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Chelsea Vs Arsenal PL Preview

Two wins in our last two games have allowed the green shoots of recovery to sprout, but now we have our toughest test so far this season to truly test whether this is another false dawn. 

Do we have what it takes to end our awful away record?

In the last thirteen games away from home versus the Top6 sides, we have failed to win ANY of them. Not exactly the form befitting of contenders. Then there is the small matter of seven defeats in the last eight visits to Stamford Bridge.

There are reasons to be cheerful though, at least three of them. 

We have defeated Antonio Conte’s team in three of the last four times we have faced them. The problem is though, is that the one defeat from that four was at the Bridge.

So, Arsene Wenger’s choice of tactics will certainly be in focus. Can he muster the team which goes for the jugular from the first whistle? Or will it be the ponderous, plodding Arsenal which are merely reactive rather than proactive?

Wenger at least has a nearly full bill of health in his squad. The only injuries are Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla. In his latest press conference, the Arsenal coach said that Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil should make the team after picking up slight knocks. There will be many changes to his side after defeating FC Koln in the Europa League in midweek however.

The strength of our squad was on show against the Germans on Thursday, but the team which does battle with Chelsea today will most likely closely resemble the team which defeated Bournemouth last weekend.

The only point of consternation is regarding Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez.

Welbeck is this seasons top scorer and even without his goals, his team play and work rate is second to none. Does he deserve to keep his place? Definitely. Will he? Alexis may have something to say about that.

The Chilean’s fight for match sharpness reached new highs so far this campaign against Cologne. His excellent goal showed exactly what he brings to the table, and it may well give him the edge over the England striker. 

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte will likely have Eden Hazard available, and the Belgian winger is in line to make his first start of the season. It is the new boys that are really firing the Blues so far though. Zappacosta and Tiemoue Bakayoko are showing great signs of melding into the Italian’s way of thinking, and the blistering form of Alvaro Morata means Laurent Koscielny and co will have their hands full.

No clean sheets in twelve games at the home of the Blues could perhaps be telling too. Petr Cech must relive his former glories, as well as the defence ahead of him really keeping tabs on the Chelsea attackers. The first goal could prove huge, and a clean sheet will go a long way to providing a foundation for a decent result.

It is easy to type, far harder to achieve though. Part of our frustrations is knowing what our team are capable of, but only seeing it come to fruition on very rare occasions. We have lost our only two away games this season, and a loss here could compound our malaise. 

It really is win or bust, and at such an early stage this season that shows how far we have dropped. It won’t mean an end to our hopes, but the mental effect it could have would have far deeper ramifications.

Time to send a message that the reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated. 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Welbeck, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal. Forever the optimist.

Community Shield Preview

Published on The Arsenal Review

The season finally gets underway with this fixture. The Community Shield has been the curtain-raiser for many years, and this season starts with a London derby with plenty of expected fireworks to look forward to.

Last season saw the Gunners edge out their West London opponents in terms of amount of victories – one apiece in League wins, with Arsenal grabbing the decider with their victory in the FA Cup Final – but Antonio Conte winning the title in his first season means the Blues will start this fixture as favourites.

Last season means precious little however. Both sides will be fit and raring to go after both clubs have enjoyed extensive series of matches home and abroad, so there should be no lack of rhythm or final ball. 

This event is meant to be a friendly, but it will be anything but as both sides will be eager to score psychological points over the other. Both outfits will be expected to be near the top come the end of the season, and a winning start over a rival is something that may be a big boost – and a huge dent for the other.

Both sides have already met in pre-season, with Chelsea running out comfortable 3-0 winners in Asia. It may have smarted, but this game carries far more weight.

Arsene Wenger has said in his Press Conference that his squad is nearly completely injury free, so the Gunners boss has some difficult calls to make. The only omissions from the squad will be Santi Cazorla and Gabriel, as well as Francis Coquelin. Will Wenger opt for the 3-5-2? Or will he fall back on his old faithful – the 4-2-3-1?

Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey were carrying knocks but are expected to make it, but what of Alexis? The Chilean has just returned to training, will he come straight back into the team? In truth, there is an embarrassment of riches in attack for Wenger, with Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud and Alexandre Lacazette all vying for the striker spot.

