Chelsea Preview: Growling Like Tigers – GRRR!

I’m pretty sure that Stonehenge was built in a quicker time than Hengist Pod ran this morning’s Microsoft update. Well, it killed a few minutes more before the ritual sacrifice of Arsenal on the Stamford Bridge altar.

Overshadowing that are reports of a £20m bid from Manchester City for Alexis. Speculation or fact, it shouldn’t be allowed to impact on tonight’s XI. Instead, it should be a motivational tool: “Alexis, it’s time to say goodbye with a performance to remember. Go get ’em, tiger!”

That won’t happen; he’ll be left to skulk away amid social media bravado and jeers. We’re at a point where we’ve got to make a decision as a club: do we keep Alexis and lose £20m + wages, or sell knowing we’ll lose prize money but be financially better off.

Let’s be honest, the squad we have will not win any trophies this year without either the Chilean or a mercurial replacement. You may mock and claim he’s below par but he’s below par by his standards yet overperforming compared to others in the squad.

But tonight could provide some light relief. While Arsène worries about running into Groundskeeper Willie at Stamford Bridge, we are underdogs tonight to such an extent that Chelsea may be lured into a false sense of security. Last week’s 2 – 2  draw has little bearing on tonight beyond motivating Alvaro Morata to wear his shooting boots. We can draw inspiration from a good performance overall and know we can go toe-to-toe with the home side.

However, repeating the defensive naivety which allowed Morata three clear scoring chances or that which saw us lose at Forest, pushes us toward the exit door. We’ve got to be inspired by Bristol City’s hard work last night and take it up a notch.

There’s No Pride in Losing

Wenger acknowledged we were too lax last week but pointed out this is a two-legged affair so the approach to the game is different:

“You want to go there, be solid and try to take advantage of every mistake, of every weakness, to win the game. We also know there is another game after that, and we need to be solid defensively too.”

Two bites at the cherry.

Arsène declared none of the walking wounded is returning for today or Sunday’s game against Bournemouth. What kind of team will he field? The poverty of Sunday’s performance quashed that line-up playing tonight, thankfully. Ultimately, the Premier League is our bread and butter, with the cups a nice distraction when you do well. But this is the semi-final and more important than normal.

Assuming Francis Coquelin won’t feature – which Wenger hinted at yesterday – the midfield is Jack and either Xhaka or Elneny. The Egyptian suits Bournemouth more than this one; Xhaka’s lack of discipline is an issue, but his feistiness is an attribute you need in a derby.

Observing that he wants to win the trophy now we’re in the last four is good PR-speak. With the League Cup, you’re always of the view that it is an inconvenience for the manager and he’d prefer a full week preparing for the next Premier League game.

Overall, I expect a strong line-up. Ospina will continue in goal; if Arsène doesn’t change for a cup final, he’s not going to for tonight’s game either. Chambers rested on Sunday, will accompany Mustafi and Holding. The German plays even at 70% fit; Mertesacker unfortunately, is too vulnerable to pace these days and while Holding proved he’s no Cannavaro, I think he’s preferable to the BFG.

Pick Me! Pick Me!

The rest of the side picks itself. It’s got to be a strong line-up; Chelsea will go for it, looking to end the tie tonight. Iwobi is too divisive to use, despite a strong performance in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season. Beyond that, we just don’t have the options.

Akpom or Lacazette? Walcott or Sanchez? Welbeck or Özil? Injuries mean the gulf between the first-team and the squad players is a chasm. Although Welbeck’s work-rate may see him start ahead of the German or Alexis; that’s one thing he couldn’t be criticised for on Sunday – Danny didn’t stop working hard even when others gave up.

In fact, I’ve just talked myself into including him in tonight’s XI:

Ospina; Chambers, Mustafi, Holding; Bellerin, Wilshere, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Alexis, Lacazette, Welbeck

It’s a more direct side but workmanlike is good away from home, particularly in these games. Tonight needs a pride-restoring performance after Sunday. Three of them started and need redemption, even if that is harsh on Ospina who did little wrong at Forest. It feels like Hengist Pod was the last Arsenal goalkeeper to save a penalty.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

128 thoughts on “Chelsea Preview: Growling Like Tigers – GRRR!

