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Untold preview: Arsenal versus Chelsea

By Phil Gregory

After a disappointing result at home against Wigan, Arsenal are back in action versus Chelsea in Saturday’s early kick off. Chelsea come into the game off the back of an impressive defensive display a demonstration of how not to finish a series of solid chances by Barcelona, and I can’t imagine many Arsenal tears will be shed should the Catalans slink out of the tournament… though the thought of Chelsea winning the Champions League isn’t too appealing either.

The always excellent RefWatch has made clear the task facing Arsenal in this upcoming match, given the appointment of Mike Dean to the tie. Once this game was announced to be in between Chelsea’s Champions League semi final it became a much more likely source of three points, though any benefit from the fixture list is surely eliminated by the Dean Factor, and more besides. Could get nasty.

The race for the Champions League has certainly got interesting all of a sudden. Our loss to Wigan means that wins for Newcastle and Spurs in their games in hand would see them draw to within two points of us. This weekend both of those pair have winnable games while we have Chelsea and Dean at home, so the Wigan defeat could yet make 3rd place a more closely run affair than we would have liked. Tottenham certainly don’t have many tough games remaining, with the likes of Fulham, Bolton, Villa and Blackburn awaiting them. Newcastle on the other hand have to travel to an ever-improving Wigan side, Chelsea, Everton and have to host Man City. I’d expect the Geordies to drop off once those fixtures bite, and Chelsea to overtake them for 5th, given an average bag of fixtures for John Terry’s Di Matteo’s side. That does unfortunately mean I expect Tottenham to have Champions League football next season, though I am being logical here: if Tottenham continue to be Tottenham, their easy-looking fixtures (Norwich at home, anyone?) could throw up enough losses to see the Chavs or Geordies spoil their show. With ‘Arry having stocked their squad full of 31 year old players, his departure to England could lead to a decline in Spurs next season, providing they don’t manage to get a competent manager in.

Looking at the injuries and suspensions, fans of excellent French defenders will be pleased to see the return of Laurent Koscielny to the Arsenal backline after a two game ban. Yossi Benayoun is out however, according to the terms of his loan deal from Chelsea, which robs us of one of our recent impressive performers. Abou Diaby is – pending next injury – back in the mix. Abou is certainly a special one: his injury record is dire and he seems to be incredibly fragile. That said, he has been on the receiving end of some bad tackles in recent seasons, and has also shown some outstanding ability when he gets on the pitch at times. He’s one that seems to cause so much frustration with his fitness woes that fans demand him out, and then fail to see his quality on the pitch. Living in France for a year, it was interesting to hear how the French seem to rate him highly –he certainly featured for the national team when fit – and yet some Gooners wouldn’t want him near our first eleven. The debate really is if he can stay fit, and how much the recent injuries have cost him in terms of development… it all sounds very Kieran Gibbs. Fingers crossed for the pair of them over the next season.

The most disappointing news is Mikel Arteta’s injury, a sprain which is expected to keep him out for the rest of the season. Mikel’s excellent form has led to suggestions that the Spaniard could well keep a fit Jack Wilshere out of the side, which would certainly be good for squad depth once the inevitable injuries occur.

Szcznesy

Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Santos

Ramsey Song

Rosicky

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Walcott Van Persie Gervinho

I’ve gone for Gervinho to fill in for the ineligible Benayoun. Whilst the Ivorian hasn’t hit the heights many expected of him when he arrived, in fairness this is no disaster given he is adjusting to his first season in the Premier League. A return of four goals and six assists in the league suggests there is plenty to come from the livewire front man, and certainly his finishing could be much improved. Watching his debut up in the rafters of his St James Park, I was really struck by his ability to dribble past his man and get into very dangerous positions. While his passing and/or finishing once in those positions isn’t the greatest, he’ll very easily provide ten goals and assists a season once he improves those aspects of his game.

