Date: 16th April 2009 at 6:06pm
Written by:

Tony Cascarino, pundit for the New Football Pools tips Arsenal to beat Chelsea this weekend.

‘I think Arsenal will beat Chelsea in the FA Cup semi this weekend for the simple reason that they`re playing the best football in the Premier League at the moment. It`s no real surprise that the Gunners return to form has coincided with the return to fitness of Arsenal`s big hitters Emmanuel Adebayor, Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas. These players should give the Gunners the edge at Wembley.

One factor for both sides is their midweek Champions League exertions. Although both teams went through, Arsenal cruised through their match with Villarreal while Chelsea may be physically and mentally drained from their clash with Liverpool. Guus Hiddink`s side really had to fight to get through on Tuesday and I`m not sure they`ve got another really big performance left in them.

Didier Drogba`s performance is key to Chelsea`s hopes as a good, fit Drogba is a handful for any defence. That`s if he is not sulking or adopting a ‘Billy big time` attitude which he is prone to. He has a strange personality where everything has to revolve around him. This was evident in last year`s Champions League final when he let the side down with his behavior believing the whole night was all about himself rather than the team. If Didier turns up on Saturday ready to go toe to toe with the Gunners defence Gladiatorial side then he will be very hard to play against. The big striker needs Hiddink to keep on top of him performance-wise so he doesn`t lapse into selfish mode.

I don`t expect many tactical reshuffles for this game from either side. Arsenal play their own way and Hiddink has nailed his colours to the mast for Chelsea in terms of playing with two wide men and Drogba through the centre with a 3-man midfield in behind them. The Dutchman has generally gone with Kalou and Malouda in those wide positions and they seem to have settled into those roles far better than for previous managers.

Defensively Chelsea are extremely vulnerable with Petr Cech hardly resembling the world class number 1 that played under Jose Mourinho. He is not the only one looking shaky. Ashley Cole may have been brilliant at the start of the season but he`s not looked as solid since. I also prefer the Chelsea backline when Ricardo Carvalho plays alongside John Terry as he is a better defender than Alex. However, Hiddink seems to prefer the Brazilian despite the number of goals being conceded.

Michael Essien has been a major plus for Chelsea mainly for his tackling and the way he tracks opposition midfielders. The Ghanaian drops into holes that both Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack don`t want to fill so gives the team far more balance when he plays. For me, John Obi Mikel is a poor man`s Essien and not in the same class.

In terms of form I would have to back Arsenal to reach the final as they are defending well and scoring goals which can`t be said of Chelsea defensively at the moment.’

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