Chelsea vs Arsenal Saturday 12:45 – Preview by Kyri Christodoulou

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Chelsea had a much needed break from domestic football this week and their champions league campaign started well when they beat Maccabi Tel Aviv at home last night. A much needed boost to the likes off Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa who got on the score sheet and a boost to the whole Chelsea team really was much needed for Saturday’s game against Arsenal. Early on in the game though it looked like it was going to be the same old when Eden hazard blazed an early penalty over the bar and into the shed end. But a routine 4-0 win is exactly what they needed at this point with Arsenal up next for them.

Going onto Chelsea’s start in the league and I don’t think anybody could have predicted the champions shocking defence to their tittle would start this way. Many peoples favourites to retain their crown before a ball was kicked. Chelsea currently sit 11 points behind league leaders Manchester City and just above the bottom three and any sort off drop points at home to Arsenal at the weekend and it really will be hard for Chelsea to make up that ground even this early in the season. Whatever your opinion on Jose Mourinho’s philosophy on football his teams usually defend well in numbers off the ball and are a very hard defensive unit to break down and it usually works more than it doesn’t were ever Mourinho has been, that’s why it’s so hard to understand even after 5 games why they have the worst defensive record in the league. Not the best time for them to loose Thibaut Courtois to injury for 2-4 months.

For me Chelsea’s trip to Goodison Park last Saturday was the perfect example off Chelsea’s season so far. Everton started the game with a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield with Kone and Lukaku as the two strikers and both off them getting in-between Zouma and Terry with ease and managed to create space and chances for the themselves on a few occasions especially in the 1st half and really gave the Chelsea defence a tough afternoon. Another Chelsea defender who has been far from his best is Branislav Ivanovic who over the years has been one off Chelsea’s most consistent and reliable players, which is a surprise considering his experience in the game, we’ve been used to the Serbian throwing himself in front off shots and bullying players for fun and being a real rock at right back and centre half in his Chelsea career. So far this season he is giving the opposition so much time on the ball, wide players beating him constantly this season and is far from the Branislav Ivanovic that we’ve seen. then there’s Matic and Mikel who sat in front off the back 4 who applied no pressure and allowed time and space on the ball for the Everton midfield, none off them tracking any off the Everton midfielders runs into the box and Everton players passing rings round them way to easy at times they were chasing shadows for a lot off the game even though Matic did produce a great strike to get Chelsea back in the game before half time. Matic is another player is season who doesn’t know weather to press the ball or sit deeper and over the past 18 months since he re-signed for Chelsea from Benfica he has been a player that reads the game well breaks up play and is also a bully in the middle off the park. in the past 5 games this season he looks confused off what his duties are and that’s very unlike him. The likes off hazard and Fabregas, two off the best players in the premier league if not in world football and on there day are a joy to watch who can’t seem to control, pass or even keep the ball for Chelsea at the moment and have been pretty much none excitant in games this season who haven’t delivered anything to Diego Costa at all. Even Diego Costa who last season was so energetic who used to come from deep link up play who used to get himself in very good positions was constantly moving around off the ball getting in between defenders and was always a threat on and off the ball, defenders last season at times in games had no idea were Costa was. Now it seems like he’s waiting for the service that isn’t coming his way and seems less confident in front off goal and is guilty off taken one to many chances in front off goal than he did last season when he does get the ball to his feet and times as well looks like he feels sorry for himself. Funnily enough last Saturday will probably one off john stones easiest games he’ll play this season. Many people have their opinions on why Chelsea have started the season so badly many people seem to think that they have a lot off problems off the field which looks like one off the cases but Chelsea looked exactly the same during pre-season and still haven’t rectified their problems. Did Mourinho not do the correct business in the summer which some people are also saying? That is also a possible explanation as well. If I’m being honest I still expect them to finish in the top 2 come the end off the campaign but that remains to be seen.