  1. i dont think weve done too badly thus far.
    set pieces have been bollox and forward line looks a tad shite but other than that jack seems to be keeping us in it on his own.

    good team performance all round then

  2. YW,

    Thanks YW, I kind of like the idea of a term for ”righteous moron unwittingly doing your bidding🙂.

  3. Welbeck and Iwobi offer NOTHING, at least Theo offers a goal threat.

    Just think, this could be our team moving forward if Jack and Ozil don’t sign 😢

  4. Chelsea have pressed up a bit and we aren’t coping with it. Defenders and midfielders dwelling on the ball are giving it away in dangerous areas and the forward line is now isolated. We just aren’t as good on the ball as we think we are.

  5. Lacazette being replaced by Sanchez and somehow Iwobi and Welbeck stay on the pitch. Is that because they are so much more of a goal threat?

  6. Odd to see Sanchez still involved if a deal is likely in the next week or two. I’m beginning to think that Wenger has decided to keep him which IMO would be a mistake. Remember all those who said he should stay and that his level wouldn’t drop? How did that work out? I suspect that we’d see an even less motivated player, or one that starts to pick up mysterious niggles regularly if he’s still here in February.

  7. Dull eh?

    Grinding out a decent cup result with an uninspiring performance. And I thought that Wenger was the anti-Graham?? 😉

  8. C,

    I can’t agree with you about Maitland-Niles, Moses showed him up for the rookie defender that he is. Poor positioning which allowed Moses all the room room he needed and hasn’t a clue how to tackle.

    I guess we have to be content with the draw even though it has cost us injuries to Wilshire and Chambers. Maybe we’ll see the Greek kid sooner than expected.

  9. Orson Kaert,

    He had moments, the thing for me is he is still learning but still battling. I can’t kill him for some of the positioning because he is a CM the rest I genuinely blame on Arsene.

    Hell we could see Mavropanos this weekend which us hilarious given when he was signed Arsene saud he wasn’t good enough yet.

  10. Arsene spoke:

    On Coquelin signing for Valencia…

    Yes [that’s true].

    On signing players…

    At the moment we have five big injuries. Hopefully, we’ll get some [players] back. I believe the earliest to come back will be Ramsey and that’s quite welcome because it’s an area [midfield] where we’re short. If we didn’t lose Jack tonight and have Ramsey back and Ozil back maybe on Sunday then we have the numbers. But at the moment we look a bit short.

  11. For years we have debated whether Arsene’s “overusing” players and not rotating enough might have been the cause of a lot of our injuries and that overuse was tiring the players which was part of the reason for our inconsistency. This season added an solid data point to suggest that those who thought overuse was a huge part of our problem were probably mistaken.

  12. Jonnygunner,

    Don’t get me wrong, I think he has the makings of a very good central midfielder but is not a full or wing back.

    Playing him, as Wenger does, just further illustrates how little he appreciates the importance of defending.

  13. C,

    Sorry mate

    I know Stan is tight but I don’t understand your logic. We have a very experienced manager who is remunerated at market rate for his experience and relative to our own financial position. Why would that not continue when Arsène leaves?

  14. For the third time this season, (twice at Stamford Bridge) Arsenal have held the champions Chelsea, to a draw.
    Our somewhat makeshift defence last night, continually on the back foot, was magnificent in keeping out a formidable attack.
    Less doom and gloom and more appreciation, please. 😉

  15. Not a dreadful game for a 0:0

    Would’ve ripped your arms off if you’d offered me that with th team sheets in before kick off

    Maitland Niles (Apple auto corrects to Nukes for me!!) did well. I liked the job Mustafi did on Morata. Physical and pushed the boundaries of what’s legal a lot of the time. You could see Morata was getting pissed off with it. Splendid

    Starting to worry about Lacazette. Lots of great work but we don’t play to his game. Looks a bit miffed generally? Pissed the big guns are off leaving him with dross players? The getting hooked at 70 shit is also wearing thin on everyone. Especially with Iwobi still on the pitch. He must think wtf when his number keeps going up

    Another one whose face doesn’t fit with Arsène??

  16. nicky,

    I trust you’ll be back to stick your tupence worth in if they spank us at the home leg? You have a knack for dropping in only when the climate suits your rather obtuse narrative

  17. Appreciation, for that? They make me want my fucking life back.
    GG’s Arsenal were genuinely more interesting than this shit parade.
    You might be the only thing that is presently more boring for me, Nicky.
    Still, at least you play less often.
    😉

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