Arsenal and Chelsea both come into this match unbeaten so far this season. Like the Gunners, the visitors are undergoing something of a transformation in their forward line, with new purchases such as Hazard and Oscar enjoying similarly impressive starts to life in England as Cazorla and Podolski.
There’s always added spice when these two sides meet and with the controversies of the week for the visitors, this time will be no exception. Both teams are still finding their feet with new players and new styles, so it’s set to be an intriguing match.
Arsene Wenger has hinted at his selection dilemma upfront for the visit of London rivals Chelsea. Gervinho has scored three quite typical striker’s goals playing from the centre this season, whilst Olivier Giroud is off the mark in his Gunners career.
‘Up front affects the [whole] team,” he told Arsenal Player. “Whether you have a more mobile player or a more [physical] player affects the passing of the team.
“We can be efficient with both styles, I even think we can combine the two which I try to do in some games. It is good, you cannot play a season with one striker.
“We have many strikers. Walcott can play through the middle as well, so we have good options that we will try through the season.
“The season is very long, we have only played five games now [in the Premier League] so we will have the chance to test all of the solutions.”
Meanwhile, Roberto di Matteo is relishing the prospect of pitting his wits against Arsenal, ”It is a big game every time Arsenal and Chelsea play each other. It is two teams in good form and I think it is going to be an exciting game, so I am looking forward to it.
‘We are in good shape, good form and the spirit is good. I think we have a very good team that is capable of beating Arsenal. Didier Drogba has been a fantastic player for many years for this club but we have to move on.’
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal will recall senior players that were given the night off against Coventry on Wednesday. Thomas Vermaelen is available again after a virus, Emmanuel Frimpong is not considered quite sharp enough for this game yet followin a knee injury.
Bacary Sagna is back in full training but still short. Tomas Rosicky (achilles), Wojciech Szczesny (ribs), Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski (shoulder)aren’t available.
Player to watch: Mikel Arteta
Chelsea nominally play with two central midfielders compared to Arsenal’s 3, so it’s a good opportunity for the Gunners to dominate from there. But their ability to do so will hinge on Mikel Arteta’s negotiation of Chelsea’s fleet of ‘number 10’ types. Oscar, Hazard and Mata all like to drift centrally. Whomever of that trio plays, will need to be well marshalled by Arteta in particular so that Cazorla can work on worrying Chelsea higher up the pitch.
Chelsea Team News:
For Chelsea, John Terry will play as he contemplates an appeal over a four match ban handed to him by the F.A. after being found guilty of using racial language. His ban doesn’t come into effect until such time that an appeal cannot be lodged.
Frank Lampard has recovered from a minor ankle knock, but Daniel Sturridge has yet to recover from a hamstring injury.
Player to watch: Eden Hazard
Drogba’s brute strength may no longer be a worry, but in Hazard, Chelsea have a player well capable of hurting Arsenal from nothing. He has the quick feet, skill and vision to produce even in a quiet period.
Match Facts & Stats
Chelsea haven’t beaten Arsenal sans Didier Drogba since 2004.
Arsenal and Chelsea have met 176 times. Arsenal have won 70 encounters, Chelsea 54. There have been 52 draws.
Theo Walcott has scored in 2 of his last 3 starts against Chelsea and has scored against them 4 times overall.
Vito Mannone and Petr Cech are 1st and 2nd respectively in shots to saves ratio this season so far.
Referee is Martin Atkinson.
I think there will be very little in this. I’m going for a 1-1 draw with Hazard and Cazorla scoring the goals.
Arsenal’s next fixture is at home to Olympiacos on Wednesday. I couldn’t give a hairy rat’s arse who Chelsea are playing next.