The Emirates Stadium, London
December 28, 2010, 01:15 AM IST
It has been 2 years and 1 month since a Robin Van Persie brace helped Arsenal conquer Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The Gunners have failed to win against their London rivals since then, a disappointing no-win-in-six-meetings has made this fixture a very important one for the home side. Meanwhile, the title challenge has been an open one, with even Manchester City chipping in with the goods, while Liverpool has slipped out of contention due to a variety of reasons.
Arsenal need to win this one to get over the mental block of being able to ‘perform in big matches’ while Chelsea, under a lot of pressure, thanks to their recent poor string of results, needs to seal this deal to get back to winning ways as far as their title ambitions are concerned. All in all, with a congestion of fixture lists coming up with a new year, this match is crucial to both teams and is sure to be a cracker of a contest.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Lukas Fabianski has returned to full training which will mean Szczney’s short stint with the Starting Eleven is over for now. Cesc Fabregas will start his first game after the long spell outside of football, due to the hamstring injury. The return of the captain is a huge boost for the Gooners, especially because of the important games coming up in the next two weeks. Cesc is not the only ‘good news’ for Arsenal, they have a-push-away-from-another-injury Abou Diaby back as well. If the manager is confident enough about the lanky Frenchman’s fitness, he might end up starting him, as he helps Arsenal with the defensive duties in such crucial games. It will be a tough call for the manager to keep Van Persie in the side and leave behind the performing Jack Wilshere. But, then these are the matches which needs to be won and the Dutchman, if completely fit, can be lethal on his day.
The Back Four will remain same for Arsenal while Fabianski will start ahead of Szczney in front of the post. Alex Song, who has lately been criticized for ‘bombing forward too often’ needs to keep that aspect of his game in check; he will start in front of the Back Four. Cesc and Nasri, the creative focal point of the team, selects themselves automatically. The fact that Nasri has taken off some pressure from Cesc, will really help the Spanish Number Ten to relax and play his game. There will be a fight for positions up front with Chamakh, Arshavin, Van Persie and Theo tussling for the Top-Three strikers’ slot. With experience an important factor in these games, Arshavin and Van Persie might get the nod ahead of the speedy Englishman.
Possible Starting Line-Up: Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Cesc, Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin
With the return of Essien, and now, Frank Lampard, Chelsea has no excuse of failing to beat teams like they used to. With some already calling for the axe, Carlo Ancelotti needs to get his men together as they face a tough test at North London. Even though, Chelsea have triumphed over their London rivals in the last six fixtures, they are quite aware of how difficult this fixture can be, with a very strong Arsenal side on home-soil. The defending champions were ahead by five points two months back from their nearest title contenders, but now, a six points deficit from table-top is a possibility if they are toppled by the Gunners. Drogba, a dangerous hitman, in these fixtures, needs to lift his team up and help them to sail through this congestion of fixtures.
With the return of Bosingwa at Full Back, Ferriera might have to sit out. The rest of the Back Three remains the same with the pairing of Ivanovic and Terry, as solid as ever, tasked with stopping the incessant Arsenal attacks at The Emirates. Frank Lampard, with his brilliant ‘football sense’ adds a new dimension to the Chelsea attack, his absence was clearly felt by the West Londoners. He will find Michael Essien and the always-reliable Obi Mikel as partners in the midfield. While, Mikel will try to intercept passes from Cesc and Nasri to the Arsenal strikers, Essien will ruffle the home team with his solid all-round game, contributing to both attack and defence. The attacking responsibilities will be shared by Drogba, Anelka and Malouda, who have scored quite heavily this season, but are still below their high expectations.
Possible Starting Line-Up: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Essien, Mikel, Lampard, Anelka, Malouda, Drogba
1. Samir Nasri has scored 6 in his last 6 games at The Emirates.
2. Didier Drogba has scored 13 times in 13 games against Arsenal.
3. Chelsea has scored 13 goals and conceded two in their last 5 meetings with Arsenal.
4. Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh have a total of 30 goals between them, this season, in all competitions.
5. Anelka, Drogba, Malouda have a combined total of 27 goals between them, this season, in all competitions.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Samir Nasri (Arsenal)
With 17 goals in all competitions, Samir Nasri, and not Cesc Fabregas, has been Arsenal’s frontman this season. He has propelled this team to glory in the absence of the captain. Nasri, along with his goals, adds a lot of creativity quotient to the Arsenal game. After failing to contribute in the match against United, the Frenchman will look to make a mark against The Blues.
Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
Nobody needs to look at stats to see how Drogba performs against an Arsenal side. He is ‘feared’ by defenders world-wide but there is something to his game which makes Arsenal defenders nervy whenever they have been asked to confront the big man from Ivory Coast. With Chelsea’s form dipping and chain of games coming up, their key-man needs to make an impact against his favorite team.
Form Guide (in all competitions)
Arsenal – W.W.W.W.L
Chelsea – W.D.D.L.D
Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea
With both teams quite aware of how crucial this fixture is, there will a certain ‘caution-in-the-wind’ which will lead to both teams making sure they don’t lose this game.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST
Arsenal 2 (Jose Reyes 2 goals) – 1 Chelsea (Adrian Mutu) [15th Feb, 2004]