A new defensive midfielder? Non Merci! Arsenal v Chelsea Pre-Match
It was once the toughest away fixture in the Premier league, with Chelsea holding the greatest sequence of unbeaten home matches: 86, from March 2004 – October 2008. But hey, Roman Abramovich’s millions can buy you almost anything these days…yes it can even help you win the Champions League title.
In the present, they do not hold that psychological advantage over their opposition, so we should travel across London on Sunday showing no fear. The only person who should be holding any sort of fear should be Rafa Benitez. In what is perhaps the most demanding managerial position in football today, the pressure is persistently mounting on him. It’s only a matter of time before he joins the long list of Chelsea casualties; we shall see who is next through the revolving door soon enough.
Last time around, we were beaten thanks to some set piece problems and a few important players missing. This time we have almost a full squad to choose from with Szcz, Sagna, and Wilshere available for the return fixture. Chelsea won’t know what hit them this time, because these three are perhaps our most important players in our starting line-up.
Let’s begin now shall we!
Missing in Action:
Arsenal: Rosicky (calf) remains on the sidelines (not sure he left to be honest), which is unfortunate because he could provide a much needed rest to either Santi or Jack. Arteta (calf) and Fabianski will also miss out.
Kozzer returns from his one-match suspension. Gerv misses this one due to Coupe d’Afrique des Nations duty.
Chelsea: Romeu is out with a knee injury. Everyone’s favourite defender Terry returns after a two month absence. He appeared as a sub midweek, so I would not be surprised if he comes back in to the starting line-up for this one.
Chelsea are also devoid of both Mikel and Moses because of ACoN.
I would not change the line-up from the one we saw midweek. As far as I’m concerned I think that is our best possible line-up. I like Coquelin over Arteta because he is faster and more tenacious, and his attacking link up work is also very underrated. Santi gives us the width that Ramsey doesn’t, but can also wander in field and create opportunities. Diaby is unplayable at times, and without Mikel he really has a chance to boss the midfield. Let’s give it a go again!!!
Expect to see Terry back at CB and Ivanovic to return at RB. Now Lampard has signed a pre-contract with LA Galaxy, it will be interesting to see if he keeps his starting position, or whether he relinquishes it to Ramires and Luiz. Chelsea will most likely use a 4-2-1-3 formation with Torres up top, Mata and Hazard on the wings, Oscar at AM, Ramires and Lampard central, and a back four of Tumbling Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic, and some traitorous swine known as Cole.
Arsenal 1 – Chelsea 2
On September 29th Arsenal faced a Chelsea team that was sitting on top of the ladder and in red hot form. Diaby tested Cech from long range early on and subsequently injured himself in the process; an injury that looked rather innocuous at the time but kept him on the sidelines until last weekend. Chelsea responded with a goal thanks to a bit of skill by Torres from a set piece…however, it was the poor marking from Kozzer that allowed the expensive flop Torres to score. Gervinho levelled the score before half time with a rather impressive turn and shot (his only real involvement of the game it has to be said). Mata finished off the tie with a great free kick that took a slight deflection of Kozzer. Not Kozzer’s best game but I still maintain that he is our best defender when fully confident. Nevertheless, Chelsea got it done when it Mata’d…I’ll get my coat.
Arsenal 0 – Chelsea 0
Two great saves from Cech and some wasteful efforts from another traitorous swine meant Arsenal could not breakdown a robust Chelsea team.
Form Guide: Arsenal: WLDDW Chelsea: DWLWL
Despite dropping points against the Manchester Oilers a lot of positives could be drawn from our second half performance. Although we only beat Swansea 1-0 midweek we played all over them for the entire match and could quite easily have belted them all the way back to Wales. The signs are positive, we must continue to build on the momentum we have.
Chelsea haven’t had too much luck recently (they did beat Stoke away 0-4 which is not to be scoffed at) losing out to QPR, Swansea, and drawing against Southampton in their last three home fixtures. Let us hope the nightmare continues.
This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It is a highlights package from our 2-0 win over Chelsea in the 2002 FA Cup final. Oh To, Oh To Be, Oh To Be A Gooner!!!
One to Watch:
Theo Walcott: He finally signed the thing! Hallelujah we can all breathe again. Now it’s time to get fully behind him and let’s see what he can produce under Arsene’s tutelage. His stats are undeniable, his speed is blistering, and his finishing is top notch. It’s time for him to put his money where his mouth is, and I have complete faith in him doing so!
Demba Ba…again! We had to deal with him not long ago at the Emirates and he managed to put two past us on that occasion. The man is a quality poacher and scores whenever given a sniff. If I was Torres I would be worried because Ba can deliver (as he showed midweek against Southampton) and is eyeing his starting position. It’s unlike Chelsea to do a shrewd bit of business, but I feel this time they’ve struck gold for a fraction of the cost.
