The last time Arsenal beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was over 5 years
ago. That was a looong time ago.
So it’s no surprise that this, along with Arsenal rather dismal record
vs top 6 opposition last season, is the leading narrative used in the
media space building up to the game, while adding a bit of a twist to
the David and Goliath story, where David, who ran out of gummyberry
juice, is now left in total “shambles”… at Goliath’s mercy.
Fair enough! Going to the Bridge, or rather, leaving the Bridge hasn’t
exactly been a joyous exercise these last few years, not even with the
world-class talents of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez in our ranks. But
then again, the Chelsea teams of then have been bus parkers
extraordinaire, their primary form of attack being the counter, and
with great success compared to the low-budget forces from elsewhere.
This Antonio Conte outfit however is different, he wants his team
playing the good stuff, and that suits our style better.
So last season vs top 6 opposition aside and looking at Chelsea in
isolation; the last 12 months we played them 4 times, beating them on
3 of those occasions. Granted none of those games won were at
Chelsea’s spiritual home, but it was recent and it should tell us that
there’s no need to be apprehensive about these pricks.
Arsenal players know they can beat Chelsea, Chelsea players are aware
our players know they can beat them. Stamford Bridge? Meh! We just
need to play to our potential.
We now also have Saed Kolašinac, an absolute beast that just wanna run
through players and with a left boot Podolski would be proud of, and
Alexandre Lacazette that looks extremely calm in front of goal.
With me touching on the last 5 years, and a little bit on the last 12
months, what does the last month tell me leading up to today’s
Chelsea started their PL campaign in embarrassing fashion vs Burnley,
since then it look like they have pulled themselves together. Our
moment of embarrassment came at Anfield, so hopefully that was when
our lightbulb went on.
Following the international break Chelsea beat Leicester 2-1 in a
close contest, of cause with the help of a ref and lino, allowing a
Morata off-side goal, then their first team (scared much) wiped out
Azerbaijani giants, Qarabag. We beat Bournemouth pretty convincingly,
with a wonderful display of Wenger-ball, then comfortably in the end
dispose of Köln with an experimental team short of match fitness. So
we go into this game fairly even, the one advantage Chelsea could have
though is that they, well, have home advantage. But as I said; meh!
Make no mistake though, Chelsea might be suffering a fall from grace
in punditry circles as they are now only seen as the team-elect to
“put pressure on” – ahem, Spurs busy with some voodoo or whatever –
after they sold Matic to a rival to finance a replacement for a player
that is still part of their squad… they can be very destructive on
Team selection: I think with Oxlade now gone, and hopefully putting a
curse on Liverpool, selecting a matchday 11 became a bit easier for
Arsène Wenger, as it’s one less of those pamper type players. Leaving
Bellerín and Kolašinac first choice wing backs on their respective
sides and the rest pretty much selecting themselves if available.
A spot of bother could be Mesut Özil. Unconfirmed news going around is
that he could sit out today due to injury. I would like to think that
the manager will leave the decision up the last minutes with fixture
difficulty easing a bit over the next 4 weeks. If he can’t play, Mo
Elneny look very sharp on Thursday and had a near perfect successful
pass rate. He’s not a flamboyant player, but he does do the basics
right, even in games we seem to struggle. So he could have dibs coming
in for the German, with either Ramsey or Xhaka possibly making a
positional switch to compensate.
Here’s the selection conundrum…
Arsène’s one headache though could be whether to Alexis Sánchez or not
to Alexis Sánchez.
Welbeck might not be everybody’s cup of tea but he is a team player
first and thus vital in the application of the manager’s tactics. This
is the one area I feel a tough decision need to be made, because
Chelsea will exploit a not fully match fit yet Alexis Sánchez’s
weakness. It’s one thing carelessly giving away possession when we are
on the front foot vs sub-standard opposition, another doing so vs a
team filled with truly world-class attacking players.
In media circles they say Arsenal is only one defeat away from a
“crisis”, I say Arsenal is always one big victory away from going on
good run. Playing as “a team” today will be key.
“Alles van die beste” to all going to the Bridge and those watching
the game at home/pub today.
Let’s keep hope alive, because it’s the hope man, it’s the hope…
A guest post form @Labo_Goon