Emery has seen it all before. He knows as well as anybody else that he has to set up his team as if this Baku final is simply another regular competitive match against Chelsea. The point of difference though, is that a promise has been made to Cech. Or has it?
Chelsea is a possession based team, behind only City in the Premiership. One thing we have to be wary of is gifting them the ball. They would make us sweat to win it back. All judgements say play Leno but sentiment says play Cech whose kick out style would more often than not hand the possession back to Chelsea. Can Cech be brave enough to confide to Emery that he should feel free to select the keeper that better suits his game plan? I think Emery’s starting line up would have Cech’s name in it. Or was there not a promise? “Hey Cech, why don’t you stay on the bench to come in as a late substitution if victory is in sight? You would lift up the cup, not from the bench but from the field. The whole stadium, the whole world would applaud you all the way. What a legacy on and off the field”. That would be an event that would live long in the memory of kids. Still the question lingers. Was there a promise made? A promise is a promise.
No promise, however, has been made to Kolasinac whose pass success rate is rather poor. I don’t expect Emery to have Cech and Kolasinac in the same team against Chelsea, at least not in the starting line up, meaning that, as at this moment, I am still battling with the Cech/Leno conundrum.
Talk about Chelsea and it’s a talk about the metronomic passing of Jorginho and the brilliance of Hazard. These are the two high points that must be facing Emery as he formulates his plans. If Emery can get one of his players to pin Hazard to the canvas for all of the 90 minutes, in effect turning the encounter into 10-a-side game that would be genius of him. The debate isn’t the 10-a-side but who between Maitland-Niles and Mustafi should be assigned the job. Perchance, Emery might opt instead to ‘Wenger it’, focusing on his strength and damning whatever is standing between him and his goal.
Rambo will be missed. He was used effectively against Jorginho the last time the two teams met. Our next best bet Mkhi is 2,500 miles away from it all, a victim of something not of his making. Should Ozil be given that task of shutting Jorginho out? Ozil’s game is drifting into spaces away from people for purposes of offense. He wouldn’t fit. Laca on the other hand likes to tangle and him it could be him. He is a striker that is always dropping deep and you can bet that Emery would whispers a certain instruction into his ears. Part of that instruction would be that he should be attentive to Ozil’s movements as he hunts the spaces. We should expect a lot of lateral swapping of positions between him and Ozil.
The central areas are likely going to be manned by Xhaka and Torreira. While the former spreads out the passes long and short, the latter would be busy correcting the gaps.
Rudiger is out of the game for Chelsea and would be replaced by Christensen at central defense. Christensen is not the quickest and Auba as our frontman (5 goals in the last 2 matches) would very much fancy his chances against him. Remember that Mkhi’s spirit is there in each of our players urging them to do it for him.
Expected line up:
Bench: Leno, Jenkinson, Litchtsteiner, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Elneny, Guendouzi, Willock, Saka, Amechi, Nketiah, Welbeck.
We have to salute the about 3,000 Arsenal fans from the UK who braved it to Baku. We also have to recognize the other Arsenal fans from other countries whose travel details we don’t know about. Also cheers to the Azerbaijan Arsenal supporters who hopefully should be in their tens of thousand. We hope they all can make it feel a home fixture for Kos and co.
There is so much at stake for us in this match that nerves can become an issue. No better way to settle those nerves than to take off with our wheels screeching. Prediction 2-1 to the good guys.