Mata will also be one to keep our eye on; last time around he was afforded too much room, and we can’t let it happen again!
Francis Coquelin vs Juan Mata
Our young midfield enforcer against Chelsea’s most dangerous player and creator Juan Mata (8 assists, 7 goals). Now that Walcott has signed his contract. all that remains for most Arsenal supporters is the need for a midfield enforcer/beast/monster/barbarian/troglodyte/cannibal, in other words a snarling midfielder who can protect the back four and boss the midfield. Nigel De Jong is only 174cm and 72kgs, Gattuso is 177cm and 77kgs, Flamini is 178 cm and 67kgs, M’Vila is 182cm and 80kgs, Francis Coquelin is 182 cm and 75kgs and still developing. So you don’t have to be a brute to be a great defensive midfielder! Coquelin has his chance to usurp Arteta’s position (tough, given our winning % without Arteta is 14.28%) in the starting line-up (similar to how Flamini did to Gilberto) by putting together more strong performances like the one against Swansea. He and Diaby complemented one another brilliantly; what a partnership they could forge for both Arsenal and France!
Mata caused us all sorts of troubles at the Emirates (1 goal and an assist), so Coquelin must be watching him like a hawk the entire game. Not give him an inch, and he and the team must be careful not to commit any fouls around the box because he is deadly! Shackle Mata and we go a long way to winning this match.
This week’s finger goes to the Bori! They are a secret coven of demons responsible for the possession of bad luck. Searching the Encyclopaedia of Demons was the only next logical step to curing Diaby of his injury curse. He is a magnificent player who always slips so seamlessly into the line-up. He has a powerful shot, amazing dribbling skills, fluid movement across the pitch, long legs that allow him to dispossess opposition players easily…he is our Paddy V version 2. The only problem is he cannot stay off the treatment table for too long. Arsene has been very patient but how much longer can it last? He is commanding a good salary and potentially holding back another player in the squad.
Now rumour has it that to get rid of this demon one must say the word ‘iron’ repeatedly…I’m suspect though. because Jack is made of iron and surely that’d be enough to exorcise the demon from Diaby! The only other solution is a special dance; now Sagna, BFG, and Podolski tried it in the pre-season…
But, it clearly wasn’t enough because it only worked on Diaby temporarily. At the next home game we need everyone at the Emirates to perform the same dance once Diaby comes on to the pitch! Let’s vanquish this demon so we can unleash our own in the centre of the pitch!
Pre-Match pat on the back:
This week’s pat on the back goes to Jack Wilshere. Not because he is a future Arsenal hall of famer (he will be!), not because he’s going to be one of the best in the world (he will be!), not because every Arsenal male fan has a man crush on him (they do!); it is because he’s everything we love in a player. Not because he scored the winner against Swansea (it was darn good though!), but because the kid has a wise head on his shoulders. He has come back strong from a serious injury and does the little things on the field that others don’t. Against Swansea, towards the end of the game, he made a simple gesture to his team mates to ‘think about what you are doing’. We had the lead and the game was drawing to a close and he was making sure we didn’t lose our heads once again. Keep the lid on it he’s still young you say…sorry, that lid blew off when he scored this pearler at the tender age of 16.
see 1.19 mins
‘Ask the opposition’ returns again, this week. It is designed to get some friendly banter from our opposition fans and get their insight for the match ahead. This week the answers were kindly provided by CD from http://www.chelseadaft.org, and Blue Champion from http://www.bluechampions.com or his twitter handle @bluechampion. Let’s see what they’ve written for us this week:
1) What happens with Torres now Ba is scoring for fun?
CD: Torres is still the clubs number one striker. He has been good at times this season but badly needed a rest. I expected a better reaction from him the other week against Swansea after watching Demba Ba score two on his debut at Southampton but he didn’t seem bothered for the first time and the fans turned on him including me.
BlueChampion: Torres goes to the bench. And in the summer (if not this month) leaves the club and saves about £9m per year in salaries. Earlier his results were poor and now his efforts are also poor. Barring a miracle, he’s a goner.
2) Who has been Chelsea’s best player so far this season? What is he capable of?
CD: Juan Mata once again is our best player with Eden Hazard a close second. Mata finds space and can hurt you. You have seen at the Emirates that he can take a set piece, he can score goals and create them. He is a perfect number 10.
BlueChampion: Juan Mata. He’s the magician that pulls the strings for Chelsea. All attacks go through him and he has such chemistry with all forward players that he is a threat all the time. What’s he capable of? Wait until Sunday.
3) What’s your take on the Frank Lampard situation?
