Chelsea Preview: Big Night But Can We Get The Big Result

Chelsea arrive at the Emirates in the first must-win match since the last one.

We’ve reached January and we must win this one having dropped a couple more points at the weekend to another team in the relegation fight. The bottom five have taken nine points from us this season and the gap to second is…nine points. Same old Arsenal, indeed.

Arsène acknowledged Sunday’s result demanded a big performance, but it’s all pantomime; the FA cast him as the villain of the piece, protecting Mike Dean from the proper opprobrium beyond the borders of N5.

But it’s over and done with, aside from the touchline ban and fine to be handed out. We move onto Chelsea, whose arrival couldn’t come at a worse time.

Neither Nacho Monreal or Aaron Ramsey returns from injury with both pencilled in for the Carabao Cup semi-final. Mesut Özil hasn’t trained in a week and Laurent Koscielny has so many track marks on his knee that his kids thought he was a ‘join the dots’ puzzle.

Wenger estimated that his compatriot was “30%” to play tonight which begs the question of why he played on Sunday? With all the investment in stats and medical equipment, surely this hasn’t come as a surprise? So the question is back-three or four. Whichever decision, we are loaded with inexperience as Ainsley Maitland-Niles returns as left wing-back.

A back-three of Mustafi, Chambers and Holding might give the manager nightmares but I’d rather have seen them at West Brom than tonight. Squad rotation is all or nothing with Wenger these days; the schedule this year has been kind, but we’ve been less than clever with how we’ve used players.

Tonight has the makings of a harsh lesson unless some individuals step up to the plate and put in world-class performances.

Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

Arsène is once again fighting fires. Not all of these are his own making but he bears his share of responsibility for them. The contracts situation is another; no movement on anything with the fluff stories about Özil being shown to be exactly that, planted by Team Mesut in the press. Jack Wilshere’s situation meanwhile, bubbles along in the background.

So tell us Arsène, how will you deal with that pair leaving with Alexis Sanchez next summer? “We will respond to that by bringing in players of top quality,” he said yesterday.

Now I’m not going to say “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” but it’s definitely a case of I’ll believe it when I see it. We might sign “top quality” players but when it comes to replacing stars who leave, I can’t immediately think of one case where we’ve done that. Someone will enlighten me, I’m sure.

The answer to that question will tell us a lot about KSE’s thinking over Wenger. Rapt they may be, but continued poor performances on the field – and absence from the Champions League – will begin to hurt Stan’s investment. When that happens, Junior hasn’t been afraid to hand out the brown envelope. Thoughts for another day, I think.

For this evening’s game, the team largely picks itself. Sanchez, Lacazette and Welbeck up front, maybe Coquelin and Elneny in midfield; can Jack really stand up to this level of playing time? It’s a lot for someone with his injury history, that’s for sure.

Let’s Give It A Try

It’s a match which will test his theory that we’re close to Chelsea. Maybe geographically but if we lose, that’s third place out of reach. Already down to a race for fourth and we’re already in January. It’s not hard to see that there is more riding on the match for us than for them. If we had a strong line-up, I’d be inclined to think there was a big performance lurking, waiting to explode. But we don’t and I’m not sure there is.

And while the gap currently sits at seven points to Chelsea, defeat makes it ten but more importantly, leaves us six points adrift of fourth, having played Liverpool twice. We would need them and Tottenham to actively drop points rather than be masters of our own destiny. The Champions League will only resurface on our horizon if we win the Europa League, that much is clear.

So we’re in decline and a shock FA Cup winner could see us out of Europe. A win tonight, in a big match, reshapes that narrative, keeping the faint hope of the top four alive and reinvigorating the squad for the coming cup battles, as well as the Premier League matches ahead.

It’s a tall order for a makeshift team. The XI, if Arsène’s updates don’t include massive amounts of porkies, will be something like:

Cech; Mustafi, Koscielny (Holding), Chambers; Bellerin, Wilshere, Elneny, Coquelin; Welbeck, Lacazette, Sanchez

As ever, I hope for an Arsenal win but I’m not confident of it all. Maybe we’ll get a nice surprise and sign off the festive period with a bit of Christmas magic.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

172 thoughts on “Chelsea Preview: Big Night But Can We Get The Big Result

  1. Wavey

    I agree there is not nearly enough coaching of the players. It was fine to allow the players to express themselves when they are good enough but Bellerin and Iwobe are not good enough to give them that sort of freedom. They need to be given more structure. The players who should be able to make things happen on the pitch are Sanchez, Ozil but they have not been able to carry the team with them.

  2. Ozil doing thr business and sets up Sanchez but he wasn’t moving fast enough…

    Brilliant linkup play between Lacazette and Ozil.

    Jack!!!!!!

  3. What’s the point of Chec and pens. None, he might as well stand beside the goal for all the good he does there.

  4. Didn’t need to go for the ball. Made it easy for Hazard. It’s really soft, but he looks like his boot caught the underside of Hazard”s. It’s all a bit panicky at the back again. They are trying to take advantage of our shaky CBs.

