Chelsea Preview: Who Will Have A Blue Christmas?

bottThis is it, the time for making statements is once more upon us. You will no doubt be reading and hearing repeatedly that Jose Mourinho has outwitted Arsène for years. Nine meetings between the two clubs with the main protagonists in charge, Chelsea have emerged victorious five times with spoils shared on the other four. It makes the orator seem well-informed but as with any statistic, context is all; eight of those meetings happened during Mourinho’s first reign at Stamford Bridge, rendering them utterly irrelevant for tonight’s encounter. Perhaps more of an influence on those matches was the presence of Didier Drogba who regularly terrorised whichever defensive combination Arsenal put forward. Was that more of a problem than Mourinho’s stifling tactics? Probably a combination that and the rest of the squad being the best Chelsea have yet produced.

With the results at the weekend, Arsenal have to win to return to the top of the table. A point whilst a good result, will not achieve that end with Liverpool’s goal difference currently seven better. The media has concentrated on Arsenal going into this fixture with Mourinho and Chelsea getting off relatively lightly. Conceding six at Eastlands last weekend was an easier peg upon which to hang their coats, as opposed to thinking and wondering about why Chelsea are so erratic on their travels. They have lost three times already in the Premier League away from home, drawn twice as well; Cup competitions offer little in the way of solutions to that with Basle baffling taking six points from two Champions League meetings whilst Schalke were swept aside twice.

Perhaps a better indicator for tonight comes in the shape of the Premier League meetings against teams who finished last season in the top seven or eight places. Their record is little better than Arsenal’s; on the road, two draws and a defeat with a solitary win at home. If Arsenal have problems in the ‘big’ games, Chelsea are not blemish free. The difference is perception and that is the biggest hurdle to overcome. Much of the media backdrop is fuelled by the repeated failings to take anything from matches such as these. Perceptions often

They have the personnel to do it. Despite Abramovich’s desire for expansive football, Mourinho is a creature of habit and he has a history of reverting to type when faced with footballing sides. Expect Chelsea to be tight and hit on the break whilst smothering Arsenal’s midfield and isolating Giroud. Problematically for them, clean sheets have been at a premium in the Premier League and the cracks in the veneer are showing with previously untouchable players being dropped.

Arsenal must exploit this and in some respects Jack Wilshere’s suspension will force Arsène’s hand. Changes have to be made from Eastlands, some forced and I would expect one more to reach Wenger’s optimum of three per match. Koscielny is out, Vermaelen in to replace him. Some people have a problem with the Belgian but there is something fundamentally wrong when an international centre back is not deemed a good enough player to be a squad member at the club. We had the same with Djourou who fulfilled the criteria that many set down; an international player. Vermaelen is the same yet his value is questioned.

The only issue I think needs resolving is over the captaincy; the Belgian is a good club captain but on the pitch, I would prefer Mertesacker or Arteta. It is not that Vermaelen does not have any sense of authority, it seems the other duo have more presence. That comes, no doubt, from the lack of appearances and with Koscielny likely to be out this week, Vermaelen has the opportunity to prove his detractors wrong; if he takes it, the selection headache which follows is one I am sure the manager will like to have.

Lukas Podolski’s return offers a different variety of left-sided midfield / attack play. Big hopes are being pinned on the German’s shoulders, even his manager pointed to the goalscoring record last season and the types of games they came in. I doubt he will start tonight but it will be no surprise if he is introduced into the fray with half an hour to go. Theo Walcott’s brace in Manchester will surely keep him in the side as Arsenal will look to test the pace in Chelsea’s back four.

But Mathieu Flamini ought to be concerned following a lacklustre performance not just in Manchester. Recent outings with both he and Arteta in the side have been hit-and-miss; very good or distinctly average yet putting the trio of Özil, Cazorla and Walcott into the same XI seems very adventurous, something Wenger may not be so keen to do unless Arsenal find themselves chasing the game. My own view is that Rosicky provides the balance between the two, waspish tackles on opponents and visionary passes. There is little indication of his attacking bent being dimmed with age. It allows Ramsey to play slightly deeper, perhaps putting Chelsea on the backfoot as they miss his late arrival in support of the attack?

That would leave the line-up,

Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Ramsey, Arteta, Rosicky; Walcott, Giroud, Özil

Three points is the ultimate aim, that XI is good enough to achieve it but not losing is crucial. Chelsea and City have tough games against Liverpool this week; being level or within touching distant is vital if Arsenal are to take advantage of others slips.

’til Tomorrow.

155 thoughts on “Chelsea Preview: Who Will Have A Blue Christmas?

  1. Bill
    Wrong choice of words, i get accustomed to calling it anti-football when the team is playing defensive. I wanted us to play ‘anti-football’ against Napoli and City actually.

    Jose is being smart and it pays off, something Arsene doesn’t want to do, ever.