If Wenger does go for three at the back, will Shkodran Mustafi miss out? The German has missed the majority of training, but is technically fit and available for selection. If Mustafi does miss out, will it be Rob Holding, Mohamed Elneny or Per Mertesacker that will partner Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal?

So many questions, but Antonio Conte has just as many quandaries. With Alvaro Morata, Kevin Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko added to an already bulging roster, what will Chelsea’s eleven look like? Will the success of last season dictate Conte’s selection? Or will Morata and co get a baptism of fire? He will have to make do without Eden Hazard and Pedro through injury.

Whoever makes the team at Wembley, they will surely know that this is no ordinary ‘friendly.’ Both sets of fans will want this trophy badly, as will the Managers, although they will be loath to declare their wanting. This match matters though, make no mistake.

Chelsea are favourites for this game, but they were overwhelming favourites in May – and look how that turned out.

Potential Lineup – Cech, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Welbeck, Ozil, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 Arsenal.

Arsenal Win The 2017 FA Cup!!! 

The FA Cup is back in the rightful possession of Arsenal for a record 13th time, as against all odds, the Gunners pulled a virtuoso performance out of the bag and bested favourites and champions Chelsea.

Few would have given Arsenal a chance before kickoff, and the bookies agreed. They couldn’t be blamed though, and Gooners who were looking upon this Final with a bleak realism were merely taking all things into consideration.

First choice goalkeeper Petr Cech ruled out through injury, and backup keeper David Ospina rusty. Our defence was down to its bare bones, with Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Gabriel and Kieran Gibbs ruled out before the game. Uncertainty hanging over not only star players Alexis and Mesut Ozil, but also our manager.

Not to mention the most disappointing league campaign in the last two decades.

We were going into this game with our backs to the wall. Chelsea had won the Premiership on the back of an incredible run of results. They had seen off all comers and were going into the game looking to complete the Double in Antonio Conte’s first season at the club.

It went from bad to worse when Per Mertesacker was named in Arsenal’s starting XI. The German defender had not started a game in 13 months, and despite his knowledge, defensive nous and leadership qualities – his lack of match sharpness against Costa, Hazard and co would surely cost the Gunners dearly?

Not this time.

Mertesacker and Arsenal emphatically answered doubters and dragged Chelsea from their pedestal with aplomb. From minute one to minute ninety four, Arsenal were superior in every department across the lush Wembley turf. Our ramshackle defence kept Costa stifled. Hazard, Pedro and the other Blues widemen were too busy taking part in defensive duties to go rampaging forward. 

When they did wriggle free, Monreal, Bellerin, Oxlade-Chamberlain stuck to them and never allowed these dangerous players that inch of space to turn and create havoc.

Then there was our midfield of Xhaka and Ramsey. It seems it has taken this performance for all to recognise what the Swiss star offers. He was robust in the tackle, astute in his positioning and always available for the ball. Ramsey provided the bridge between defence and attack, and he was absolutely tireless. He was also the goal hero as he was in 2014. 

Mesut Ozil never stopped probing and he was as busy as anyone has been this season. The German deserves plaudits for his inspiring performance, and Alexis did what Alexis always does.

It really underlined how important it is to keep them for next season.

The first half of the game was the pattern of the whole game. Chelsea struggled to keep a grip on the movement of Arsenal, and the best opportunities went to the Gunners.

The first real chance resulted in the deadlock being broken, and it was inside five minutes. The ball looped over the Chelsea defence and Ramsey was well offside. He left it for the onrushing Sanchez who put it past Courtois, but it took referee Anthony Taylor having a confab with the linesman before it was awarded.

Then, Sanchez put through Ozil, who saw his effort cleared off the line by Cahill, as Arsenal started to roar up the gears.

Then, Welbeck met an Ozil corner well with a header, but it hit the post, before Ramsey hit the post with the loose ball. Chelsea were on the ropes and Arsenal were throwing flurries to finish the fight.

Then, a neat move saw Welbeck through on goal, but a combo of Courtois and Cahill again saved Chelsea and it meant that for all of Arsenal’s superiority, we were still only a goal up. We had read this script before.

There had been a few sniffs at goal for Costa, but Mertesacker’s positioning was perfection each time the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard threatened.

A crucial moment came early in the second half, when Victor Moses couldn’t cope with Welbeck on the flank and wrestled him to the ground, earning a booking. This would turn out to be more than a mere booking. Minutes later, Bellerin found space and his low effort was well saved by Courtois. The same pattern was emerging, Arsenal were on the throttle, with Chelsea scrabbling for purchase.

