Arsenal are set to host Chelsea on Monday, December 27, in a match that could have a great bearing on Gunners’ title bid this season.
Despite being placed second after 17 match weeks, Arsene Wenger’s squad haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory against the better teams, losing to Chelsea, Man United and Tottenham.
Arsenal dominated the first 30 minutes of the game against Chelsea and should have scored twice in the first 100 seconds. And with Drogba putting the blues ahead just minutes before the interval, the Gunners came out firing after the break. And but for an out-of-the-word free kick by Alex for Chelsea, Wenger’s men could still have pressed for an equaliser.
The loss to Chelsea came on October 2, and much water has flowed under the proverbial bridge, since then. Circumstances have changed, not least in terms of match fit players available. During their visit to Stamford Bridge in October, Gunners missed Fabregas, Almunia, Van Persie, Bendtner and Walcott, all sidelined through injury.
While Almunia is not fully recovered from his elbow injury, Wenger will welcome the return of Fabregas, Van Persie and Walcott, and the presence of the trio could make all the difference to the confidence of a team that has suffered six consecutive league losses to the Blues.
Another factor that has worked against Gunners’ best interests has been Drogba who has scored 13 goals in as many matches against the Emirates squad. And with Drogba getting back to his goal scoring ways against Tottenham, Wenger’s charges will pay heed to the omens.
While Arsenal’s attack has been impressive, and their midfield should get a boost with Fabregas’s return, the back-line has been a cause for worry. With both Almunia and Fabianski injured, they also have a problem between the posts. Their third goalkeeper Szczesny who had his Premier League debut against Man United struggled on the back of a porous defence in which Squillaci was the biggest culprit.
On the plus side, Nasri is in tremendous form and could make the difference up front. While Arshavin could give way to Van Persie and Wilshere to Fabregas, Arsene Wenger would also want the pace of Walcott against the Chelsea back-line, more obdurate after the return of Terry.
Chelsea have been through a bad spell of three draws and two losses from matches 13 to 17 that has seen them slip from the top of the table to fourth place, but there are clear signs of a revival. The champions should have reclaimed their top spot in match week 17, but for Drogba’s missed penalty in the dying stages.
With Lampard’s return, the Blues will have the strength they need in midfield to dominate possession and neutralise the Arsenal forward line. Arsenal’s weak back-line should be sorely tested by the likes of Kalou and Malouda, apart from Drogba.
Arsenal will rely on home advantage against Chelsea who haven’t had a great record in nine games on the road this season, with three matches each won, lost and drawn. Gunners on their part have won five of eight home games while losing the remainder.
If both sides were able to field their best elevens, this could turn out to be the most exciting game of the Premiership yet.
Arsenal had the following men in their starting eleven against Manchester united: Szczesny, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Rosicky, Wiulshere, Nasri, Chamakh and Arshavin. Fabregas, Van Persie and Walcott featured as substitutes.
Chelsea’s starting eleven against Tottenham comprised: Cech, Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Mikel, Essien, Kalou, Anelka and Malouda. Droba, Sturridge and Lampard were used as substitutes.
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Suresh Iyer is an avid sports fan and blogger.
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Jinxatious is the Chief Editor of SportingAttitude.com
An avid writer, on an eclectic range of subjects, he brings to bear editorial experience garnered with a national newspaper in South-East Asia. He also has sportscasting experience, as a cricket commentator, and his passion for sport extends beyond Cricket, to Football, Tennis, and Olympic Sports.