  2. Both gibbs n sagna are constrained n cant go forward much
    We need something extra in the middle
    Flamini and santi to add more bite n mobility

  3. Moe

    I think they are more composed. We are and have been for a while a little naive, though it has improved this season. What still irks me is the giving away of silly fouls in dangerous areas or trying to be too clever in our own half. Talent wise though there isn’t much init between the top 6 bar man city probably

  4. The pod would have forced a save at least.
    Starting to think we won’t win the pl if we have to rely on Oliver

  5. We are now looking not to loose this
    With oscar on they have a better finisher
    This will be proper squeaky bum time

  6. Something missing tonight.

    Maybe Arsene just didn’t want to lose.

    Well, we didn’t but we could have.

    No subs. No change. A worrying lack of penetration.

    Still. Not losing was very important.

  7. Moe:

    The last 15 – 20 minutes was much more like what I would call negative football from Chelsea. In the end a draw is certainly a fair result. Chelsea were more dangerous early and we looked like we had a chance to score in the last few minutes. Giroud had a couple of chances.

  8. Completely toothless. We won’t win anything playing like that that. System or players? I’d plump for system. Ineffective against strong sides.

  9. First and foremost we didn’t want to lose, so job done. That Giroud chance will haunt us.

    Sky keeping repeating Arsene still can’t beat Mourinho. Fuck off.

    Warriors tonight, we were poor upfront, but we dug in and gave as good as we got.

  10. Nerve-wracking evening. I think the conditions, as well as Chel$ki playing very deep made it impossible for us to play our better game, which involves sharp passing around the pitch.

    A draw is better than a smack in the face with a wet kipper.

  11. Still two points ahead of Chelsea.

    Liverpool or Chelsea will drop points next game, preferably a draw and then a win for us and we are top.

  12. Are we going through a slightly rough patch of form that any team goes through during a season and it’s coincidental that the period has come over fixtures against good teams or are we flat track bullies who wilt under the spotlight against the big boys more often than not? I think the latter – really poor again tonight. Positive side is that having 36 points on Christmas day puts us in a good position for the second half of the season, we don’t look anything like winners to me but we look an improved team from the past two years, hopefully this year we won’t spend months worrying about the scrap for the top 4 and will have a little fun battling for one of the top 3 slots. Chelsea, Everton, Spurs and Liverpool away games will be massive as will City and United at home looking at our lack of confidence in big games.

    Think we’re good enough to beat both Chelsea and United, that’s the annoying part.

  13. Well done Wenger.

    I liked this performance. we were very un naïve…tactics today, the long game tactics. .shame we couldn’t do this v shitty and snuffed that game out but hay ho ho ho this is how titles are won, we cant win every game so best to just play for a draw rather then go gung ho and end up hung low. .now when are we playing the cannon fodder again.

  14. Dukey

    Exactly, had we done this versus Man City it would have been a different result.

    West Ham is next,let’s destroy them!

  15. Mourinho is at it again.

    Mourinho on Arsenal’s complaints about the referee: “They like to cry, it’s tradition.”

  16. I agree with dukey. We have 7 games in a row that we should win before we have to run the gauntlet closer to the end of the season. We need to rebuild a lead in these next 7

  17. It’s Jose who bottled it. Mata on the bench? Really?

    I mean, if they think their main rivals are Arenal and ManU, then 0:0 away is fine.

    But they have to play Man City away later on. And they are behind them.

    All in all, Terry and co they expected a win, but after the result moved the posts quickly not to look like losers.

    I think this result will stop our rot.

    Not that I expect a win at Newcastle or even West Ham mind you.

  18. We make the turn for home after the next two games when half of the season will be completed. An ominous October and November successfully navigated, December has been a little bumpy but for the first time in years we are where we need to be having played all of the other top teams in the league. Tonight was in hindsight what we should have expected from a game against an unadventurous and battling Chelsea. Overall though I’m pretty happy with the half term report. I see this group as the most professional in years, we work very hard, we keep our shape better and we are harder to beat than in recent years. This is the first blip since March 2013 but I think given the schedule and fixtures we’ve managed ok, I think we can go on a run from here.

  19. So a clear red card tackle and a penalty claim denied within a 5 second period sums up the dire performance of Mike Dean for the evening. We still could have done better, but had the ref had his head out of his ass the game would have turned upside down during that one passage of play. In the end it is a point both teams will be somewhat pleased with.

  20. Who said referees change the outcome of Premier League games?

    Having said that, and to avoid the wrath of the Anti-Conspiracies brigade….

    I have to say I’m starting to believe we can’t cut it….At least not yet.

    Draw: Can’t beat Chelsea on our own ground.
    Defeat: Got shellacked against City away.
    Draw: Couldn’t beat Everton at home.
    Defeat: Lost to a way below average Man United away.
    Win: Against a “glorified” Liverpool at home.

