April 21, 2012; 1715 GMT
Another London derby is here, as Arsenal hosts Chelsea in a crunch match, this Saturday. The result of this game could play a big role Ai??in deciding the 3rd and 4th spot in the league. Arsenal are currently seven points ahead of Chelsea, with the Blues having a game in hand. If the Gunners drop points in this match, Tottenham, Newcastle and even Chelsea will be back in hunt for the 3rd spot.
Both teams are coming into this match on the back of quite contrasting results. While Arsenal, who despite being in great form of late, lost there last match to Wigan at home. Infact that was their 2nd loss in 4 games against two sides fighting relegation, Wigan and QPR. In between those two defeats, there is an brilliant victory over Manchester City, that in reality sums up Arsenal’s season so far. More than the result against Wigan, Arteta’s injury was the biggest disappointment.
Chelsea meanwhile, ousted Tottenham in the FA cup, hammering the London club 5-1 in the Semi-final, but there biggest result came in the Champions League. The Blues defeated the mighty Barcelona 1-0 at the Stamford Bridge, in the 1st leg of the Semi-Final. It was a massive result by the London side, one of their best defensive performance in recent times.
An intriguing match is on offer as London derbies hardly disappoint. This time though, there is more on the line than just pride – a 6 pointer it is. Who will come out on top?
Team News and Tactical Brief
Just when it looked like Arsenal are going to end their season strongly, another injury sets them back. Mikel Arteta, one of the most influential players for the Gunners this season, damaged his ligament in the match against Wigan, andAi??is now out for the rest of the season. This has put Arsene Wenger in a spot of bother in regards to his midfield selection.
Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin are expected to return from their injuries against Chelsea, but are unlikely to start as Wenger would be skeptic about their match fitness. Yossi Benayoun is ineligible to take part in this match against his parent club Chelsea.Ai??While Martesacker, Frimpong and Wilshere remains long time casualties on the sidelines.
The headache for Wenger when comes to fielding his best available eleven, is the formation in which he would field them. Arsenal have been lining up in 4-2-3-1 formation this season, with Song and Arteta forming the shield in front of the defense and also running the game from the deep. Aaron Ramsey, who replaced Arteta in the match against Wigan, is expected to start against Chelsea. But the problem lies in the fact that Ramsey and Arteta are notAi??interchangeable. For all his talents, the Welshman doesn’tAi??possessAi??Arteta’s defensive capabilities, and perhaps even more worryingly, he is not a player who can fill in a role which requires positional discipline. Ramsey is a roamer. So with the midfield trio of Song, Ramsey and Rosicky, Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 effectively changes to 4-1-4-1 formation.
This change in formation will also affect the movements of the fullbacks, Sagna and Gibbs. Arteta and Song used to cover the space left behind by marauding full-backs effectively, but now with the Spaniard missing, Gibbs and Sagna will have to be defensively more disciplined.
Good news for Arsenal is that Laurent Koscielny will be back for this game after serving a two game suspension, while Kieran Gibbs will be available for selection once again after recovering from his injury. He will replace Santos in the side, who has beenAi??susceptibleAi??defensively. So on paper, Arsenal will be back to their first choice back-four against Chelsea.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-1-4-1):Ai??Szczesny; Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs; Song; Gervinho, Ramsey, Rosicky, Walcott; Van Persie
Roberto Di Matteo has some important decisions to make ahead of the crucial week ahead. With the all important 2nd leg against Barcelona looming large on the horizon, ideally he might have wanted to rest some players in the league. But this upcoming match against Arsenal is equally important for Chelsea. Hence any important first team players missing out from the team sheet, will be forced.
David Luiz is expected to be out for two more weeks, while Ivanovic will continue serving his three game suspension following his ‘conduct of violence’ against Shaun Maloney of Wigan. Problem in the backline for Chelsea doesn’t end over there, as Ashley Cole is likely to miss out on this game as he not 100% due to his niggling ankle injury. Matteo is expected not to take any risk with the England international, and may rest him to have him back for the match against Barcelona.
There is good news for the Blues on injury front though, as Romeu and Bertrand are set to return following their spell on the sidelines. Ryan Bertrand has put in some good performances before he got injured. He may get his chance again this Saturday against Arsenal, as a replacement for Ashley Cole.
Didier Drogba, who has been brilliant for Chelsea in their last two matches, will be rested for this match. Fernando Torres will start in place of him. Merieles, who started against Barcelona will make way for Kalou, with Ramires dropping down to midfield. Jose Bosingwa will start in place of the suspended Ivanovic.
Chelsea, under Di Matteo, have gone through some tactical changes. Firstly, the high line of defense that one saw during the reign of Andre Villas Boas has been superseded by a very deep backline. Secondly, Lampard has been played in a much more defensive role, which has allowed Mata to play in his preferred central position. Chelsea will start in 4-2-3-1 formation, with Mikel and Lampard protecting the deep back four. Torres, Kalou and Ramires will look to use there pace to get behind Arsenal’s high backline, with Mata pulling all the strings in behind the striker.
Probable Starting Line-upAi??(4-2-3-1):Ai??Cech; Bosingwa, Cahill, Terry, Bertrand; Mikel, Lampard; Ramires, Mata, Kalou; Torres
Key Match Facts
- Arsenal have scored in their last 16 consecutive home league fixtures.
- Chelsea have scored (95%) and conceded (95%) the highest portion of goals from inside the area this season.
- The Blues have shipped more goals in the closing 15 minutes than any other team this term (18).
- Chelsea have lost 29 points from winning positions against Arsenal in the Premier League, more than any side against any other, winning just 10 of 21 games in which they have held the lead (D4 L7).
- Arsenal have the Premier Leagueai??i??s top scorer this season (van Persie, 27), and also have joint-league high 17 different goalscorers.
*Facts courtesy : uk.eurosport.yahoo.com
TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out For
Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal)
With Arteta out for the rest of the season in all probabilities, Rosicky has to take up more responsibilities in the midfield now. With his sleek passing, off the ball movements and experience, he could well be the difference between Arsenal taking 3rd spot in the league or slipping further down. The kapellmeister of the Gunners.
Of late he has looked like the Little Mozart Arsenal brought from Dortmund in 2006.
The Brazilian has been in excellent form for Chelsea, and has been one of their unsung heroes. His work rate, stamina and inexhaustible engine is exemplary. He was the man who ran the length of the field to create ‘that’ goalscoring chance for Drogba against Barcelona, and come Saturday, he could be the man to rattle the Gunners.
Underrated he might be, but unnoticed? Never.
Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea
Despite being such a significant match, with lot at stake, this London derby won’t be a cagey affair. But it will be a interesting tactical battle, between two sides being lined up in similar formation, but different modus operandi.
With Chelsea playing a deep back and Arsenal holding an high line, most of the game is expected to be played in the Chelsea half. Chelsea’s deep line will give Walcott or Gervinho no space to run behind the defense, while the Gunners will be worried about Ramires, Torres and Kalou managing to do so at their end.
Expect both the teams to share the spoils, in an exciting game of football.
TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past