There’s really not many things better than waking up early on a Saturday morning to watch a London derby.
Last weekend, Arsenal proved to the entire league that they were in fact contenders to win the Premier League after a fine display at the Etihad against current champions Man City. The Gunners will now look to make another big statement against league leaders and defending European champions, Chelsea. With the way Arsene Wenger’s side has been playing so far this season, it is very likely that statement will be made this weekend.
Both London clubs are entering this game after scoring 6 goals each during the midweek in Capital One Cup(or the COC as I prefer) against weaker opposition. Both Arsenal and Chelsea have started great to start off the 2012-2013 season. Arguably one of the toughest parts of the schedule, Arsenal have played superb and gotten at least a point from every fixture in their League campaign. Chelsea are also unbeaten this season and currently 4 points ahead of Arsenal in the table.
However, Chelsea’s schedule has been quite easy on them so far and this weekend’s game at the Emirates is really their first true test in the league, while Arsenal had to travel away to the likes of Stoke, Liverpool, and Man City, which in my opinion are 3 of the 4-5 most difficult road fixtures to get points from in the PL. Chelsea’s real tests so far this season came against Man City in the Community Shield, Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, and against Juventus in the Champions League. They did okay in the defeat to Man City and I thought were lucky to draw against Juventus thanks to their new signing Oscar scoring two magnificent goals. But, the 4-1 loss to Atletico Madrid…..there is really only one word to describe that game: FALCAO! Man oh man did he tear that Chelsea back four apart that whole match. That game and plenty of others have shown that Chelsea’s defence is still very vulnerable at times and have the occasion of making a big mistake or two every game.
However, the Arsenal defence has been solid so far this season under the supervision of assistant manager Steve Bould. Both clubs have looked solid in the attack though of late. Arsenal’s new boys Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski have looked very impressive and have been a nightmare to defence’s back fours. Same could be said of Chelsea new boys Eden Hazard, Oscar paired with the likes of Juan Mata and Frank Lampard. Both clubs also consist of a front man who has struggled to find the back of the net so far this season; however, Arsenal’s front man has only been at the club for a month or two while Chelsea’s striker has been shooting blanks since he joined the club a couple of years ago.
In case you didn’t know who I was referring to, I was talking about Olivier Giroud and Fernando Torres. But both of these players are in complete different cases. Olivier Giroud’s lack of goal-scoring has come down to the fact that he’s only been a club for a short time, but he’s still been a pain in the neck to the opposition’s defence and has been setting up chances for his teammates. His problem doesn’t have to do with confidence as we saw that tremendous finish to score against Coventry. Yes, I know he missed a penalty, but the match wasn’t on television so it doesn’t count .
Fernando Torres’ problem has to do with confidence among many other things. It just seems that he lost the flair, the confidence, and the drive he had during his time at Liverpool. There have been many hypotheses for this Torres lack of goal-scoring phenomenon. Some say it’s because Chelsea bought him for £50m and that has put pressure on him, others say it’s because he thrived at Liverpool because of his partnership with Steven Gerrard, and others say it might be because John Terry did in fact shagged his wife. Any of the three look likely of being the root cause. He did score in last appearance though and will be looking to continue his streak against Arsenal. But I don’t see that happening as Fernando Torres will most likely spend his time in every PL striker’s favorite hot spot: Laurent Koscielny’s back pocket…..if he plays. If he doesn’t, I’m sure Fernando will comply residing in Per Mertesacker’s
Team News and Predicted Lineups
Thomas Vermaelen returns to the Arsenal squad after recovering from an illness, which leaves Arsene Wenger in the great situation of which CB duo to play. I’d like to think Wenger would select Kos for this game, but fact of the matter his that Per Mertesacker has done nothing wrong to be dropped from the lineup. Vito Mannone will also resume his starting position in-goal after Arsene Wenger said Wojciech Szczesny is two or three weeks from returning. Great news for Arsenal is that Jack Wilshere is set to feature for the reserves against West Brom on Monday, and Tomas Rosicky is two weeks away from returning to the squad.
One question will be how will that Arsenal front line will look like against Chelsea. It will be interesting to see whether Wenger chooses in-form Gervinho, the Ox, or Theo Walcott (who always plays well against Chelsea) to start tomorrow. Even Aaron Ramsey might be in contention to start on the right-wing after his stellar performance against Man City.
John Terry will be playing in this game even though he has been given a four game ban from the FA because it seems certain that he will appeal the FA’s decision. Daniel Sturridge is rated 50-50 to be fit for this game & Frank Lampard’s minor ankle problem will be assessed, but I expect him to be fit.
Predicted Arsenal starting XI: Mannone; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Diaby, Cazorla; Walcott, Giroud, Podolski.
Predicted Chelsea starting XI: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Cole; Mikel, Lampard, Oscar; Hazard, Torres, Mata.
Even though Chelsea are currently the defending European champions (thanks to a couple missed penalties by Messi and Robben), Arsenal are favorites to win this fixture.
The reason I say Arsenal are favorites is because the Gunners haven’t lost to Chelsea since in nearly 2 years. Chelsea had dominated Arsenal in previous few years thanks to one man. That man’s name is Didier Drogba. He used to tear Arsenal apart every time the two London clubs clashed. But he is no longer at Chelsea, which makes many Arsenal supporters, including myself, take a sigh of relief as we won’t have to deal with him again.
But, the main reason I think Arsenal will win this fixture is because of how bad Chelsea has struggled against top opposition in the league in the past few seasons. Here are some key stats for this upcoming fixture:
- In the last 33 Premier League games between Chelsea and Arsenal, the Blues’ record with Drogba playing is W7 D3 L1. Without him, it is W0 D9 L13. (Opta)
- Chelsea haven’t beaten a top 5 side away from home in the league since April 3rd 2010 (2-1 win at Man Utd). (stat via @samuelj29060)
- Chelsea have only taken 3 of a possible 30 points in their last 10 away league games to Man City, Man United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool. And those three points came from two 1-1 draws at Tottenham, and last season’s 0-0 at Arsenal
Those are stats you’d love to hear if you were an Arsenal supporter, and stat’s you would absolutely hate if you support Chelsea.
Based on those stats, I’m highly confident of Arsenal heading into this game tomorrow and take all three points from Chelsea and continue their impressive form in this 2012-13 season.
This is set up to be a highly entertaining fixture between these two in-form clubs. But, I think the difference will come down to Arsene Wenger’s superior advantage tactically to Roberto Di Matteo, Arsenal’s strong back line with Mikel Arteta providing cover, and the edge of quality in the midfield that is in favor to Arsenal.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea. Come on Arsenal!
Written by Khalid Khan. Follow on twitter @KHALIDKhan91