  5. Am I the only one feeling bloody sick when we get slow motion replays so the commentators can wank over how good Hazrd is just a few minutes after the pathetic bastard cheats to get a penalty?

    If he is so fucking good, score a proper goal, you wankers.

  6. How is that not a yellow card for Bakayoko who clearly pulled Jack’s neck and then a sift foul on Lacazette.

    WHY IS LACAZETTE COMING OFF A FUCKING GAIN WHEN HE HAS BEEN SUPERB!!!! HE LOOKS PISSED AND WALKED BY Arsene and gave him a look

  7. Poor at the back again. Who the fuck actually works with the CBs? Mustafi is absolutely clueless to Alonzo’s run. Did he really think a Chelsea player wasn’t going to go for the ball?

  8. How can a professional football of Welbeck’s alleged quality not know how to find his man in the box? Completely pony. And he came on for Lacazette.

  9. C,

    No one works with them. It is obvious that they do not get basic coaching. It is surely obvious that the opposing players are going to try to get on the end of a ball. To be static in the box that situation is madness.

  10. Wavey,

    Yea, Welbeck cocked it up but not nearly as bad as Morata just did.

    Fucking Jack, Xhaka, Mustafi and Holding switched completely off

  11. Wow, we sorely lack defense and I lack words. All or shortcomings and yet we didn’t lose, unbelievable.

  12. C,

    A soft pen again. They had a hatful of chances. Morata was through on goal 3 times and fucked up every one.

  13. If only we had a decent couple of CBs !!

    Both their bloody goals were dross, courtesy of our slow witted defense — our goals were classy spectacular crackers.

    And that diving bar-steward Hazard is despicable.

    But a point was one more than I expected before the game — or looked like with 2 minutes to go.

    Come on You Gunners !!!!

  14. What an effin’ freak show of a game of football.

    So how’s the discussion been here at ACLF? I haven’t been around since last springish? Surely anyone couldn’t have had a meltdown and everyone still stands in unison supporting The Arsenal?

  15. HenryB,

    If we were able to put together performances like that going forward we wouldn’t have to worry about our defence for most of the games remaining. Unfortunately we saw against West Brom that our players sometimes just don’t bother to turn up. At least we know our defence are consistent. They are poor every game, no matter who plays.

  16. Cardiac football! And this time, happily, NOT because we’re so comprehensively erratic at the back. I thought we were very evenly matched over the 90+ Which tells me we ought to be up there in 2nd or 3rd, not where we are.

  17. Wavey,

    For Morata going through I’ll raise you the 2 quality saves from Courtious in the first half and the chance that Lacazette shoudl have buried if not for Courtious getting wide in the 2nd half.

  18. Had to listen to it on the radio. Danny Mills is the biggest Arsenal hating pile of shite that I’ve ever heard on the radio or TV. He’s also the number one apologist for diving (if they get touched they are entitled to go down apparently – wanker). And that’s not just based on his input this game, week in week out this tosser proves he’s an even more pathetic pundit than he was as a player, and that’s saying something. The fact that the BBC pay this knob from our licence fee makes me want to vomit. Fuck off Mills. You embody everything that’s wrong with the modern game.

  19. Are we Liverpool with a better midfield? Fuck we have quality going forward and we actually have good defenders at boyh CB and FB but we lack a manager who cares about defending. Its strange because this season outside the opening Liverpool defeat, in all the big matches I walked away joyful yet a bit disappointed because I feel like we should have wom them all including Citeh.

  20. C,

    Obviously we had our chances and their GK kept them in it. Especially with the save from Alexis. But the Morata chances were nailed on and it wasn’t Cech being fantastic, it was Morata being lousy. Dixon and Arlo have both destroyed him after the game.

  21. andy1886:
    Had to listen to it on the radio. Danny Mills is the biggest Arsenal hating pile of shite that I’ve ever heard on the radio or TV. He’s also the number one apologist for diving (if they get touched they are entitled to go down apparently – wanker). And that’s not just based on his input this game, week in week out this tosser proves he’s an even more pathetic pundit than he was as a player, and that’s saying something. The fact that the BBC pay this knob from our licence fee makes me want to vomit. Fuck off Mills. You embody everything that’s wrong with the modern game.

    Could not agree more Andy.

    Spot on — and there are so many ex-pros with their own agenda who appear to hate the Arsenal.
    We spoke a few days ago about my feeling much the same about that f*cker Quin the other day, crapping on about the WBrom penalty. Disgusting.

  22. Sky just interviewed that other pillock Dermot Gallagher who was crap when he was a ref, and is now a waste of space for the PGMOL and in his opinion the refs are always correct — yeah, of course they are!!

  23. Anyone else find Thierry Henry has become a total ass???

    I never want to see him as Arsenal manager — EVER.

  24. Wavey,

    They both destroyes him during the game too. Isn’t it funny that both Morata and Lukuka cost loads more than Lacazette but if the former 2 aren’t scoring they have some terrible misses and can offer very little.

  25. Well, you can have Maitland-Niles in midfield, running like a gazelle, ghosting past players with the ball at his feet, showing bite in the tackle, or you can have … Xhaka. Wenger really is insane, seriously.

