I’m pretty sure that Andrea’s blog from yesterday about who will cover Chelsea’s main danger man and attacking threat Eden Hazard, due to the absence of Diego Costa, Drogba and Remy, was pretty much spot-on (I’d go with Debuchy at right-back and Cazorla at right midfield with the personnel available but Debuchy with Oxlade-Chamberlain would be the ideal). However, Chelsea have some other threats aside from Hazard in Oscar, Willian, Juan Cuadrado and He Who Shall Not Be Named (henceforth called FF for the points of this blog).
The one who worries me the most out of that bunch is Juan Cuadrado. I don’t watch Chelsea much but there hasn’t been a lot of chatter about him, which makes me wonder about the impact that he has had so far. However, I fear him far less than the player he replaced in Andre Schürrle. Why? While Cuadrado has good skill, Schürrle had bags of pace, something that would have rattled Arsenal’s defence. The reason I am worried about Cuadrado now is because, so far, he hasn’t had a breakout performance and I don’t want him having his breakout performance vs. Arsenal (a typical thing to happen to a Mourinho player vs. Arsenal) and embarrassing our defence. Willian doesn’t worry me a huge amount – yes, he is a fine player but he’s never struck me as world-class, not even when he was at Shakhtar. Oscar doesn’t worry me either as, in my opinion; he’s pretty inconsistent from one match to the next – that isn’t to say that he is a poor player though, not by any stretch! As for FF, his 6 month spell as a decent player has already happened this season, so he probably won’t be up to much, but I think that the chances are good that he may just simulate a few times just to anger Gooners – Adebayor 2.0 right there.
What I find more intriguing is who will the combinations be for us? I’m pretty sure that Giroud will get the nod up top but who will be behind him? Özil will obviously be No.10 as that is his best position to pull the strings in midfield and attack, with Alexis likely on the left and Welbeck on the right with no room for Theo, except possibly on the bench. Midfield will be the toughest call. I think Coquelin in the middle with Cazorla may be our best bet – Santi has been excellent so far in a deeper role this season with his tackling and clearances and Ramsey doesn’t have the confidence or consistency at the moment to really excel in this undoubtedly difficult match, where only a concentrated performance of shutting down Chelsea’s attack and not letting Hazard wander into our penalty area will get us points. Whichever combination he tries it will be a tough one to call and all the betting can be found if you check out Paddy Power’s Arsenal team page.
The defence worries me a little. I’d be less worried if Debuchy was properly match-fit, which he clearly isn’t, even after the 120 minutes vs. Reading – no-one would be after the amount of time that he has missed due to those unfortunate and untimely injuries. Monreal is in good form at the moment but he’s going to have to be at his best to curtail Willian and Cuadrado – I wouldn’t even consider starting Gibbs after his mediocre showing last Sunday. I’d start Kos and BFG for this match – Gabriel is a fine player but, when he comes on, Arsenal tend to shift to playing a high defensive line, which is fine against teams with less tactical guile than Chelsea and more direct players but this tactic will give Hazard far too many opportunities to get in behind and fall over as soon as an Arsenal player gets within a metre of him. I say give Hazard no opportunities.
Choosing the goalkeeper will be easy: David Ospina. Szczesny was poor vs. Reading and gifted them a goal and I’d take solid consistency vs. Chelsea over possibly higher skills. I reckon the bench will look like this: Szczesny, Bellerin, Gabriel, Flamini, Ramsey, Rosicky, and Walcott. I can see Rosicky coming on late into the game – I can’t see a bench spot for Diaby despite his ability to kick John Terry in the face!
Agree? Disagree? Let’s hear it!
The first time I saw Dennis Bergkamp play was in 1996 – I started following Arsenal properly in 1998 after the World Cup. When Arsenal then signed Thierry Henry – a player I had seen in that World Cup win by France – as well as already having Vieira and Petit there, plus several English stars like Tony Adams, Martin Keown and David Seaman just cemented Arsenal as the club for me. There was very little football coverage in South Africa during the 1990s as rugby was (and still is) the dominant sport here.
I was not really ushered in any specific direction in terms of which club to support – I chose Arsenal myself. It’s only over the last 3 years that I have been able to watch matches regularly – we get excellent TV coverage of European football now and I try to watch all Arsenal matches live.