CD: Frank Lampard deserves another contract in my book. He is still fit, still performing and scoring goals in the Premier League. People forget he missed half a season through injury two years ago and remains an important part of our squad. You need experience in the squad to bring out the best in people and if he leaves this summer, Chelsea would have made a mistake.
BlueChampion: He’s 35 this summer. I’m with the club. Happy for one-year extensions with pay cuts. We already have a crowded midfield with young talents – Ramires, Luiz, Romeu, Oscar, McEachran (on loan) and Kevin de Bruyne (on loan). Looking forward to his Bobby Tambling record. After that he should stay at club’s terms or go.
4) Benitez…how much longer will he last?
CD: I hope Benitez goes sooner rather than the summer but I can’t see it happening. He is too slow to react to situations that are happening in front of him on the pitch. Look at Wenger or Mourinho. If things aren’t going well, they make instant changes to try and affect the game from the bench, positive changes. He has had chances to do that in our last four three home games, hasn’t done it quick enough and we haven’t won the game. Apparently, he told the team at half time on Wednesday being 2-0 up against Southampton at home “wasn’t safe” and we needed a third goal! Who on earth would say that to a Chelsea team 2-0 up and cruising against Southampton! (No disrespect to them of course!).
BlueChampion: Certainly until the end of the season. Remember his contract is for 18 months with an option to review at the end of the season. So if we don’t find a more permanent manager (which he is clearly not), he can continue his contract which runs till end of 2013/14 season.
5) What position/player is your weakest link?
CD: At the moment it seems that at right back is our weakest link. “Dave”( César Azpilicueta) has done well there but has been skinned twice in three league games against QPR and Southampton and we have conceded twice. I am hoping Branislav Ivanovic moves back out there with JT coming into the middle for Sunday.
BlueChampion: Our weakest link could be the double pivot (two of Lampard/Ramires/Luiz). All these are basically attack minded players in the supposedly defensive double pivot. You would find acres of space in the middle of the park to exploit and you can easily win the midfield battle. If only you had Arteta!
6) Which Arsenal player would you like to have and why?
CD: Theo Walcott. For the life of me, I have never understood why Arsene Wenger has never played Walcott through the middle as a striker until it has got to the stage of him leaving? He is a readymade Thierry Henry replacement with his pace alone. Of course he still needs work playing there but his raw pace and ability should justify him starting week in, week out. I see he is about to sign a new deal but if it falls through, I would love Roman to bring him to Stamford Bridge!
BlueChampion: Theo Walcott. Because he brings in a new dimension to the Chelsea squad. He can be a great plan B. We have too many ballers now but we need players like Walcott who can threaten you with sheer pace and he is a good finisher too. He can be a striker option as well as a wide forward player. Hope he doesn’t sign that extension of yours (oops too late!).
7) What is your prediction for the match?
CD: God knows to be honest. At home at the moment Chelsea are a nightmare. We have attacking flair, expressive players playing expansive football until we reach the final third and then find it hard to break sides down. Benitez talks of missed chances against Southampton, but there were hardly any real clear cut opportunities. Out of 18 attempts on goal just three were on target. If Arsenal come here and set their stall out to defend and hit us on the counter, we could have real problems. In saying that, if we can get at the Arsenal, we can cause you all sorts of problems too. Whoever defends better wins the game and it’s as simple as that.
BlueChampion: My prediction is a 2-1 win for Chelsea. Will be an open match. Arsenal’s defence (minus Koscielny) would just suit our bunch very well. We are a much better team now than we had met you last at the Emirates stadium. Even John Terry would be back. But you’re losing Arteta and Kosielny. On paper, Chelsea do look a stronger team with a greater possibility of a win.
Chelsea have only won one in their last seven home games, and I expect the bad run to continue. We will be choc-full of confidence after the Swansea game and the signing of Theo. It should be enough to see us get over the line on our way to a 1-2 victory. Now I wasn’t too sure about my prediction this week so I signed up to a free psychic website and asked a lady with 20-25 years of experience in the field a couple of questions:
Oz: Will Arsenal beat Chelsea this weekend? And by how much?
Jetember: More than likely yes. 1-0
Oz: Will John Terry fall over again?
Jetember: I’m seeing no
Oz: Bugger! My mate TMHT has had some bad luck in his life can you help?
Jetember: I can say a special prayer for your friend (she begins swinging a chain with a cross attached and speaking in another language. 2 minutes later…)
Oz: Thank you. Will we win the Champions League?
Jetember: Unfortunately no
That ended the conversation as I concluded that she knew nothing. I should have known considering she had rap music playing in the back ground. I’ll stick with my prediction! 1-2 to the good guys.
Written By: Oz Gunner.