So Chelsea welcome london rivals Arsenal to Stamford bridge on Saturday lunchtime. Arsenal like Chelsea were in Champions League action on Wednesday night away in the Croatian capital off Zagreb and the Gunners were dreadful. Arsene Wenger made 6 changes to the team that beat Stoke on Saturday and it showed. I can’t say I blame Wenger for rotating the team he didn’t really have a choice with 4 games away from home in 10 days but the good news is that Arsenal will field a much stronger team on the weekend. Got to give a lot off credit to Dinamo Zargreb they had a game plan and it worked they sat with two banks off four off the ball and didn’t let Arsenal settle at all and caught the gunners on the break and it worked. Arsenal with the ball were pretty bad with no movement, creativity or imagination what so ever. Arsenal couldn’t keep the ball and kept giving it away in a very sloppy fashion. These sort off results do happen in football not just to Arsenal and it could also be a wake up call for Saturday but these wake up calls seem to happen to Arsenal way to often than they should. I still expect Arsenal to qualify from their Champions League group with 5 games left in the group but still a very disappointing night.

Before a ball was kicked this season Arsenal were a lot off people’s favourites to be Chelsea’s closet challengers for the premier league tittle until the transfer window slammed shut at the beginning off the month and not to mention Manchester City’s perfect start to the season in the league. For some reason people seemed to have forgotten about City before the season started which is strange because of the likes off Kompany, Silva, Toure and Aguero and co in that team and if they stay fit and have good seasons then I feel their the most ruthless team in the league and without question have the leagues best centre forward and have also added the likes off Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling two young and very promising players for big price tags.

Back to Arsenal and for me looked sharp, fit and exciting in pre-season and looked very promising for the start off the season but we’re shocked on the opening day by a 2-0 home defeat to West Ham (another wake up call) and since then I think Arsenal have done ok and responded well from a shock opening day defeat apart from Wednesday night in Zargreb but have certainly created a lot off chances in games but seem to be very wasteful at the moment but the goals will come at some point no question about that. I think Arsene Wenger has again put together a very good team and squad together again and even though he only brought in 1 player in the summer it was rectifying the goalkeeping situation which was a problem before but bringing in the Petr Cech was a big step forward for me. Cech returns to Stamford Bridge in Arsenal colours for the 1st time on Saturday after 11 successful years at Chelsea and managed to keep a clean sheet on his Arsenal debut against his former club in the community shield. he will probably feel mixed emotions returning to Stamford bridge for the first time as an opposition player but he will definitely get a warm reception from the Chelsea fans.

He is a top professional and world class keeper who was made 2nd choice at Chelsea in his last season after Courtois came back after 3 seasons on loan at Athetico Madrid but with Chelsea winning the league tittle you couldn’t argue with Mourinho’s decision to make Courtois no.1 goalkeeper last season, he certainly didn’t want to sell Cech to Arsene Wengers side he made that clear. Cech will want to go back there and make a statement with his new club.

Many people still feel Arsenal are still missing a top top centre forward to compete for tittle and people argue that Arsenal also needed a defensive midfield player which I also agree with but I like Coqualin who put in fantastic performances since he was called back from on-loan from Chalton in January. Didn’t have the best off games against West Ham and maybe lucky to stay on the pitch before being substituted at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace and still lacks experience in that position but since then has again put in good performances and was very good against Stoke on Saturday.

Chelsea HAVE to win and cannot afford to drop points and theirs a lot off pressure on them which as an Arsenal fan scares me. I think it can be a good time for Arsenal to play Chelsea because they are obviously lacking confidence at the moment and their is clearly problems on and off the pitch at the bridge but also you can argue its a bad time to play them because Chelsea have to respond and have to win the game. As an Arsenal fan attending the game in South West London on Saturday I can happily say that I’d settle for a point considering Arsenal’s record at Stamford bridge over recent years how times have changed When pre-abramovic era how Arsenal always used to get a least 4 points off Chelsea a season it’s certainly been the opposite since the Russian took over at Chelsea. Jose Mourinho’s long unbeaten record against Arsene Wenger came to an end when Gunners saw off Chelsea at Wembley in the community shield at the start off the season which for me is a massive mental believe that Arsenal and Arsene Wenger can believe they can beat Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.

