enough mental strength to rise to the challenge.

A win would take them within one point of Chelsea at the top of the table, but I imagine Manchester United will take advantage of any slip by Chelsea to take over at the top. They play Spurs in the evening kick off and it's a game which they rarely fail to win.

A few of the people I usually go to see Arsenal with will be at the game and I'm sure they will have a great day. I have managed to get a ticket for the home game against QPR in four weeks time and I'll be making my first pilgrimage of the season for that game. I can't wait for it and I'll be counting down the days until it arrives.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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