Chelsea Preview: Bridging The Gap

Arsenal travel to Stamford Bridge looking to cap a decent end to the week with a win that would close the gap to third place from the current eight point difference. Victory would offer the merest hope that scaling the Premier League heights of last season is not out of the question, overcoming the eleven points which defeat would bring a Herculean task. In the shorter term, Arsenal want a victory which will return them to fifth place, easing some of the congestion around the Europa League place following Liverpool’s demolition of Norwich yesterday. And it is hard to imagine a better time to visit Chelsea.

Appointing Rafa Benitez was a moment of bravery or insanity, depending on your viewpoint. The knives were out as soon as the story became believed, a poisonous atmosphere pervading the club but also offering the interim manager a peg upon which to hang his coat. Home form, is in part, apparently down in large part to this; a convenient scapegoat for poor team selection and performance. Like Arsenal, Chelsea’s best form has been on their travels in recent months and this is something Arsenal must exploit. There is a vulnerability about their defence which is summed up by the view that recalling John Terry is the solution; Benitez has not watch van Persie and Walcott against the former England captain in the corresponding fixture last season. Arsène will want his highest paid player to prove that his pace is worth the weekly wage on its own.

Having halted the media juggernaut on players leaving the club, Wenger now finds himself centre stage with Paris St Germain apparently willing to offer him a three year deal worth £30m to manage them. To square the circle and save the Arsenal board worry, Carlo Ancelotti is happy to make the reverse trip. I can’t think of any managerial swap deals in the past but Arsenal has a proud history of being innovative. Or lazy in this eventuality.

For Arsenal, the key is to continue where they finished against Swansea; the energy of the second half performance, the pressurising, the crisp and accurate passing. These were things we always used to take for granted and when the current squad is on top of its game, they are as good as any in the Premier League. They lack the consistency as Tony Adams noted recently, Sol Campbell this morning referred to the need for five leaders on the pitch, one of whom is nominated captain. That is in line with the manager’s lack of importance placed on the captaincy, how it has been used as a sop for senior professionals for the last six or seven years.

Today, the leaders are emerging. Whether Jack Wilshere will be a captain, I don’t know, it is too early to say but his willingness to take the game by the scruff of the neck against Swansea was a positive, a view compounded by the constant chatter with teammates. Players around him responded to his energy; the next stage would be more to take up any slack rather than waiting for someone to inspire. Per Mertesacker strayed into that territory with his pre-match comments,

When we put our opponent under pressure we are always dangerous. That must be our target at Chelsea as well.

For this afternoon, Laurent Koscielny is available following his suspension. I am not sure he should return, Demba Ba will most likely play as a solo striker and to be honest, the combination of Vermaelen and the German have the combined attributes to deal with the player more effectively than Arsenal did in his last appearance at The Emirates. Hazard and Mata complete the trio of players Arsenal were heavily linked with and the Spaniard is rightly garnering the biggest share of the praise, proving more value for money than the Belgian at the moment. Nullifying the supply line from the later duo will be key to setting up an Arsenal win.

For Arsène, the choice of his line-up is interesting. Walcott’s pace is key yet Giroud worked hard on Wednesday, offering a different outlet. The problem is that Arsenal do not have any options from the bench if both are on the field, this is the area the manager is surely looking to change in what remains of this month. It seems unlikely that the Frenchman will start today with that in mind. Any late injuries may open the door for Coquelin, who impressed on Wednesday, with Cazorla moving wide. I wonder if Arsène in those circumstances might start Giroud and move Walcott to the right; that would be a potent supply line with the pace to cause concern for their hosts.

The XI I expect at start is:

Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Diaby, Cazorla, Wilshere; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Podolski

A win this afternoon could provide a strong springboard and I am sure Arsenal enter every game with that objective. As key though, is not to lose, to prevent a bigger gap emerging. A cautious tight affair should be expected. Nonetheless, enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.


639 thoughts on “Chelsea Preview: Bridging The Gap

  1. Mr Bob, what does international have to do with it? When things are not going how you thought it is not so easy to keep believing. They have to dig a bit deeper.

  2. Mr Bob, do you remember teams with PV, Henry and the likes losing confidence. Don’t you remember what happened after the unbeaten streak ended?

    Anyways, I get the current climate, I am just not down with it.
    Holla at you all tomorrow.

  3. You are a good man Paul.

    Mind you I made some valid points as well there. And it made sense (in a vague saying very little but stretching it out to a couple of paragraphs type way). Where’s my nod of affirmation from his Bobness? (i.e “good points as usual Harry. What a star you are Harry” that type of thing). Bloody clique on here I tell ya.

  4. Paul.

    “I am just going to be patient.”

    That’s one strategy. Myself I think the adage “good things come to those who help themselves” might bring success a bit quicker then being patient and waiting for the law of averages to finally work.

  5. I think the release is pushed back to February Bob. What I’ve heard through on 6 music and that…sounds really good. I often struggled with his voice before, but he sounds fantastic here. It’s a bit like Leonard Cohen, I much prefer his later voice, and Cave is getting better the older he gets. A bit Like us both Bob. Maturing gracefully. Arse.

  6. Doesn’t everybody, Harry?

    Night, night.

