Sunday, 22 December 2013

Arsenal v Chelsea Preview

Arsenal have been on top of the Premier League for a couple of months at least and went into this weekend still in that position. However, both Liverpool and Manchester City won their games on Saturday to move above them and leave Arsenal in third place with a game in hand. There isn't much in it though and Arsenal would go top again with a victory over Chelsea and second with a draw, but they would drop to fourth if Chelsea win.

Arsenal have only taken one point in their last two games from a home draw with Everton followed by the 6-3 defeat at City last week. It's only a minor blip in terms of a full season, but they need to take something from Chelsea or there will be accusations of the wheels coming off from some quarters. I think this Arsenal team has a genuine chance of winning the league and a win over Chelsea could be just the catalyst they need to do so. It won't be an easy tack though and Arsene Wenger has a less than impressive record in his head to head games with Jose Mourinho. 

There have been times when Arsenal should have beaten Mourinho's teams, but have fallen short on every occasion. A lack of mental strength has often been cited as a reason why Arsenal have fallen short against Mourinho's teams, but I think this Arsenal team have that necessary mental strength. The same questions of their mental strength are still being asked this season after defeats away to both Manchester clubs.

It has been claimed in many quarters that Arsenal don't perform against the big teams and in the really important games. Some of their results might indicate just that, but it has to be remembered that they have won away to both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in the current calendar year, as well as beating and outclassing Liverpool at home in the league this season. Of course some will claim Liverpool are not a top class team, but Arsenal are the only side to hold a Luis Suarez inspired team goalless in the league since his return from suspension.

Arsenal tried to sign Suarez last summer and the player wanted to join them, but Liverpool refused to sell him. They have been proven absolutely right to do everything they could to hold on to a player who has scored 19 goals in 12 league games since his return from suspension. I can only imagine how good Arsenal might be if Suarez had got his way and managed to join them in the summer. 

Liverpool are on top of the league right now and all of a sudden they are being considered as title challengers. That makes Arsenal's win over them all the more impressive in my opinion and the manner of that victory was very impressive too. If Arsenal can produce a performance like that one against Chelsea I think they can beat them.

Chelsea haven't exactly been impressive away from home this season and have only won three of their eight away games. Their three defeats away from home came against Everton, Newcastle and Stoke and their defence has been far from secure in recent weeks. Of course Arsenal let in six goals at City last week, but that was more of a one off and I don't think it's something which will be repeated very soon.

In team news Laurent Koscielny will miss the game after picking up an injury against City, but he should be fit to return against West Ham on Wednesday. Jack Wilshere will miss out too after picking up a two game ban for sticking his middle finger up at the City fans last week. There are plenty of players queueing up to play in midfield for Arsenal, but Thomas Vermaelen is the only viable alternative to Koscielny in the centre of defence.

Vermaelen is the club captain but he hasn't really had a look in for almost a year now since the partnership of Koscielny and Per Mertesacker was formed. Those two players have been the rock the Arsenal defence has been built on since the night last March when they won away to Bayern Munich. In 26 league games since then Arsenal have taken 61 points with 19 wins and four draws.

It's a record this team should be proud of and their current run of one point from two games is their worst in that time. They have bounced back from every other setback during that time though and have followed each of their league defeats with a run of consecutive victories. They won five in a row after the opening day defeat to Villa and three in a row after losing to United last month. 

I hope Arsene Wenger picks both Mathieu Flamini and Mikael Arteta together in the centre of midfield to protect the Arsenal defence, but if he does it will of course cut down on Arsenal's attacking options. The chances are Kieran Gibbs will return in defence after Nacho Monreal had a tough time against City last week although he wasn't the only one to perform badly. I would also be surprised if Theo Walcott was left out after scoring two of Arsenal's three goals last week.

His performance was the only real positive from that game for Arsenal and he showed he has an awful lot to offer the team. Arsenal may have done exceptionally well while he was out injured, but he offers the genuine pace which has been missing in his absence. I think he can cause the Chelsea defence some problems with that pace and he should start for that reason.

With Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil also in midfield and Olivier Giroud leading the attack the Arsenal team almost picks itself for me. That team would mean Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky would be on the bench again and I assume Lukas Podolski will join them now that he has recoverd from the injury he picked up in August. It's a very strong Arsenal team and one which is capable of playing some very good footbal.

A performance like the ones at home to Napoli or Liverpool is called for against Chelsea and Arsenal need to come out going at Chelsea from the first minute. Chelsea came to Arsenal in the Capital One Cup and beat them 2-0 a couple of months ago, but it was a weakened Arsenal team on the night. Chelsea may have rested a few players too but their squad is a lot deeper than Arsenal's thanks to the bottomless pockets of their owner. 

Chelsea have the chance to go ahead of Arsenal if they win but they have struggled in recent weeks against teams who are not exactly world beaters. Sunderland, Stoke and Crystal Palace have all struggled to score goals this season but they managed to score seven goals between them against Chelsea in those three games. I think Arsenal can get at the Chelsea defence and make plenty of chances, but it's a matter of taking those chances.

Against City last week their defending was awful but they still managed to score three times as well as creating quite a few other good chances. If they can create chances like those against Chelsea I think they can put enough of them away to win the game. The defending will have to be an awful lot better of course and the nine day break the players have had should hopefully have helped with that. 

It's going to be very hectic for the next couple of weeks with league games coming every few days and then the FA Cup in early January. Arsenal will have played four league games in 10 days before they play Spurs in the FA Cup and there's an awful lot of points to be won and lost in those games. Ideally 12 points will be won from those four games but if they're not the team needs to take at least eight points to keep pace with the other title challengers. I have every confidence in their ability to do so and hopefully the players will shoe that same confidence against Chelsea, West Ham, Newcastle and Cardiff.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.


  1. Who ever wrote this article is biased and surely an arsenal fan....well lets see what happens tomorrow.

    1. what gave that away? was it maybe the website name " ever arsenal" or the title of the blog "A blog about Arsenal and all things Arsenal."


  2. How many years can the richest paid manager in the world be left in charge of our club and not win anything? 13?....14?......15? Wenger Out

    1. I don't think there's any chance of Wenger bring the highest paid manager in the world.

    2. From what evidence I can gather Wenger is the 4th highest paid manager in the world with Mourinho among the three above him.