Monday, 27 December 2010

Chelsea preview: time for the big guns to step up

I, for one, am more than a little bit tired of telling people that Arsenal are finally going to perform in a big game, only to have it thrown back in my face.

The statistics of our recent matches against Chelsea and Man United are more damning than anything I can say, even in criticism of Theo Walcott: in our last 11 games against the pair of them we've managed one draw and 10 defeats, with just five goals scored and a whopping 23 conceded.

What's more, at Old Trafford 14 days ago, we stunk it out. Edwin Van Der Sar barely had a save to make. Because of the snow, in the intervening two weeks we haven't actually played. It's not quite the winter break that Arsene has been asking for but near enough. He's had fourteen days together with the players (okay thirteen because of Christmas) to work on tactics and create a gameplan for this match.

Abou Diaby and Lukasz Fabianski are back fit, and while Vermaelen is certainly a miss, it's unrealistic to expect that any team - but particularly this Arsenal team - could be injury free. It's pretty much his entire squad that the manager has to choose from, and he's had time to create a tactical system around that.

And yet, I don't go into this match with any kind of expectations. I could predict Arsenal will win this match but I've been wrong enough times to make Messrs Hill and Ladbroke rather wealthy indeed.

To win the game, we need to defend well against Didier Drogba for one thing. For this reason, I'd love to see Johan Djourou play. He's good in the air and has the requisite strength to hold off Drogba. But asking this Arsenal side to defend well against Drogba is hardly something new. And yet they haven't managed to do it in a long time.

So I go into this match with hope rather than expectation. I know Arshavin has contributed a lot of assists from the wings but we haven't seen the great goals he produced in his first 12 months in English football. Because of the World Cup and injury, we're still yet to see a lot from Robin Van Persie this season. And when I say 'a lot', I really mean anything at all.

He came back from injury against Newcastle at the beginning of November and if he's not fit by now, that's just completely ridiculous.

But there is a hope that Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas, Andrey Arshavin and Van Persie will show what world class players they are and beat Chelsea. This is not the domineering Chelsea side of last season. They're rocking. Many of their players are getting just a little bit old. And there has to be a hope that we can take advantage of this. A front six of Arshavin--Wilshere--Song--Fabregas--Nasri with RVP/Chamakh (depending on his fitness) up front would certainly give us more than enough penetration and that's the team which I would expect to start, much though I'd love Denilson to come in for Song.

I hope Arsene shows them the video of Robert Pires from yesterday and gets them to channel his love of Arsenal.

Arsene always talks about 'playing with the handbrake a little bit' when we lose and we need to get in the face of the opposition. Pires was hardly an aggressive player but he understood how important the big games were. Lets pass the ball like we can, and then we genuinely can win the game.

Cesc was on Twitter this morning, saying the following:

I'll give him and the rest of the team my support as usual. But please, please win the game for once!

Come on you Gunners!

Keep the faith.

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