Sunday, 5 October 2014

Arsenal's Premier League Game With Chelsea Previewed

There are only two unbeaten teams in the Premier League so far this season and they meet at Stamford Bridge this afternoon. As it stands Chelsea top the table with five wins and a draw from their first six games and they're the top scorers with 19 goals in those games too. Despite their unbeaten record Arsenal were back in fourth place before this weekend's games after drawing four of their six games.

An unbeaten record is all very good but their inability to turn draws into wins sees them six points behind Chelsea already. In fact they have had to come from behind in four of those six games and that's another very worrying statistic. Far too often Arsenal have only really got going after the opposition have scored and they need to find more focus early in their games. It's great that they have managed to come from behind in those games, but it won't be easy to do that today against Chelsea.

Last season Arsenal were thrashed in this game by a Chelsea team who were are a far more defensive side than the one they will meet today. Chelsea reacted on the day to a shocking Arsenal performance and some appalling tactical decisions by Arsene Wenger. He has to make sure he gets his team selection and tactics spot on today.

With the current list of injuries again reaching worrying levels the boss hasn't got as many options as he might like. Nacho Monreal will probably return to the squad, but otherwise the same players are available as were for the midweek Champions League win over Galatasaray. I expect to see a very similar team for Arsenal, but they certainly won't have it as easy as they did in that game.

I would love to see two defensive midfielders deployed in front of the Arsenal defence to try to protect a back four which has only kept one clean sheet so far this season. I imagine Mathieu Flamini will play there and he could do with possibly Jack Wilshere alongside him if he's fit enough to start. I know it's not Wilshere's natural position, but he's probably the best option of the players available in that role. There's always a chance Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could play there, but he has shown an awful lot in the attacking third recently and needs to be picked there again.

Hopefully Mesut Ozil will again be deployed in his favoured number 10 role and he could have a real influence on the game with the pace of Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez to make runs for him. If Arsenal are going to get something from this game they will have to get behind the Chelsea defence at some stage and the pace of those players could well be how they do so. Welbeck took his hat trick against Galatasaray very well and his confidence should be sky high at the moment.

I think Chelsea will be happy to sit deep and try to hit Arsenal on the break despite being the home team and Arsenal have to be careful they don't over commit players going forward. The two full backs need to concentrate on their defensive duties first and foremost and not get caught out of position. As I said above I'd like to see two defensive midfielders in front of the back four and again those two players cannot over commit if that's the team which is chosen.

I am worried the boss will try to take the game to Chelsea and leave far too many spaces between the defence and midfield because Chelsea have the players to punish that. For me a draw has to be Arsenal's first target and anything more than that is a real bonus. Chelsea have players all over the pitch who can score and a very strong squad too and Arsenal have to be aware of that. They are adept at scoring from set pieces too and Arsenal have conceded far too many of their goals from set pieces already this season.

It's also very annoying to see the amount of corners Arsenal are getting and how little they are doing with them. For me the delivery from those corners just isn't good enough and it's hard to believe it's something which is worked on in training. Chelsea aren't as strong defensively as they were last season and there is an opportunity to show that up today, but the quality of delivery from set pieces has to be much better when the chance arises.

I think this Arsenal team can get something out of the game and a win isn't beyond them, but any points from the game would be very welcome. Arsenal have plenty of players who can hurt Chelsea but all of those players need to be on the very top of their game if they are going to get anything out of the game. 

Arsenal conceded 17 goals in the three away games to the teams who finished above them last season and they have to show they have learned from those games. They cannot go hung-ho in attack even if they go behind and they need to give absolutely everything they have from first minute to last. The manager has to pick the team who will do that and send them out there with instructions to do so. I can't say I'm confident of a win or even a draw, but I do know the players are good enough to get either result. I just hope they show the desire and work rate a game of this importance demands and I will be happy with that. If they can manage to do so then anything is possible.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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