Preview: Arsenal v. Chelsea (h)
For a devout pessimist, I've been uncharacteristically optimistic throughout the second half of last season and the beginning of this one. However, after hearing the sobering news Saturday morning about Robin van Persie's season ending injury, I no longer have the same buzz vibrating deep within. Sure, come kickoff, I'll be chewing at my nails like there's no tomorrow, but even with a win, I won't be looking favourly toward the rest of our season. I reckoned we could survive through the New Year without our flying Dutchman, but a whole season? Probably not. This is an indication of Robin`s quality rather than the squad's depth. Would United be the same with Owen leading the line or Chelsea with Anelka upfront by himself? The answer is an unequivocal, and undeniable no. Anyways, onto tomorrows match.
Not three weeks ago, I considered this match a huge step towards the title for whichever team emerged victorious, but now after an injury and a trip to the Stadium of Light, even an Arsenal win will do little to change the destination of the title in my opinion. Chelsea comes into the match with practically a clean bill of health after having many of their key players fake injuries to keep them out of the pointless friendlies. Fair play to them, because I wish Arsene had the stones to do the same. After his expletive interview this week, Wenger might not be so idealistic in the future. Instead he has a host of injuries to deal with. Besides van Persie, Bendtner, Wilshere, Clichy, Gibbs, and Djourou are also out injured, while Merida will miss this match and the next two with a suspension. Gallas is a serious doubt because he cannot put a contact lens in his swollen right eye.
There has been a lot of talk that Theo Walcott needs to start this match, but I disagree. Last November we beat a robust Manchester United at the Grove with our footballing know-how, and I suspect this is the best way to go at this Chelsea team. On their day, both Wigan and Villa can play some technically sound football, and that is how those two teams gunned down the West Londoners. For this reason, I would start Rosicky and Arshavin on either side of Eduardo. Against Sunderland, Rosicky was guilty of over complicating his play, and I hope the Boss had a good word with him. Tomas has always been an asset to this team because of his direct, forward style and he needs to get back to what makes him a world-class player today.
The other spot in Arsene`s eleven that is up for grabs is the left back position. I would give it too Eboue for the experience. Even though it`s not his natural side of the defence, I have this weird feeling of trust. Who would have thought that about Emmanuel Eboue last November? Everything that is wrong with players like Adebayor, is what's right with Eboue.
Also in the defence, there could be a question of who will start alongside Vermaelen if Gallas isn't fit. Maybe this is because I'm too afraid to imagine Silvestre lineup against Chelsea again, but I think Gallas is a big game player who would rather die than miss this match. Against Liege I had this strange moment where I realised I no longer consider him an ex-Chelsea player. I know he was very good after being stripped of the captaincy last season, but in the back of my mind, he was always a blue. However, the way he has gelled with Vermaelen and the joy in his face when he scores a goal, has most likely changed my subconscious view of his loyalties.
Alright, moving on. Here is my predicted starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Eboue, Song, Denilson, Fabregas, Rosicky, Arshavin, Eduardo
I believe we can win this match, even though I don't think we can challenge for the league anymore. These aren't the matches that will win the title. I'm interested to see how Vermaelen and Gallas do against Drogba. The Ivorian was poor in midweek, but he is always up for the big ones. For that, and only that, I respect him. Still, I can't imagine an Arsenal-Chelsea game where he doesn't score, but we have our own big game maestro in Andrey Arshavin. The Russian said that he doesn't believe he's played a good game all season, but I think he`ll break that streak today. 2-1 to the Arsenal!
This game will be on SKY in England, and FSC in the States. Our next match is at the MiddleEastlands on Wednesday in Manchester, and then we host an always improving Stoke City next Saturday.
Have a good Sunday everyone and come on Arsenal!