Chelsea Preview: Hard Work Is The Long and Short Of It

I love the smell of matchday in the morning. Chelsea, the graveyard of Arsenal dreams down the years, continues Unai Emery’s steep learning curve.

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After last weekend’s defeat, to what extent does he tweak the line-up? AMN’s injury means a change at left-back where we assume Nacho Monreal will return. It could be Lichtsteiner if the Spaniard isn’t fully fit, but whomever it is needs more protection than AMN was given last weekend.

The talking point is the midfield. Granit Xhaka was horribly off the pace last weekend; a World Cup hangover or just lacking the sharpness pre-season brings? Meanwhile, Guendouzi’s raw talent earned praise overall but the naivety of youth cannot be overlooked.  Which of those to will accompany Lucas Torreira in the centre of the park?

Emery arranged a friendly earlier this week with Crystal Palace to improve players fitness levels although none of the team which started against City was involved. Torreira and Leno are the two to whom Emery paid the closest attention, according to reports.

No surprise; we didn’t cover ourselves in glory playing out from the back and the pair could be the solution to that. However, as I mentioned earlier this week, I think as much as anything Cech is in the team to provide some continuation, some stability while Mustafi and Sokratis adjust to each other’s presence. When that happens, Leno is likely to take over as the first-choice goalkeeper.

The struggles with playing short passes out from the back were seen by everyone. If the punters saw it, so too did Chelsea scouts and Maurizio Sarri. We can expect a high press from Chelsea’s forwards from the outset. Our judgement in when to play out from the back or go long is the fastest lesson to be learned.

Work! Hard Work!

During his press conference ahead of this game, Emery touched on that. The way we played out from the back underlined just how much learning on the job is taking place. The balance of short passes from the goalkeeper or long comes with experience of playing a certain way.

While it’s easy to say this is what we’re looking to achieve and it’s really a good idea, until the Arsenal defence and midfield get comfortable with the practice, we’re always going to look nervous at goal-kicks. Torreira could change that with his natural inclination to play deep and being comfortable on the ball in defensive areas.

But who to pair the Uruguayan with is not a straightforward answer. A match-sharp Granit Xhaka is probably the answer but the one who was out of sorts last weekend is not. Guendouzi’s energy provides a nice accompaniment to Torreira’s defensive sensibilities but the naivety is an issue. However, given the match today requires experience, it won’t be a surprise to see Xhaka in the centre.

If we’re going to get anything out of today, we’ve got to be better defensively from midfield in support of the back four. Emery touched on that earlier this week:

“There are defensive moments and attacking moments.

“Every player needs this commitment.

“We need to start together, whether we are attacking or defending. I want that from every player, defensive moments are for each and every player.”

He was referring to Ozil, who Emery believes must be more “demanding”, in that instance but it applies equally to everyone. Personally, I’d prefer to see the German in a number 10 role with Lacazette ahead of him and Aubameyang on the left. It means Ramsey or Mkhitaryan on the right, with the Welshman’s work ethic winning out.

Eleven Angry Men

The high press relies on work ethic to be successful. I guess that Mkhitaryan will start today with Lacazette on the bench. While it’s not a surprise, it feels like we’re tying one hand behind our back by leaving a striker of his calibre out of the starting line-up.

My guess at the starting line-up is:

Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal; Torreira, Xhaka; Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan; Lacazette

Personally, I’d include Ramsey as I said earlier. There’s a case to be made for him to play alongside Torreira as well, but if he plays it’s more likely as a wide midfielder than a central role.

What do I hope we get out of this game? Three points, obviously, but the tangible is showing progress towards Emery’s template of success. The high press consistently applied by all the team, with the hard work needed to support it. Progress towards playing out from the back, with none of the nervousness which surfaced last week. Just a general improvement, really.

We’re good enough to beat Chelsea but a draw will be a good result. But this time the performance is as important.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

 

107 thoughts on “Chelsea Preview: Hard Work Is The Long and Short Of It

  1. It is very much early days, but I’m hoping Emery is a progressive coach who is constantly learning, rather than a stubborn one who sticks to his game plan no matter what. He must now be starting to see that his high defensive line and playing from the back is just not going to work in the PL, certainly not with the players he has available to him. He will have to compromise and try to work out how to ensure the gap between defence, midfield and attack doesn’t get too wide without leaving acres of space behind our back four for teams to exploit. Conte learnt quickly that he had to make adjustments to his thinking to get his team working in the PL. I hope Emery can. We may see some exciting games if he perseveres with his current tactics, but we will be hoping we can outscore the opposition every week, because clean sheets will be a luxury.

  2. Wavey,

    I agree. Realistically the defense isn’t going to be fixed over night. I saw a lot of good things in that game if I’m being honest, we tore them open at times and should have won it, unlike City game where we didn’t really look in it.

    Again, December until we see the system taking shape. I will say that after ozil came off the energy was better perhaps Ramsey should start until ozil gets his forms back. But guendouzi was amazing, Torriera looked good and we did show some defensive solidity in second half.

    Next week the season starts for us…. Was a horrific two games to start with. Had it been City away and cheslea at home I reckon we could have got a better result

  3. Damon:
    MikeSA,

    Goal scoring opportunity is quite the intangible though isn’t it?

    Frankly, I don’t give two shits what he did for Germany. It’s in an Arsenal shirt that im concerned about.

    With that said, for all his goal scoring chances he made, the World Cup didn’t work out too well for zee Germans though did it ?

    Except he’s done it for us too.

    And as far as the Germans are concerned, its not really totally his issue that they couldn’t convert, is it?

    And no, it isn’t that intangible, its a metric applied and measured by people who do that sort of thing for a living and who supply those measurements to people who actually use them to make real decisions.

  4. Damon:
    MikeSA,

    So if he passed two yards to someone thirty yards out and they shoot is that a goal scoring opportunity?

    You cant make dismissive assumptions like that unless you actually know the criteria.

    Thats actually the exact problem with all of this.

    Many on here (me included), try to dismiss or ridicule facts or statistics that don’t support our arguments.

    Making an assumption of the ilk you just did is the same as Bill some time back claiming that Ozil’s corners were added into his opportunities created tally.

    In actual fact they aren’t, so before we all jump to find bizarre reasons to dismiss facts or figures we don’t like, maybe we should find out what the actual criteria are first?

  5. MikeSA,

    You’re absolutely right.

    Please do enlighten me as to what the criteria are for qualifying a “goal scoring opportunity”, as I have no idea

  6. Plus, I asked you a question. Not sure how that’s a dismissive assumption?

    Or did I just get a bit too close to the mark for you?

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