Ramsey will probably come in for Arteta. This isn’t really a like-for-like change: Arteta plays much deeper, while Ramsey prefers to play further forward, so the team may not have the same balance the Spaniard would bring. While Ramsey hasn’t the best of seasons, people forget he is 21 and perhaps he is also suffering from being overhyped during his time out injured. Consider his Arsenal career to date:

  • Signed as a very promising youngster in the summer of 2008, bedded into the team initially with cup games during the 2008-09 season
  • Starts to break through to the first team during the 2009-10, earning much praise for this performances
  • Progress totally stalled by Shawcross’ tackle and subsequent time out injured.
  • Returned halfway through the 10-11 season, battling for fitness and consistency.

 

The current season is really Aaron’s first full season of first team football: he only made fifteen league appearances for Cardiff before signing for Arsenal, and that is at a much lower level and intensity than what he experiences in the Premier League with the Arsenal. So really, expecting him to perform at the top level this season was unreasonable, and hence the playmaker duties have been shared between the Welshman and Tomas Rosicky, with the latter stepping in now the Welshman looks jaded. At his age, in the first season of a career as a regular starter and coming off the back of a very serious injury, slamming Ramsey for “not performing” when his season has tailed off is frankly bizarre to me.

Chelsea’s team could well be an interesting one. Do they rest players to maximise their chances of making the Champions League final, knowing a loss versus Arsenal could well be a big blow to their hopes of Champions League football next season, should they not win the competition? Even with the Dean factor, if Chelsea were to opt for making a large number of changes we should have enough to see them off at home. The only confirmed absentee for Chelsea will be Drogba, who is out with a knee injury.

Predicting a score for this match is a really mugs game, given Chelsea may or may not rotate. Fortunately I am a mug, so I’ll go for a basic 1-0 to the Arsenal.

29 comments to Untold preview: Arsenal versus Chelsea

  • mark

    It is hard to believe that Dean is the ref! Clearly this is not by chance.

  • Damien Luu

    @Mark: Well, we all know that if it wouldn’t be Dean, it would be Dowd or Webb so we have to live with it I guess.

    I’ll go for 1-0 for us, too, and I hope there will be NO more injuries for us. Finger crossed.

  • RedGooner

    I hope the prediction is right 1-0 would be great.

    Funny story in The Sun today with Mancini saying the Ref should wear black not red 🙂
    He even said when he was in Italy he thought the EPL Refs were much better but now hes not so sure.
    Considering the Italian Refs were bought and paid for it says a lot about our bunch of cronies at the PGMOL.

  • Akinde Salas

    It will be 1- 0 in favour of Arsenal despite Mike Dean factor

  • Sammy The Snake

    2-1 to the Arsenal.

  • I thought that Ox-Cha played superbly for the short while he was on the pitch v Wigan playing… deep midfield. It didn’t seem to get too much attention, because of the nature of the game, but it was extraordinary to see his skill in that position as well as everything else we know about him.

    That revelation suggests just why we have all these wingers – because at least one of them can play elsewhere.

    It is also interesting the way that Ramsey is being attacked – it is as if nothing in the past ever influences those “supporters” who pick on a player. They picked on Song, they picked on Van P., they picked on Koscielny… and now they quietly forget all the abuse, and turn on another player.

    The logic is that all players go through difficult times – and the way they come out of them is NOT through being cast aside but by seeing it through.

    It is not just an Arsenal thing – every team is probably using one player who is working through problems with his game.

  • Oh and just on Diaby – the very short appearance he made, coming on as a sub before being subbed showed a player of exquisite class. I am with the French on this – an amazing player.

  • Mickess

    Phil,
    I agree with almost all you say about Ramsey. He is a great player in the making but and this is the nub of the problem, he is not yet ready after his horrendous leg break to play in the forward role Wenger has played him in. He seems to have lost confidence and being a season ticket holder it is clear to those of us who see him on a regular basis that his first thought is to pass sideways or back. When Arsene has played him in the forward role rather than Rosicky our play becomes more negative and we invariably end up struggling. I hope today he plays in the deeper Arteta position that I think he is more suited to at the moment. As I said he is a great player in the making but we cannot afford any more slip ups.