    The above results speak for themselves. I know Wenger keeps saying we can’t worry about other teams results, I say we have to Mr. Wenger. We have to pray that Liverpool, Chelsea, City, Man United lose games or at least points along the way for us to win the league, that’s we don’t still fuck it up ourselves.

    Chelsea still comes to our home and bully us of our lunch money.
    City toyed with us like a cat toys with a dizzy mouse.
    Everton !!!!!!!
    Man United still scrap-beat us when should’ve been hammered them.

    I actually feel lucky that Bayern Munich game is not right around the corner.

    G4E’s Arsenal Current Mood: WHATEVER

  21. Fairly toothless performance from both teams at the match last night, Chelsea edged the first half and us the second. It was disappointing to watch some fairly poor passing from our midfielders yet again, this time Ramsey’s accuracy and decision making was decidedly average whilst Ozil seemed to want to take all of the pace out of our build up play.
    I heard plenty of grumbling about Giroud after the game and its a shame that he is getting blamed for this. Expectation is way too high for a player who is a good, but not a great striker. His work rate is fantastic and some of the knock down and tracking back play last night was great to watch, but he is not the deadly target man we need. It is unlikely that will change in the transfer window as most of the top strikers are already cup tied in the CL, so unless we find a loan signing who needs to turn his game around elsewhere we will just make do. I am already expecting to hear the return from injury of Sanogo being hailed as like having a new player arrive. On paper we will have Giroud, Podolski, Walcott, Bendtner and Sanogo available as forwards, but none of those is close to the star striker who can lead the line on his own. If we insist on playing this form of 4-3-3 we need a star striker as our figurehead. There are players in our line-up who can possibly play in a 4-4-2 (Giroud/Walcott or Podolski/Walcott), but I think that would mean the strikers playing closer together as a unit. Strangely enough the top teams tend to always play with two strikers on the pitch (and usually a big powerful midfielder to push the team forward) and that was the same model for our successful teams under AW, so why does he continue to try to change the model?

  22. This squad seems not ready for the title..its not good enough..
    Not being able to get a shot off in best part of 90mins to teams who dont even get out of first gear isnt the sign of champions,,its the sign of a side whos luck has run out and can only get results against cannon fodder clubs…Thing is, when the league is so tough its become a top 7-8 we need to be able to be doing better against our ‘rivals’

    Should have had a pen but theres no guarantees we would have won becuase it would have forced chelsea to play and seeing as though they had more blue shirts in defence and then in attack in first gear id hate to think what theyd have done to us if theyd have played…

    Never a red card, can understand the frustration but it was a foul born from two men going at it like a steam train and one of them is going to lose…if was a strong 50 50 if arteta gets there last does he deserve to get sent off? No not really…

    Tiredness and lack of confidence seems to have kicked in…to me there seems to be something going on tactically last few games becuase since the everton game weve looked like weve been playing against 22 men..everyone seems to be back behind the ball when weve got it and when they break they seem to be all forward…i dont get it, either we are playing too slow or weve stopped runnning hard..

    Ive said it before and il say it again..we need a world class striker for these games…girouds good and will win us matches but hes too slow and relies in his teamates…thats all well and good playing as a team, but when we come up against a well drilled top side who stop us from playing as a team then weve got nothing and we look pony..we need to be able to give the ball to someone who can go alone…we needed one in summer we need one in january becuase podolskis not that player either…

    Were still in a good position though, weve done well so far but the last few weeks have shown what we are still lacking…things that need to be worked on in the training ground and in the transfer market..

  23. And a Merry Christmas to you, JJ.

    A bit early for all that though, Isn’t it?

    You plan to be in the pub all day or something?

  24. Doesn’t sound like a game I want to watch on Arsenal Player. Sad as it feels we’ve lost impetus right now. Technically we can’t say we aren’t in a top 4 tussle when the top five places are so close. We are also challenging for the league but unless we take advantage of the lower table teams immediately, we’ll be scrapping. We can right the ship. A big and confidence boosting win against West Ham is so much needed. Not a one nil scraper but a 2 or 3-0 decisive and dominant victory. Come on Arsenal!

  25. Consols,

    The toughest match we have in the next 8 games is the last one which is Liverpool, the next toughest is Newcastle, then Southampton. They are all easily winnable and must be made a priority. At the end of this run we should be on 60 points and would them be top once again as we would have beaten Liverpool and Mansour could not catch us. If not it will be for one reason only.

    1) We are not good enough to win the title.

    Beating Chelsea on the day was going to take a bus piercing RPG (Rocket Propelled Giroud?) round. These upcoming matches are the ones where we have to and can easily make a difference.

    I’d accept 58, but don’t tell anyone else and only if we beat the Puddle.

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