As the starting 11 for both sides on Saturday i think Mourinho Will play Terry and Cahill at the heart off the defence. I know Cahill hasn’t been in the team and has been replaced by zouma recently even though he did start in midweek in the champions league I’d expect Terry and Cahill for the experience and the they seem to have a good partnership and understanding together and both good readers off the game. I expect Chelsea to sit deep and have men behind the ball at a lot off the time on Saturday and look to catch Arsenal on the break just like Dinamo Zargreb did and Chelsea have against Arsenal in the past. Apart from that I don’t expect the Chelsea team to be much different to the side that played against Everton. I expect the two holding midfielders in Matic and probably Mikel to play and protect the back four with Fabregas Hazard and Pedro to play infront off them and Diego Costa to lead the line in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

For Arsenal I’d expect the same 11 that beat Stoke last weekend I’d expect Ramsey to sit with Cazorla and Coqualin in a midfield 3 without the ball in front off the back four, for me Ramsey is an engine and he’d get behind and the ball and sit with coqualin even if Ramsey is put out wide id expect him to slot in more off a central position off the ball and cover the right ground when arsenal don’t have position and he’d also bring the ball forward quickly on the break Then you have Santi Cazorla who can spread the ball around the pitch quickly. Then Theres Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil who will be left right and central at times in the game anybody who watches Arsenal regularly will know that the likes off Sanchez, Ozil and Ramsey love to rotate and switch around the pitch at times in the game and I don’t expect any different on Saturday. A lot off Arsenal fans have been saying a lot at times this season that Alex oxlaide-chamberlain should start more games but I don’t think he deserves to at the moment, ok he was injured for a long part off last season but for me when he picks the ball up from deep he’s very quick and direct and looks very threatening on the break and can probably beat most full backs in this league but his decision making and end product lets him down for me his stats with assists and goals will prove that and I think the manager doesn’t trust him so much at the moment.

Another question is who will Arsene Wenger start up top on Saturday? Will he stick with Walcott or will he go with the low on confident Olivier Giroud? People can say what the want about these two but I do think they both have certain qualities about them that are very beneficial to the team. Oliver Giroud comes deep to receive the ball and holds up play well and has good link up play and brings the midfield into play which is one off his strengths and is good in the air but what he lacks for me is pace and movement off the ball and cannot create space for himself and doesn’t run in behind defenders which is frustrating. Then Theo Walcott on the other hand obviously has bags off pace plays on the shoulder and can run in behind which centre halfs don’t particularly like especially against somebody as quick as him, sometimes it’s annoys me that Walcott is so quick but doesn’t use it to his advantage a lot off the time I’ve always said that Theo Walcott is a right forward player but I do think he can play through the middle in certain games depending on who the opposition is or what defence he’s coming up against. None off Oliver Giroud or Theo Walcott are consistent or clinical enough to be Arsenal’s number one striker to score enough league goals and fire them to win them the tittle and as much as people may disagree with me I think Arsene Wenger Knows that. However both are still more than good enough and have certain attributes to be part off a tittle winning squad. If Walcott starts I can see Chelsea sitting deep because off walcott’s pace but I don’t think that’s a good thing for Arsenal, I always prefer arsenal to play against a team who like to play higher up the pitch thats my opinion. if Oliver Giroud starts I can see Chelsea playing a little bit higher up the pitch witch may benefit arsenal but even if they do Oliver Giroud hasn’t got the pace to get in behind but can link up play with the midfield well. I think Mourinho would rather see Giroud play than Walcott at this moment in time. Walcott on the other hand can cause Terry problems with his pace and has a decent record against Chelsea and has shown up in the big games for Arsenal in the past. But who knows maybe Wenger will start both and play Giroud up top and Walcott on the right but I don’t expect him to. I’d expect Wenger to start Walcott over Giroud on Saturday even though Walcott came on as a substitute on Wednesday he only came on because Arsenal were trailing and needed a goal and it was a good finish as well but Wenger clearly wanted to rest Walcott for the weekend. Giroud is having problems at the moment with confidence and isn’t really in the Arsenal or France fans good books and he didn’t help himself last night picking up two stupid yellow cards.

It’s a massive London Derby and it’s going to be a tight game and a very interesting one and what spices it up even more is Wenger against Mourinho who have had plenty off disagreements down the years but as much as they bicker against each other I do believe their is mutual respect their for each other from both off them even though neither manager will probably admit that. unfortunately i wouldn’t be surprised if Chelsea discover the form we know their capable off against Arsenal I also wouldn’t be shocked if Chelsea ended up with the 3 points and getting back on track but I hope that isn’t the case. Let’s hope the Gunners can get there first victory at Stamford bridge since October 2011 it’s due if you ask me but But I’m biased. Saying that I’d gladly take a point.

My prediction is a score draw ill happily bight your hand off for that right now and I’m going to predict:

Chelsea 1-1 Arsenal

UP THE GUNNERS!!!!!!

KYRI CHRISTODOULOU – AFC FAN

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