With the disappointing – and quite frankly anger-inducing – loss to Watford, this game at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea could not carry any more weight.
It is feasible to suggest that if the Gunners fail to win this game and it is lights out for this season’s title challenge – in February.
Arsene Wenger will again be missing from the touchline, and he takes a security team with him as he will be sitting in the away section of Chelsea’s home. This game is the third of four games he must be absent from the dugout, and how his team will fare without him in the heat of the enemy’s support is up for debate.
Arsenal will have to do without a host of central midfield options for this game. Granit Xhaka is suspended, Mohamed Elneny is still wth his country competing in the AFCON, Santi Cazorla is no nearer to making a comeback from his injury woes – and now Aaron Ramsey is out for this game after straining his calf. The Welshman is expected to be out for three weeks, so his replacement is thought to be Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Ox himself had a fitness test, but is expected to make the team.
Besides, who else can do it? Francis Coquelin is the only available recognised central midfielder, so a central partnership of The Ox and Coquelin will be taking to the pitch at Stamford Bridge. Ainslie Maitland-Niles played well last weekend against Southampton, but the opposition is a level up from what he has previously faced.
Who else will be missing? Olivier Giroud is another Gunner to have faced a fitness test, but Danny Welbeck will be available, as will Theo Walcott. So who plays in our attack? Welbeck and Walcott are very much in form, and their pace and movement will be a nightmare for David Luiz and co. So will Wenger stick with what he knows and include Giroud again? The Frenchman has proved his worth time and again, but what he brings to the table is very much what Chelsea’s defence are extremely adept at dealing with.that sort of battle.
Could they stymie a combined attack of Walcott, Welbeck and Alexis?
It will also bring the best out of Mesut Ozil, who has been sub-par of late. The German is the best player to spot the abundant runs of the trio above, but it is Wenger’s call. Does he opt for the cut and thrust of the Arsenal of old? Do we finally take the handbrake off? It has seldom been taken off recently.
Elsewhere in the side, Petr Cech returns to the location where he was a huge success. The big Czech criticised his teammates this week regarding their mentality, and the goalkeeper certainly recognises a winning outlook when he sees it. He will be between the sticks for the game, and the recognised Arsenal back four of Bellerin,. Mustafi, Koscielny and Monreal are all ready and raring to go.Mustafi was nursing a knock midweek, but should make the game.
The defence will be well versed with the chief threat in the Chelsea camp. Diego Costa has made his presence felt in more ways than goals in previous encounters. Koscielny won the battle in the last fixture between the two – can he do so again?
We have a poor recent record at Stamford Bridge, and with literally our Premier League campaign on the line – it is high time we rectified the situation.
Time for this squad to show what they are made of.
Predicted Lineup: Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck.
Precited Scoreline – 2-0 to Arsenal.