  26. Overall I thought we matched up reasonably closely and a draw is a fair result. We were lucky that Morata left his shooting boots at home. We looked a lot more lively on the attacking end then we have in most other games this season. I guess its not all that surprising that we struggle more against inferior teams like West Brom who concentrate on staying deep and organized and are happy to let us have most of the ball possession. We fall into our tippy tappy mode against those teams.

  27. We looked at lot more lively and we transitioned with more tempo and we moved ball around quickly and we looked a lot more dangerous against a team with much better players then any of the teams not in the top 6. You did not see Arsene out there putting up stop signs and telling the players to slow down. I know with 100% that he would rather have us play every game the way we did today as opposed to the way we played against West Brom. The problem is that we have been having the same issue for this entire decade and Arsene has not been able to fix it. I wish I understood what happens

  28. What is it about the way we play or the players we have that allows teams like West Brom or Newcastle to shut us down so often, especially away from home?

  29. Bill,

    Teams like that may like to play deep and pack the defence, but we play into their hands. The number of times I watched Bellerin and Iwobi cut back inside straight into a mass of bodies in the middle of the pitch was ridiculous against West Brom. I can only assume that the players just don’t work on anything. It’s clearly not going to work if Bellerin goes to the line by himself and throws the ball in when Lacazette is the only player in the area but if other players, such as Iwobi, make darting runs to offer other options it mixes our attack up and stretches defences. When playing against a packed defence the hardest way to score has to be to try to walk the ball through them, so surely stretching them out of shape by working the width of the pitch has to make sense. At times last night we allowed Chelsea to line up in front of us as well, but we were always quick with a player on the overlap to stretch the defenders. AMN was always a willing option for Alexis. This is nothing new at Arsenal and I don’t think Wenger actively discourages stretching opposing defences. But like I said, it needs other players to make different runs as well to mix it up. If it’s not worked on in training it requires too many players doing things off their own back. As you have said, we have very few players who have that kind of initiative in the team. Bizarrely, we used to be really good at using our FBs on the overlap down the wings.

  30. Stand out players for me last night were AMN and Ozil.

    Soccerex has carried out a review of football clubs and has indicated that Arsenal is second only to City in world football as ranked by financial firepower. Arsenal are there even though transfer spending hasn’t been anywhere near that of clubs like City and PSG.
    Soccerex argues that ‘Arsenal’s “sound business model” had enabled it to pip PSG, despite a perceived lack of spending in the transfer market. The study said this meant that Arsenal had the potential to “invest significantly” should it change its strategy.’

  31. Wavey,

    Trouble is Wavey, to run drills like that in training, the offends need a defence that knows hike to keep shape and is drilled on how to track runners when they break lines. Our lot will just stand there static and then run about a bit when it gets near the box

  32. Damon,

    It shows a fundamental weakness in the set up at London Colney. If the defence don’t know how to position themselves to defend properly the forward line are not tested. But training sessions where we put 8 – 10 men in defence and work on breaking them down must do some good. Surely it would be useful training for both defence and attack? It just seems to show that we don’t have any specialist coaches actively working with specific parts of the team. Mustafi’s single minded focus on the ball coming across from Zappacosta without an awareness on runners around him was comical. Why would he have possibly thought that there was no one from the opposing side moving?

  33. Four simple words would improve our defence instantly. Attack The Bloody Ball. Far too often we wait for it to arrive rather than moving towards it.

  34. Looking down the list of staff at London Colney, I cannot see any actual coaches apart from the vague first team coach roles filled by Boro, Neil Banfield and Jens. There are two dedicated goalkeeping coaches and that’s your lot. The rest are all focussed on fitness and conditioning except for two guys described as football analysts, Ben Knapper and Mark Curtis.

  35. andy1886,

    That’s been a problem for years and is why we tend to concede so many shots from distance. They have all been described as wonder goals at the time, but if you allow someone that amount of space they are going to have a pop.

  36. Wavey,

    Yup, and is compounded by the way we stand like statues at set pieces in the name of zonal marking. No aggression whatsoever.

  37. andy1886,

    The main reason for poor defending is poor discipline. Shortly before Chelsea’s second goal our left sided wingback was on the opposite side of the pitch close to the Chelsea corner flag. Chambers, not by any means, the quickest runner gets too far forward and leaves a gaping hole behind him. Neither Bellerin nor Maitland-Niles get back quick enough when an attacking move breaks down. They should sprint back rather than jog. Simply adhering to positional rule would make quite a difference.

  38. Yesterday we showed some abysmal defending. Twice Morata went one on one with Cech from a long ball out of their defense. That’s not dictating play or creating chances.

    That’s just booting the ball long and and hoping for the best. Route one for a pub team and amazingly it works not once but twice against us☹️.

  39. Under Wenger Arsenal have always been at risk from a long ball over the top.

    If we are to play three at the back, then there should always be three defenders in our own half. When the centre backs go up for corners, the wingbacks should stay back with either one of the three or a quick midfielder.

    It’s really all about discipline.

Comments are closed.