Chelsea Preview: Time to Give Those Pensioners an Early UCL Retirement
“On the flanks, Chelsea remain susceptible, particularly with Ashley Cole and John Terry’s combined ages being past that at which the average office worker is thinking of retirement”- Yogi’s Warrior
Last October, Chelsea was under the reins of a Portuguese Boa Constrictor whose unsubstantiated ego, suspect tactics, bad attitude and poor man-management skills cost him his job in the long run. However, Stamford Bridge hosted an encounter that showcased some great attacking play as well as shocking defending from both sides. Eight goals were on display that afternoon with Robin van Persie being the star attraction of the day.
Six months on, the Chelsea side that was bereft of confidence in the AVB era are currently in the form of their lives that has even seen them defeat the emperors of modern-day football, Barcelona.
Had Arsenal been victorious against Queens Park Rangers and Wigan in the run-in to this game, the context of the tie would have been a lot different but the unpredictability of the Premier League has made the Gunners throw open the contest for the remaining Champions League spots.
The fixtures played this weekend will be of paramount importance to the four teams locking horns for those remaining coveted places. While the Gunners begin the proceedings with Chelsea, Totteham will face QPR while that Rugby outfit will take on Newcastle.
On the bright side, the Pensioners visit the Emirates without the scourge of the Gunners, Didier Drogba. The Ivorian has reached double figures against Arsenal in his football career with eight of them scored in the Premier League. They’ll also be without David Luiz that picked up a hammy injury against Tottenham and Branislav Ivanovic, whose big backside earned him a three-match ban.
Like Manchester City, Chelsea’s record at the home of Arsenal is a bit atrocious with just three victories in their last 19 visits to Arsenal’s home ground but it’s also worth noting that those victories came up in their last six visits. Chelsea has also lost 29 points from winning positions against Arsenal in the Premier League, winning just 10 of 21 games in which they’ve taken the lead against the Gunners.
From an Arsenal perspective, the stakes can’t get any much higher because a dismal result today could see the Gunners lose their third spot to Tottenham as well as get within touching distance of Newcastle and Chelsea.
Arsene Wenger has demanded his players to bounce back from Monday’s disappointment:
“This is a massive game for us, of course, and I don’t need to look at the table to know that because the table is in my head. Overall we have been remarkably consistent in the last two month and I am confident that we’ll have a strong response against Chelsea”
The manager has thrown down the gauntlet for his soldiers and we can only hope that they’ll pick it up like the days of King Arthur to joust against the Chelsea side valiantly.
Arsenal has won 12, drawn two and lost two of their last 16 games at the Emirates. They have also scored in 16 consecutive games at home.
It’s also noteworthy that Arsenal hasn’t had a penalty at home in a year and It’s unfortunate to know that we have no legends of the fall. However, it’s not how many times you fall in the box that matters, its how well the referee sees it that does.
To team news, Wojciech Szczesny had four clean sheets in his last five games before those quick-fire goals against Wigan tore his record to shreds. However, he still made some top quality saves against the Latics and will certainly get the nod ahead of Lukasz Fabianski. Elsewhere, Vito Mannone is having a good time at Hull and the Tigers are set to request for his services on a permanent basis. £1m will do the trick or so.
The defense will have a familiar outlook today. As Punkenstein stated in his match preview, Laurent Koscielny returns from his two-match suspension, relegating Johan Djourou to the bench and Seb Squillaci to Gunner Oblivion.
Reports are emerging that Juventus are interested in Djourou while Leeds United ponders a loan move for the Squidward. My pal, @mayorbaze, stated that he’s personally fund Djourou’s flight ticket to Italy if the rumors are true.
The return of the Verminator-Bosscielny combination will certainly bring stability to Arsenal’s backline. Koscielny has made more last-man saving tackles that any defender in the League this season with eight tackles while Vermaelen has scored more goals (13) than any other defender in the Premier League since he arrived in 2009.
Alex Song and Tomas Rosicky are automatic starters in the middle of the park but questioned have been raised about the third player to complete Poseidon’s midfield trident. Arsenal’s win ratio with Mikel Arteta playing stands at 76% and without him, 0%.
Yossi Benayoun is a certainty to miss out courtesy of the Premier League rule book leaving the remaining contenders, Abou Diaby, Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey and the Ox. The first two names on the aforementioned list are very rusty while the latter two have been on the end of huge criticism (Ramsey) and praise (Oxlade-Chamberlain) from the fans.
In as much as I’m a big fan of the young exuberant Ox, I’ll favor Ramsey to get a start today. It’s high time the fans get off Aaron Ramsey’s back and give him the support he deserves. His ability may be questioned, but his commitment and 100% effort he puts in every game is unrivaled.
In the forward line, a lot is expected from Theo Walcott, who is up against an aging yet agile Ashley Cole. Walcott has had his highs and lows but he has put up some good performances against Chelsea in the past and we’ll hope for another today. Gervinho also needs to improve in his decision making in the final third too.
That leaves us with the Player of the Year contender, Robin van Persie. Arsenal has given themselves a 72-hour window to secure a new deal for the Dutch talisman and it seems as if Wenger has decided to act fast before we have another $amir Na$ri issue on our hands again.
The rich predators of Europe are on the prowl for the Flying Dutchman.
My expected lineup should be:
The Blue Pensioners have half an eye on their Champions League semifinal second leg against Barcelona despite the fact that their presently not in contention for Champions League qualification next season.
A victory for the Gunners coupled with a good result for Newcastle will edge them closer to dashed Champions League hopes, except they want to invoke the 2005 Spirit of Liverpool.
Arsenal, it’s time to give these Pensioners an early Champions League qualification retirement.
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