  • Mickess

    Tony, Yes Diaby is also a great player and shows amazing skills when he is allowed to. Hopefully he can stay fit next season.

  • nicky

    I still feel that our boys were simply not fired up either against QPR OR Wigan. They will not need to be in today’s game against Chelsea. A 3rd place in the EPL is up for grabs and that is all the incentive they require.
    All too often, over the years, have Arsenal sides failed against lower opposition when heavily tipped to win. Today, with both teams closely aligned, we should see our boys keep a good shape and concentration.

  • JohnW

    I’m sorry Phil, but after making Mike Dean ashamed in the Spurs game, i don’t think he can allow us to do it to him a second time. Fome me 1:1 if we are even lucky. In the league this season we’ve had this man four times, WHY!

  • Stevie E

    JohnW
    This is actually game #6 for Dean http://blog.emiratesstadium.info/archives/20513 how anyone can say this league isn’t fixed is either a supporter of Man U or totally brainwashed by the lies the media constantly churn out to protect their cash cow. Even with Dean I don’t think Chelsea will be strong enough for us today. Tired, old legs won’t be able to handle our pace. No doubt they’ll get a freebie from Dean so I’m going for a comprehensive 3-1.

  • bjtgooner

    We can win today despite Dean. It’s important the fans get behind the team and also for the fans to let Dean know they are onto him. As for Ramsey – the guy will come good and the AAA scum will no doubt try to pick on someone else. At times I wonder if the are medically sane.

  • Patrick

    I think all the abuse directed against Ramsey is daft.So he has had a finishing problem.Well let me point out his drop in form has been very evident since the death of Gary Speed. Remember just before that he put in a man of the match performances against stoke and for wales against england

  • marcus

    I think the RSPCA should investigate if any of the people who abused Ramsey own pets. I wouldn’t like to be the pet of one of these people.

  • Jacobite Gunner

    After all three subs have been made I can’t help but notice our (present in time) lack of depth even with a rather limited injury list.

    Rambo and Diaby in midfield (one young player with potential in his 1st full season and another who should really be coming on against lesser quality opposition to get his rythm back). Regardless of how hard they worked (espesh ramsey), neither had any noticable impact (espesh diaby) on the game where they was a succinct lack of creativity in midfield.

    No back up to RVP when he looks a little jaded (no goal since the Newcastle game 5 weeks ago).

    I hope it is clear to wenger that we could do with a top striker (you all know who that is) and a quality ATM who can open doors while rosicky is not playing and which also allows ramsey to develop with less pressure.

    We will get 3rd place, i’m sure of it, even if it comes down to the last game of the season, so have faith in wenger to make the best choices for the club untill then and also during the summer.

  • Damien Luu

    @Jacobite: Don’t forget that we have just lost Arteta, and still not have Jack back. We don’t need any more ATM, especially by high price. Another great striker is good, but I doubt that any striker can be really “great” if he doesn’t have the opportunity to play week in, week out.

    About the game, we really, really, really miss Arteta!

  • akasuna

    Everytime Arsenal player has a ball outside the penalty box I was hoping someone will shoot. We really miss Arteta..Maybe it is my imagination but I did saw flashes of brilliance from Diaby. Ramsey for me did very well today. What I don’t understand though is the commentator keep saying it’s a good point for Chelsea. Isn’t it even better point for us?

  • dan

    @akasuna

    Damn right, it’s a better point for us, Chelsea have dropped 2 points today because of their negative approach. It will be funny Barca hammering them and then they’ll have the scousers.

  • Akasuna talk about shooting,really there are times when the guns need to blow hot but alas in the 2nd half they went cold. We need to shoot otherwise we would not have slaughtered Man$ity. Stoke next we better shoot or we are shot,simple.
    I’m happy for Diaby he just needs our players and all will be fine.
    We missed our chances but a point is not all that bad.

  • RedGooner

    Looking at Sp*rs 1-0 at half time seems the draw isnt a bad result as Newcastle have to go to stamford bridge.