    Where’s my book?

    A treatise on ‘The Great Game’, since you asked. No, not footie.

  7. We should have got Back. Only 7 million and knows where the goal is.

    Arlene has taken risks on injury prone players before ~ Kanu, Overmars and still holds faith in Diaby

    An opportunity missed

  8. Mr Wenger is a graet man and he’s still the right man for the job.I hope you extend your contract with us.In Arsene I truly trust.

  9. Good if somewhat difficult to follow read Bob
    Have you done Soldier Sahibs ? Very good on Nicholson

    Can’t ever warm to the Falcons

    49’ers sneak ahead – very tight

  10. You have to wonder how Galatasarat can afford his wages while we are convinced that they would be too high for AFC….

  11. Paul N,

    I both respect and support your views. Strength of character often has opportunities to show itself: and in these times, that seems especially true.

    Keep the faith. Everything changes

  12. A game of 2 halves and evenly matched, plaudits marginally in Chelsea’s favour and a couple of lucky breaks for them. Really good game of football too. Pity Ramsey didn’t start in my opinion, he’s looking sharp. Impressive Chelsea midfield I thought, Mata, Hazard, Ramirez, they play the flanks extremely well.

  13. Zimpaul,

    I think the most important member of the Chelsea midfield (team) yesterday was that bloody Ramirez. He broke up play and link it up as well as (and I know this will not sit well with the commentators who criticised Song and our approach at times) got forward as an attacking threat. A good player indeed.

  14. Realistically, right or wrong every Arsenal fan can see we are in a transition, the team is fighting hard I think, and the the margins (between winning, draw and losing matches like these) are very thin. I like the skill and character of this squad and I believe they show signs of a very strong group of players. Wenger’s commentary again very accurate. We are still a little short as most have commented. It’s going to be tough to obtain our coveted 17th consecutive CL place now, every match counts. Spuds, under better management, have found consistency. I look forward to some interesting battles ahead.

  15. ZimPaul
    January 21, 2013 at 6:54 am

    I agree with all of that, Zim.

    So wouldn’t it then make sense to give the team a helping hand, or more aptly, a couple of pairs of feet? (not suggesting you are saying otherwise, btw).

    We aren’t a bad team by any stretch of the imagination, and our recent second half performances show that we are capable of producing football that is up there with the best; however, I simply find it difficult to accept that are not any quality additions available in our bracket that would help strengthen our cause.

    Imagine bringing on a top class striker with 20 minutes remaining yesterday. Even better perhaps, imagine starting with a top class striker and brining on Giroud if needed for a last ten minute salvo.

    I realise the counter argument is that there are no guarantees in football; splash the cash and end up with a Carrol, but this is a very negative outlook, and one that inadvertently suggests that Arsene would get the big signing wrong.

    Put it this way, if the players were asked, I’m pretty sure they would embrace a couple of quality addition as oppose to worrying if they have come in to take their position, or whether they would have a detrimental effect on the teams burgeoning cohesion.

  16. You can like the team as much as you want. Fail to nab 4th and you are screwed regardless of team spirit and character. Stoke got the exact same qualities ATM. Team spirit, will to fight and great character. But that’s all they got . And that’s why they are top 8 and not top4.

  17. With vp and song we would have really challenged this year. We do not need a new vp or a new song. But we need somebody that can help replacing them. It’s obvious that what we got ATM is not enough. Especially with cazorla tired, diaby a question mark as he’s injury record is dodgey. Arteta out, Ramsey out of form. That means Wilshere will be overplayed. Can we rely on rosicky? Out for 6months? Will he be inform when back? Giroud needs help. If giroud and pod and either Walcott or ox are out at sane time, what then?

  18. Yhooo Yogi,

    Please let them back in? I get that you need to keep the order and all that, but I doubt few people really mind the ramblings of those 2 in particular. George has always acted a snappy, angry little dog (I think it was Dukey that first called him that), and Frank is well, Frank.

    I’m pretty sure no one is really offended by them, is there? I admit my fondness for the both of them makes me biased, but still….

  19. im struggling to see the strategy to be honest..
    i wouldnt exactley call it preventive management nor would i reactive

    so what is it?

    the problem is we didnt go the extra mile to try and push for trophies so are we prepared to do it when it comes to top 4 or has that ambitioned died as well?

    lets face it.. we aint gonna find another song for 15 mil and we aint gonna find another rvp for 25..

    its going to cost us about 50-60 excluding wages and such..

    and if we still miss out on CL? it goes down as a 100mil loss..

    its not going to happen is it..

    we’re going to take the hit and hope we come back stronger next year..

    lets just pray that nobody bids 35mil for jack..

  20. YW

    Rightly so but also a Shame, as I find it hilarious how those who purport to occupy the higher ground are more often than not the quickest to resort to base behaviour.

    Always good for a laugh.


  21. Henristic

    They were offending people, as were others who have similarly been banned.

    Despite warnings in the past, they chose to ignore them. It’s their own fault and no, they are not coming back.

  22. morning… wow YW,

    no PG?…
    no Frank?…
    after losing to Chelski on some wack ref calls?
    and Ateeb is still here???

    talk about binary standards.

    I want my ACLF clique back!

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