18 September 2015

Chelsea-Arsenal Preview: No one puts baby in a corner.

So. We've come full circle, it seems. Chelsea, who were a week ago in complete disarray, are once again ascendant. Arsenal, who were a week ago ascendant, are in complete disarray. What a difference a few days makes. Chelsea, hosting Maccabi Tel-Aviv, romped to a 4-0 win while Arsenal, traveling to Dinamo Zagreb, unravelled to a 2-1 loss. The only conclusion to draw from these results is that Arsenal's Saturday trip to Stamford Bridge will end in epic defeat, earning its place in the annals along side Hastings, Agincourt, or Waterloo. Something in my gut tells me there's far more to this one than any of those.

I might exaggerate ever so slightly.

Let's get back down to brass tacks, then, shall we? Yes, Chelsea seemed to restore some semblance of swagger in seeing off Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Let's pause for a moment to acknowledge there were no racist rows. Meanwhile, we staggered to defeat in Croatia. With a mere three-day turn-around, it will be intriguing to see how squad-selection goes for both sides. However, for this preview, I'm willing to set aside the particulars and go instead for the jugular. Yes, we lost midweek, and Chelsea won. I couldn't have picked a better pairing of results. Mourinho's minions get to convince themselves that they've rediscovered their form. We get to circle the wagons, regroup, and press ahead. Each time we've suffered this kind of setback, it seems, we go off on an unbeaten run that restores a sense of competence—in certain circumstances, dominance. The only pity lies in needing the kick to the teeth in the first place.

Against Dinamo, we sent out a side that included three players who hadn't played much if at all in the last six months (Gibbs, Debuchy, and Arteta). Even then, it took a freakish own-goal and harsh second yellow to hand the match to our opponents. Restore the squad to full strength, add a healthy dose of dogged determination, and we have a recipe for results on Saturday. I'm not saying we'll win. I'm simply saying that the loss in Zagreb shall fuel a fire in this squad. Already, there are rumours that Özil, Alexis, Cazorla, and Ox over who should play on our left in order to abuse Ivanovic, who has been doing his best to convince those interested that Mertesacker turns faster than he does.

Further afield, Fàbregas is already playing like it's February, while Hazard is doing everything in his power to disprove Mourinho's claim that he's better than Ronaldo. Courtois and Begovic are doing their best to prove that Čech is still the crème de la Prem. Despite their victory on Wednesday, Chelsea still have serious questions to ask of themselves. Should they win on Saturday, they might convince themselves that they've answered those questions. I'm not so sure. Should we emerge with a point or—saints preserve us—all three, well, we could drive a wooden stake into the spot where Chelsea's heart would presumably be.

LAST 3
  • Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea (02.08.2015)
  • Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea (26.04.2015)
  • Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal (05.10.2014)
FACTFILE
  • The two clubs first clashed on 1 August 1907 in a 0-0 draw.
  • Čech will likely face his former club for the first time as a visitor.
  • Arsenal have won seven of eight away matches in the Prem.
INJURIES
  • Welbeck, Wilshere, and Rosický have all been ruled out; Mertesacker is a doubt.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI
  • Čech; Monreal, Koscielny, Gabriel, Bellerín; Coquelin, Cazorla, Alexis, Özil, Ramsey; Walcott.
This one should be a barn-burner even if it's only matchday six.

PREDICTION
  • Chelsea 2-2 Arsenal.