Sunday 5th October
1:30pm Kick Off
Chelsea V Arsenal
Our European adventures are over with for a bit and so back to the bread and butter that is the Premier League. We`ve about the toughest return to league action possible this Sunday when we make the short trip across London to play Chelsea.
Our display and result against a frankly very limited Spurs side was disappointing and while it`s a positive that we`ve managed to avoid defeat in the league so far while putting in some pretty poor performances I don`t think that there`s any doubt of the result at Chelsea if we play like we did against Spurs. Our midweek performance was a positive but honestly we couldn`t have asked for a better opponent than Galatasaray who`s style of defence (I`m being liberal with my use of the term “defence” here) was a near perfect example of how not setup against a front three of Alexis, Ox and Wellbeck. It`s no coincidence that once again, as against Villa, or best and most consistent performance comes when Ozil play`s centrally and has players willing to run in front of him. With Jack likely back to fitness this weekend Wenger has a big decision to make. The bold one would be to stick with the same team and formation as per midweek. Santi`s energy and drive is well suited to playing as one of the two “holding” midfielders but his physical strength is an issue. Jack, while not a giant, does offer a bit more natural aggression than our miniature Spaniard and may be favoured. I think that the benefit of having wingers who can attack with pace is pretty clear in that not only does it give you far more of an attacking threat but it also limits the opposition fullbacks opportunities to get forward which both Chelsea fullbacks like to do. We`ll see what approach Wenger takes.
Chelsea have started the season in great form and after six games have already opened a three point lead on second placed Southampton and more worryingly a six point lead on us. They look a balanced unit and likely any team that can finish above them will lift the title come May. Formation wise they play somewhat of a mix depending on if t hey are playing at home or away and the quality of their opposition. Away from home they go with 4-4-1-1 and with the support striker dropping back into midfield as they try to hit you on the break (see their goal against Man City as a near perfect example of this). But at home they are generally more adventurous and go with a 4-3-3. I expect them to setup this way against us with their midfield pushing up to try and force mistakes from Flamini or Jack (should he start). Both Flamini and Jack, for different reasons, can lose the ball so it`s something to watch out for.
Courtois has looked an excellent keeper and has settled into the Premier League without any hiccups. To displace a keeper of Cech`s quality, who let`s face it would be our #1 if he came here, says a lot about the young Belgian and they look, once again, set in that position for the next ten years.
In front of him Terry and Cahill will play with likely Luis on the left and probably Ivanovic on the right. The excellent Azpilicueta is an option on the right but I think that the goal threat that Ivanovic brings, in particular from set pieces, will see him get the nod. The backline is strong and physically imposing and with none of them under six foot (backed up by a keeper that`s nearly six and half foot) it`s hard to see us getting much joy from attacking set pieces or corners, even more so with our delivery. Worryingly their back line also likes to come forward on set plays and they will target us on corners. We will need to seriously improve on our defending from them or they`ll have a field day. Terry and Cahill generally sit quite deep so with space limited we`ll have to work a lot harder than we did against Galatasaray to create openings.
In midfield with Ramires still out they will play the excellent Matic sitting alongside Fabregras with probably Oscar as the third in the central of the park. Oscar`s a tricky player and is deceptively effective, he`s pretty small but is quick, particularly around the box and is always amongst the goals. With Fabregras playing deeper and Matic acting as cover Oscar has license to get forward a lot and while he doesn`t have the reputation of some of his teammates he`s a good player and needs to be watched. In the Serbian international Matic Chelsea have hands down the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League. He`s a monster of a player and really of all the Chelsea 11 I think he`d add the most to our team if he was playing in red this Sunday as opposed to blue. They had to pay heavily for him splashing out about ?27milion for him only eighteen months after selling him to Benfica for about a tenth of the price but Mourinho recognised that they needed someone in that role and addressed the problem. Over the course of the season the correctness of this call will be visible on many occasions. Alongside Matic and providing the softness for his steel will be Arsenal old-boy Fabregras.
So much has been written about Fabregras that we could nearly do a piece solely on him. Chelsea got a steal when they landed him for ?30 odd million and he will certainly provide the team with a bucket load of assists, if he`s not in your fantasy football team already then he certainly should be at least until Christmas! Despite the many positives of his play I was personally glad that we didn`t take up the option on resigning him. Any player, (even more so a captain), who goes on strike in order to force a move away from the club should never be taken back. I feel that a club should stand for something a bit more than success on the field and the way Fabregras acted in his last months at Arsenal was not befitting of a club captain. He let himself and the position down and for that reason alone I didn`t want him back. The danger and benefit of taking the moral high ground is that you are both closer to the sun and have further to fall and will I feel so positive if I see him lifting the Premier League trophy at the end of the season? On football reasons I think we`re well covered in his position and while he`d be a great option to have, especially with our current injuries, overall I don`t honestly think we need him. He went to Spain, in my mind, as the best young central midfielder in the world and while he hasn`t quite lived up to that level as he`s matured that shouldn`t take away from how good a player he is. . As stated he will create you loads of goals but questions remain about his ability to influence games after Christmas (where his output more than halves) and his ability to control a really tight game against top opposition – his performances in Spain were heavily criticised over this and his display against Man City was poor. Give him time on the ball and he will simply kill you, the key to stopping Chelsea is stopping Fabregras which is easier said than done.
Costa will certainly start up front and while Shurrle has been getting game time of late I think they`ll go with the more physical Willian alongside Hazzard in supporting Costa. Shurrle is more suited to coming on when the game is stretched where his pace and finishing (poor during the game in Portugal) are most effective. Willian is a strong and willing runner and will work harder at closing down. Hazzard hasn`t quite reached the level of last season but is still a dangerous opponent. Fabregras tends to like to move the centre-left area of midfield which is where Hazzard likes to play and they haven`t quite worked it out yet.
Costa is doing what he`s done in Spain – score goals. He`s not by any stretch of the imagination creative and is never what you`d call a silky player but he comes alive inside the box and doesn`t care what type of goals he scores. He`s a feisty character who isn`t afraid to get involved in the physical aspects of the game. They get the ball to him quickly and with his attitude and ability he`s the striker that Chelsea lacked last season.
Mourhino has built an impressive team here with many positives and very few sides will get anything at Stamford Bridge. They are very strong at the back and have an exceptionally balanced midfield combined with a super efficient striker. They are a real team who will chew you up and spit you out if you allow them to do so. Are they impressive – certainly yes. Are they unbeatable – certainly not. They were lucky to get away with a point from the City game a few weeks back where City`s direct approach unsettled Chelsea and showed up the weakness in Fabregras`s game but this approach takes immense physical commitment and a lot of discipline two traits which we are not well known for. We`ve clicked in patches this season but in order to get a result at Stamford Bridge you need to be at your best and sadly for that reason I cannot see us winning. It will be closer than last season but still no cigar.
Chelsea win 2-1.
One final note – there has been a Chelsea troll on here of late simply trying to get a response by hurling insults about the place. While I`m very much in favour of fans from other clubs crossing the Vital divide and engaging in intelligent debate or even some friendly banter this Chelsea fan is doing neither. He`s sad little attention seeking individual and as such when he comments on this article (which he no doubt will) I`d ask you all to simply ignore him and don`t respond to his baiting. Other Chelsea fans are our course welcome as are fans of every other club as long as they keep the comments respectable and sensible. I`d remind you that the same rules apply to us Gooners but I already know we`re an intelligent and polite bunch!!
Scout Report: Chelsea
Sunday 5th October