By Phil Gregory
Our Arsenal travel over to Stamford Bridge looking to put a disappointing home defeat behind them. Any trip to Chelsea is always a tricky affair to negotiate, but on the back of the United defeat many would no doubt prefer an easier tie to allow confidence to be rebuilt.
The cards however, have been dealt. Let us hope that the United result serves to motivate our team to reestablish their title credentials. I myself still believe this team can be top come May, but a put-down to all the doubters would be much appreciated.
On the key-men front, Chelsea’s threat is obvious: Didier Drogba. The Ivorian has an unfortunately impressive scoring record against us, and the Gallas-Vermaelen partnership will have to up their game from a below-par display when Chelsea visited the Emirates.
Essien is a loss for them, but they have strength in depth in the middle of the park; with players such as Ballack and Deco capable of coming in for the injured Ghanian. Belletti and Bosingwa, the rightbacks, are both on the treatment table too, so Ivanovic will continue at rightback for Ancelotti’s side.
With Eduardo Da Silva out, we will most likely have Arshavin leading the line against Chelsea. Diaby is rated a maybe, with Campbell back in contention. These sort of games are the ones where the difference between sides can only be slight, and yet slight differences can lead to a victory for one side, and three points to the loser’s zero.
We are naturally hit harder by this than most sides due to our injuries, and Robin Van Persie is a big loss in these tight games. One only has to look at his contribution during our last trip to Stamford Bridge to realise this.
But deal with it we must, so I’d expect to see an Arshavin, Nasri, Rosicky frontline, with the latter two out wide. We showed against United we can create chances against anyone, we just lacked someone to get on the end of them. Perhaps Niklas Bendtner will be that man, with his recent substitute appearances serving to improve his match fitness. The Dane may even start, I wouldn’t like to make a prediction either way.
Without further ado, line-up:
Sagna Gallas Vermaelen Clichy
Rosicky Arshavin Nasri
With likely substitutes to include Eboue, Bendtner, Ramsey, Campbell, Silvestre et al.
The first-choice back five are available, and many eyes are likely to be on Clichy who has struggled for form since his return from injury. Chelsea don’t play with widemen per se, but expect Anelka and Malouda to drift wide from their original central berths.
Diaby’s physicality would be welcome in this tie, though he may have to settle for a bench role even if he is passed fit. Brazilian Denilson is more likely to partner Fabregas in midfield, here’s to hoping for one of his thirty yard strikes to silence the Bridge. More likely will be his usual composed passing game, providing an easy option for Song and create space with one-twos in the middle.
Arshavin won’t be winning the knockdowns against Terry and co, but he can beat them on the ground. We all know what the Russian can do, and many forget he has been playing injured for much of the season. Nasri and Rosicky will keep possession and create chances, with the Czech in particular showing increasing end product too.
It’s going to be tough this one and I don’t think anyone would be fooled into thinking that we are favourites. That said, there are plenty of positives to be drawn. I see us capable of winning the midfield battle: Mikel has poor passing for a holding player, and is much, much more limited than Song, while Essien’s athleticism will be badly missed. Lampard is a quality player, but much like Fabregas won’t physically dominate the area. The England international will need to be closely marshalled by Song.
I’m expecting us to have much more joy down their righthand side, Ivanovic has played well when called upon but I still feel he can be a weak link that we can exploit. We will score goals as long as the balls go to feet: in the home leg, there were far too many crosses. This was partly due to a difficulty in creating chances through the middle. This was partly due to Essien’s marshalling of the midfield, perhaps in his absence we will have more luck.
2-1 to the Arsenal, and boy do I hope I’m right.
ANNOUNCEMENTS OF A CURIOUS AND DIVERSE NATURE
- Chief Inspector Billy the Dog McGraw on problems at Chelsea click herewith
- Football3s is a new free to play, in match, fantasy football experience which you play in real-time whilst watching the live televised game. We are featuring Arsenal’s match with Liverpool next Wednesday. Players also have the chance to win £100. Please take a look at our site: http://football3s.com
- How Chelsea fixed their way into the league click here
- The doings of Henry Norris, click here
- Untold Arsenal is moving over to two posts a day. If you have an article you would like to have published here send it to Tony@hamilton-house.com But it must be within our general areas of interest and philosophy and must not be published by or on offer to other blogs. We tend to say yes or no within a day or so.
- Ashley Cole dolls complete with pins to stick in: sorry now sold out.
- Endthought: Every single MP in the British House of Commons was elected by a minority of people who voted in that constituency.
- Post-endthought: the headline of this article is ironic. There’s always someone who doesn’t get irony so I have to explain.
- How much have Arsenal’s rivals spent on transfers in recent years?
- Why is it becoming so difficult to find a sponsor for new football stadium?
- Corruption flares up again in Italy, as Premier League figures don’t look too clever
- How much does a club have to spend on transfers to get a trophy?
- Does the team that is top after 14 games usually go on to win the league?