The Road Doesn’t Get Any Easier
Despite not having to travel, Chelsea will wake up tomorrow still feeling the effects of Wednesday night. After a mentally, physically, and emotionally draining victory against Barcelona, the Blues make the trip to the north of London to visit the Emirates Stadium to face an Arsenal team that has managed to avoid the battle for 4th place.
However, on recent form, you’d never guess it having lost to relegation battlers QPR and Wigan. This is has coincided with a small goal drought from Robin van Persie.
It could bode well for the Blues who gave everything on Wednesday night, and who were thoroughly beaten in their early season meeting, conceding 5 goals, including three to van Persie.
This is a slightly different Arsenal team, especially with the news that Mikel Arteta will miss the remainder of the season with an ankle injury. The time is good to pick up the three points from the Gunners. However, we will have to maintain focus and, once again, not have our gaze too far ahead.
Arsenal are a much different team with Mikel Arteta.
The one person that Arsenal have lost that they’ve struggled to replace is Cesc Fabregas. At the deadline, Arteta was brought in to stabilize that area of the field with the idea that he would occupy that deeper playmaking position.
Arteta’s had his ups and downs with the Gunners, but he’s done exactly what he’s needed to. He’s not Fabregas, but he’s brought a composure that they were lacking in the early part of the season before he arrived.
Now, with the injury to Arteta and the news that Jack Wilshere will not return until next season, the replacements in that area of the pitch are scarce. Arsene Wenger will probably look to Aaron Ramsey to take the place of Arteta, but his form since his return from injury has been inconsistent.
Wigan played a brilliant game against Arsenal and showed how they can be beaten.
As he showed in the first match with us, Andre Santos is brilliant going forward. However, against Wigan, he was a liability in defence. Victor Moses gave him a torrid time, did brilliantly countering behind the two advancing fullbacks with Jordi Gomez and Moses countering in behind.
In fact, the tactic that Wigan employed was eerily similar to the one that we used against Barcelona. However, I don’t believe we’ll have to play that negative. With Arsenal’s injuries, the abilities of Salomon Kalou and Ramires to get behind the Arsenal fullbacks will be key.
The reason that you want to get in behind the Arsenal fullbacks is because the CB pairing is so suspect.
Over the past few weeks, Thomas Vermaelen has not been able to successfully martial that backline. There have been times where they’ve looked confused or unsure of each other. Can you blame them? Arsenal have had a rash of injuries to all four of their CBs and none of them have really managed a good partnership.
Last week, it was Johan Djourou who got the shot and failed to impress. This week, Laurent Koscielny is back from suspension, though that might not be the best news for the Gunners.
For the Blues, it’s important to not lose focus, though there are more important league fixtures on the horizon.
For us, I don’t know that victory at the Emirates does much more than apply early pressure to Newcastle and Tottenham. Arsenal are so far ahead of us in points that it’s very nearly impossible to catch them for third. However, we must keep the focus on the current match and not start looking too far ahead to the Tuesday match with Barcelona.
How we manage the fatigue and the recovery will go a long way to show what kind of squad we have for the run in, especially given that El Clasico will also be played.
Fernando Torres may get his chance to prove his worth in the big matches.
Wednesday night’s hero Didier Drogba will be absent for the Arsenal match with a knee injury and could be ruled out for the second leg against Barcelona. In his stead, the £50M man, Torres, will get another chance to show his mettle. It’s clear that he’s more the future than the present, but it has to be a worry that he’s still not scoring regularly.
However, he does link play deeper better than Drogba and has a touch of pace that Drogba no longer possesses. How he fares against the Gunners will go a long way to showing whether he’s ready to head to the Nou Camp on Tuesday or not.
I have a feeling that we’ll see a changed lineup for this match. How many changes remains to be seen, but I do know that there should be concern about certain players having to play 3 matches in 7 days. The problem is that CB cover is light with the injury to David Luiz and the suspension to Branislav Ivanovic.
I do believe that Chelsea will edge this one, but I don’t expect it to be comfortable to watch,