CHELSEA

v

ARSENAL

Stamford Bridge, London

October 29, 2011; 11:45 GMT

***

Over the last decade or so, this particular London Derby had an air of importance around it, in addition to the emotional element that’s attached to such matches, and quite understandably so. Both these teams have been the prime contenders for the Premiership title, along with Manchester United. However, this season the scenario has somewhat changed. Realistically speaking, Arsenal are not one of the top contenders for the title this season because of the departure of iconic players, injury to other important players, and emergence of Manchester City as the top dog this season. On the other hand, Chelsea has quietly gone about doing their business under new management, and will aim to push the two Manchester clubs up till May.

In the last few seasons, a Didier Drogba-inspired Chelsea proved to be too hot, and physical, for Arsenal to handle, winning five of the last six matches between the two sides. However, at the Emirates last season, Gunners played exceptionally well to end the losing streak and defeated Chelsea.

This will be unlike any other derby between the two sides because of a drastic transformation in Chelsea’s approach on the pitch, under Andre Villas-Boas. If previously, Arsenal had found the solidly organised Chelsea defense impregnable, then tomorrow they will be up against a team which collectively, relentlessly pursues and presses the opposition, pressing which begins as soon as the ball is lost. The high backline which is a consequence of this approach can play into the hands of Arsene Wenger’s fleet-footed forwards.

In the league, Chelsea were unfortunate to miss an opportunity to overtake United in the table and claim the 2nd position, when they lost last weekend at Loftus Road after being reduced to 9 men, but still the character shown by the team was admirable. While, ArsenalAi??literally tamed their demons when they defeated Stoke City to continue a good run of form that has seen the North London side win 7 of their last 8 matches.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Chelsea FC

Chelsea will be without the services of Arsenal’s tormentor-in-chief, Didier Drogba, after he got himself stupidly sent off against QPR. However, the Ivorian has been far from his best in the games that he has played this season. Fernando Torres has served his three-match suspension, and will return to take his place in the starting line-up, and considering the form he is in, Villas-Boas wouldn’t worry too much about Drogba’s unavailability. Other than long-term absentee Michael Essien, who may not even make it to the present starting line-up, all other players are available for selection, including Jose Bosignwa. The Chelsea right-back was sent off against QPR but as the challenge was notAi??maliciousAi??in nature, the ban was only for a game – which he has duly served in the Carling Cup win over Everton.

The back five is expected to comprise of Cech, Bosignwa, Luiz, Terry and Cole, while the midfield will field a fluid combination of Meireles, Ramires and Lampard. The forward line will see the return of Fernando Torres, who will be supported by compatriot Juan Mata and in-form Daniel Sturridge.

This match promises to be anAi??intriguing contest, as Chelsea of now maintains the lion’s share of possession, with their quick passing, ruthless pressing game. While, traditionally, Arsenal has enjoyed more ball possession in this fixture, and have often lost either to individual brilliance, or to physical dominance. Irrespective of the tactical setup chosen by Andre, few things which have become the inherent features of this team will definitely be on show – Mata will cut inside as the game progresses and dictate play in the attacking third, Sturridge will receive the ball deep from midfield and will run at Santos, Cole and Bosingwa will stretch the Arsenal back-line, while the midfield trio will make life difficult for Song and co. by interchanging positions on the pitch and not holding the ball for long. However, it remains to be seen if Wenger has an ace up his sleeve – if Chelsea appear the Arsenal on the pitch, can Arsenal do a Chelsea to them?

Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Cech, Bosignwa, Luiz, Terry, Cole, Meireles, Ramires, Lampard, Mata, Sturridge, Torres

Arsenal FC

For Arsenal, Jenkinson, Wilshere and Sagna are still out with injuries. Vermaelen made his long awaited comeback in the Carling Cup match against Bolton. Despite beingAi??substitutedAi??in the 80th minute in the match, the defender has come out and cleared the air regarding speculations of a fresh injury. He is likely to start in this match. There is expected to be only one change from the Line-up that started against Stoke. Following injuries to Sagna and Jenkinson, Djourou was played as a make-shift right-back. Arsene Wenger has earlier stated that he might use Koscielny in that position. Djourou has put in some shaky performances this season, so in all probabilities, Kosceilny will play at right-back, while Martesacker and Vermaelen will pair up in the center of defense. Santos will complete the back four.

Gervinho and Walcott will have to provide support to their captain in this match. Van Persie will surely be a marked man and without support from the two wide players, he might be fighting a losing battle. Walcott will specially be under the microscope of the fans after putting in some disappointing performances in recent times. His final ball, willingness to get into the box and tracking back to help out the defense is under question. Arshavin has put a good performance in the Cup match and he along with Chamberlain will be breathing down his neck for a starting berth if Walcott doesn’t improve. Arteta will play deep in the midfield to help out Song, which will leave Ramsey room to play a more advance role.

Probable Starting Line-up (4-1-4-1): SzczAi??sny,Ai??Koscielny, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Santos, Song, Arteta, Ramsey, Gervinho, Walcott, van Persie

Key Facts

  1. Ai??Chelsea have lost just three of their last 19 games in all competitions against the Gunners.
  2. Former Gunner,Ai??Ashley Cole, who has played every minute of Chelsea’s Premier League games this season, is set to make his 450th club career start.
  3. Arsenal are on a run of eight away league games without a win – their longest in the Premier League.
  4. This will be Wenger’s 30th Premier League match against Chelsea, having won 13 and lost seven of the previous 29.
  5. The Gunners have conceded more goals from free-kicks (5) than any other Premier League side this season.
Facts courtesy BBC Sport.

TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Robin van Persie (Arsenal)

A lot rests on the shoulders of Captain Dutchman!

Arsenal’s hopes will rest on Robin van Persie, who has scored 6 goals in his last 4 league games, and clearly he would have to be kept in check, if Chelsea are to win the derby. It remains to be seen whether the Chelsea manager will tweak his strategy, and ask his defense to play a bit deeper, because if the Dutchman evades the offside trap, he would be one-on-one with Cech, and a finisher of his quality shouldn’t be given too many such chances. If van Persie has his way, as he had on November 30, 2008, Arsenal can emerge from The Bridge with three points.Ai??

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal

The Gunners have improved over the last couple of months, but so have The Blues. Home advantage may just see Chelsea gather three points at Stamford Bridge this weekend.

TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST

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2 Responses to “Chelsea v Arsenal – Preview: Young Tactician Squares Off Against Le Professeur In An Intriguing Derby”

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  1. Onos kelly says:

    Am saying this for sure chelsea shall gundown arsenal by 3 goals to 1 believe it or not

  2. The gunners must gundown chelsea at stanford bridge, by 2 goals to 1.
    It’s a must.