    On Ramsey I think the part of his game he is struggling with a little is when he is asked to play deep like in a defensive roll he seems to play way better in a more forward attacking position which is where he should be anyway.

  • Jacobite Gunner

    @Damien Luu

    Hi,

    my real name is Ruaridh and from my site name, you can prob tell i’m from Scotland (Edinburgh, in fact).

    Anyway, polite introductions aside, I felt that it was evident today, that after our subs were made, (I understand two were forced by injury to Rosicky and Wallcot) that no real attacking impetus was actually gained, however this could be explained by two forced subs forcing the team to get used to the subs immediate involvement and hence, disrupting our flow of play, nevertheless we were still a bit flat in a home game against a (poorer than recent times) chelsea 11 that were there for the taking.

    I’m well aware that arteta was missing and his absence in this game just goes to illustrate how integral he has become to us in a short space of time and highlight the speed in which he has assimulated into our style of play (credit to him) but that aside, we are a little light in the ATM area as I see rosicky as the only player who can play this position with great impact and influence.

    As previously mentioned it may benefit Diaby to be eased back against lesser opposition in games with less pressure and Ramsey has not convinced as an ATM yet, in fact, I believe, with his technical and robust attributes, he may be better played in the arteta role and be used as an ATM as cover for Rosicky and another ATM player.

    I didn’t mean my previous post as a slight on diaby or ramsey, they are both at development stages that put them off as influential players, however, I do think that ramsey did his absolute best today-jees, he couldn’t have had anymore misplaced passes as Song?? And when he lost the ball, he would hunt down the opposition in posession to get it back (robust quality?).

    And Damien, yes, I know a “great striker” would be hard to acquire as they will effectively be a back-up striker and I do not make any assumption that we will sign one. We may have an edge for Poldi, as he is looking to leave Cologne as they are likely to be relegated, coupled with the connection with the BFG, a competitive wage, chance to play in the EPL and to live in and experience london. Also, as has been highlighted by others before he would not just be back up to RVP but also a direct contender for the Left forward position. Even if we do not sign him we have got campbell coming back, Afobe may get a chance and there is every likelyhood that we may sign another striker if we shift bendy, vela and chamack.

    @akasuna, very good point, not sure if it was a point gained for us but it was definately not a gr8 result for chelsea as they really need points!

  • Jacobite Gunner

    about diaby, I almost jumped out my seat when he shot on the right hand side of the box, unfortunately it was deflected-would’ve been a gr8 momemnt for him if it went in

  • ak47

    i thought ramsey though switched off in patches did ok.
    indeed akasuna i saw diaby’s flashes also and oh how i’ve missed them! keep fit diaby pleeeese. an in form diaby isnt from earth.
    and i heard it too, more than once. but what do we expect from de-press? not to lose was our priority. cheskis was to win. we could of won but got a draw. mission accomplished. they didnt win-epic fail.

    as long as they dont overtake us i would love for newcastle to get forth. not only to spite tots and chelski. but would love to see andy carrols face if they did it.

  • Jacobite Gunner

    lol, last sentence would be hilarious if it came true ak47

  • Gord

    Nice article about Vermaelen at Setanta.

    http://www.setanta.com/ie/Articles/2012/04/22/Defender-reveals-Gunners-aim/gnid-139547/

    Subtitle is:

    > Thomas Vermaelen wants to end his playing career with Arsenal after revealing his happiness with life at the Emirates Stadium.

    Later on:

    > “I have never known a manager so loyal to his players.”

  • Gord

    Nothing at Arsenal.com yet, but apparently van Persie won the PFA award. Walker of Spurs got the Young PFA award (Oxlade-Chamberlain was nominated, but apparently didn’t get many votes).

  • Gord

    Followup on Rosicky leaving game early. Apparently he was playing sick. He is not injured, and should be available for the next match. This was in the article about Diaby.

    http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/wenger-i-hope-diaby-can-help-us-now