Could Arsenal ‘Win’ The Title Today?
Match Preview – Arsenal vs Chelsea – Premier League – 24.01.16
There are huge positives and negatives of the timing of this match. The positive perspective sees this as a chance to put an old foe with form and motivation issues to the sword and to pull clear of City by three points. Diego Costa will find it hard to bully and cheat his way to a win for Chelsea like last time as not only are the officials wiser to his antics but the Arsenal team are less likely to react and Mark Clattenburg is no Mike Dean. Arsenal also welcome back big-hitters Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil. On the face of it the signs are good.
However, Chelsea have removed a toxic manager and are now unbeaten in 7 matches, Costa and Hazard are likely to be fit after missing some games recently, they’ve nothing to play for so can choose to play for any result they like and to top it off our record against them is horrendous. The pressure is on us to win and we’ve seen pressure get to Arsenal before.
That isn’t what is making me nervous though. It’s the ‘signs’ that worry me. Hiddink praising Wenger, Vieira saying Mourinho was better and the team he left behind facing Arsenal next, Chelsea never winning when Clattenberg has been ref, Arsenal not having conceded a penalty all season and Hazard still on 0 goals for the season. The script makes me nervous. That to me looks like a sea of firsts. Arsenal’s first conceded penalty, Hazard’s first goal, Chelsea’s first win under Clattenberg.
So much rests on this match in my opinion. I still maintain that this is a two horse race between City and Arsenal. Leicester will finish in the top four I would imagine but I don’t see them getting close to the title when their next three matches are Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal. If they come away with four or more points from that run I might just change my mind.
Arsenal need this win for a lot of reasons. Partly because it is Chelsea and they need a spanking. Our boys need to beat them in the league to get it out of their system. It’s also because we’d pull clear of City by three points and would be top of the league again. Mostly it’s because we drew our last two matches and anything less than five points from those matches is harmful to our title chances. That was one of our mini-gauntlets that we have to run from now until the end of the season.
We have a Leicester, United, Spurs, Everton and West Ham in our next 9 matches after today. That’s 5 hard matches in a run that also includes a trip away to Barcelona shortly after playing West Brom and just before we play away to Everton. Our home game to Barcelona is in between Leicester and City and we may also have an FA Cup match in that run should we beat Burnley. Watford, Bournemouth, Southampton and Swansea make up the opposition in the other matches. They’re highly winnable matches but much of that will come down to Arsenal’s fitness and their form.
Momentum can be sorely underestimated but we are seeing with Leicester just what momentum can do for a team. Yes, Mahrez has been superb and could probably command a starting spot in most of the so-called big clubs. Yes, Vardy has been in incredible form too but beyond those two players Leicester has a relatively standard squad. Momentum has carried them thus far and continues to carry them beyond the expectations of all but the wildest of dreamers. Arsenal need some momentum of their own.
When things get tough in the next few weeks momentum could be the difference between a draw and a win, a loss and a draw. Momentum could be what keeps Arsenal’s noses in front and claims the title by the breadth of a hair. That momentum has to start with a win today and a win for Arsenal today could well be the start of our unstoppable march towards the title.
Arsenal from; Cech, Ospina, Chambers, Bellerin, Debuchy, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Monreal, Flamini, Arteta, Elneny, Reine-Adelaide, Özil, Campbell, Alexis, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Giroud, Walcott.
Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Özil, Campbell, Alexis, Giroud
I expect to see substitute appearances from Oxlade-Chamberlain, Elneny and Walcott.
“It is a big game because of the quality of players on the pitch and it has a big importance to us because we play at Emirates Stadium and we know it will be important to win these types of games” – Arsène Wenger
Last 3 Meetings
- Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal (19.09.2015)
- Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea (02.08.2015)
- Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea (26.04.2015)
Arsenal Last 5
Chelsea Last 5
Chelsea, whilst not entirely reversing their fortunes in the league, have been in good form of late and are unbeaten in 7 matches. Four draws has kept them firmly in the bottom half of the table and just four points above the relegation zone. A win will move them one place up the table whilst a draw or a loss, barring an 8 goal margin in Arsenal’s favour, will have no effect on Chelsea’s position.
Hiddink, it seems, is viewing his second spell at Chelsea as crisis management. I cannot say for sure that he believes he is in a relegation battle but it certainly seems as though his mission is to not get beat. He seems ambivalent to winning games. I’m sure he prefers winning them but his tactics suggest he sets out to not get beat and anything else is a bonus. Playing Matic and Mikel together is an indictment of this negative, defensive football he has Chelsea playing. Plus ca change for Chelsea but it is a cause for concern for Arsenal.
This side will set out purely to frustrate Arsenal and this is where Arsenal need to be careful. We are much more mentally strong these days but I still see a touch of the frustrated toddler about Arsenal. As a father of a toddler I often see my son and many other children his age try their hand at something, be it build a tower out of blocks or try to take a toy out of a jumbled box only to find something stopping them doing what they want. This usually ends in tears as frustrated young children can’t understand why they can’t do what they want, when they want to or why something is stopping them from doing what they want. They have a clear picture in their mind of what they want to do and if it doesn’t go to plan it all becomes too much and they lash out.
I see a lot of this in Arsenal. When they are contained, harried and frustrated by the opposition and they can’t pull off their intended passes and moves they start to lash out. Not entirely toddleresque but they put a bit more into tackles, they barge and push more, their blood pumps a littler harder and hotter. This also usually ends in tears as Arsenal give away silly free-kicks or penalties. It’s important for Arsenal to keep their heads today as Chelsea will fall that little bit easier and Costa is certain to play the victim.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in eight league meetings since Arsenal won 5-3 in October 2011 (W5, D3).
- Arsenal are unbeaten in nine Premier League games at the Emirates Stadium, winning seven and conceding just four goals in that run.
- Guus Hiddink inflicted Arsenal’s heaviest ever Premier League defeat at the Emirates when his Chelsea side won 4-1 in May 2009.
- Petr Cech has kept 10 Premier League clean sheets this season – a joint-high with Joe Hart after 22 matches.
- Three of the last four Premier League meetings at the Emirates have ended goalless. The other game was a 2-1 Chelsea win.
- If Chelsea fail to win they will set a new record for fewest points by a reigning champion after 23 Premier League matches.
- Arsenal and Manchester City are the only two teams in the division not to concede a penalty this season.
- Chelsea are on the longest current unbeaten run in the Premier League (W2, D4).
- Mesut Ozil has scored three goals and provided a league-high 16 assists this season but he has never scored or set up a goal in seven career appearances against Chelsea.
- Victory at Crystal Palace in their last away game was Chelsea’s first in eight attempts on the road.
- The Blues are 27 points worse off than at the same stage of last season’s title-winning campaign.
1-0 to Arsenal.
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