Then, Chelsea were on the attack. Moses twisted and teased Oxlade-Chamberlain out on the right before attempting to cut in. 

The Ox went with his man but was sensible in his harrying. Moses went down in the box like Piers Morgan’s career, and lo and behold – previously anti-Arsenal referee Anthony Taylor again utilised common sense and booked Moses for diving – thus Chelsea were now a man down.

Arsenal were clearly on top of things, and they now had a man advantage. Things were looking rosy – but all Gooners know that nothing can be taken for granted.

And so it proved.

A ball in the air was chested down by Costa in the box, and it gave him an inch of space to fire in a volley. Ospina had been on top of everything so far in the game, but his weak effort to save it was not enough and it gave Chelsea parity when it seemed the game was walking away from them.

Welbeck came off to a deserved ovation and was replaced by Olivier Giroud – and the Frenchman wasted no time in getting busy.

He found himself in the box and he squeezed in a cross. Ramsey had ghosted in between two defenders and headed it into the net – and Arsenal had regained the lead just two minutes after giving it up.

This Arsenal side had let themselves down so many times in the league, but this performance needed to be finished with a cup win – such was the level of excellence from each and every Arsenal player.

Bellerin nearly capped off the game but put the ball wide, and then Chelsea got a chance to again equalise undeservedly. Diego Costa barged in and volleyed from close range, but Ospina saved well. Ozil then was in acres of space, chopped inside his man and opted for the near post, but the post denied him.

It was enough though.

Arsene Wenger’s men had left it all on the pitch, and it meant this was Arsene Wenger’s seventh FA Cup win – which makes him the most successful manager in Cup history. Arsenal are now also the most successful Cup team in history.

This was perhaps the sweetest win from the last three though. We defeated a powerful opponent, defied all odds and we didn’t just scrape the win – we ensured Chelsea couldn’t handle us.

Let us enjoy this. Let this be a reminder that despite us missing the Champions League next season, despite our shaky league form – we are capable of being the team that we have seen in the past. We are capable of being the great team that our players want us to be.

So, the FA Cup is back home. Arsene Wenger has masterminded another Cup for us and another placard for The Emirates.

Forget the speculation that will engulf us in the summer, just for a moment. Let’s wallow in this.

This win is exactly what we will remember in years to come, and tell our kids and grandkids about. 

Arsenal 3 – 0 Chelsea – 5 Things We Learned

Every now and then, life clicks. The variables that normally clash and crunch together, causing no end of problems and strife, suddenly meet harmoniously and your passage is smoother than a Mesut Ozil slide-rule pass.

One of these variables is the Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez triumvirate. All three have the qualities that benefit the other parts of the trinity, but thanks to injury and poor form, like a misfiring sports car, the full potential is rarely seen.

This game though, saw these three hugely talented players hit top gear and blast Chelsea with full force, and at half time, we were three goals to the good thanks to goals from all three. 

It wasn’t just the goals that made this game perfect viewing. Even in the mundane activities, we managed to rub Chelsea’s nose in it. We made them look ordinary, we did everything right. Even the match stats were wildly in our favour. Simply because in every minute, on every patch of the pitch – we were better. 

The first half is perhaps the best football that we have materialised for quite some time. The aesthetically pleasing Wengerball has been remiss for a while now, but it rose up into our eyeline like a majestic salmon, and chants of ‘Ole’ were ringing around The Emirates as our team toyed with Chelsea like a disintered cat pawing at a mouse that had quite clearly taken too many hits and was willing the pearly gates to appear.

What can we take from the game? So many things, as this game will be talked about for some time. It was so pleasing to see the passing formations come to fruition, and Chelsea’s approach was made irrelevant, as if they had brought their much fabled bus, we would have simply ripped it in half. 

Iwobi played on Tuesday in the EFL Cup, but no fatigue was prevalent, and he buzzed around the pitch. Mustafi and Koscielny are blooming together – any partnership that contends successfully with Costa has cause for celebration – and Hector Bellerin looks to have come out of his own mini-slump. 

In short, our team was on fire. For our fourth League win on the trot, we picked the best opponent to unsheath our finest play!

There was simply no stopping us in this game, but here are five key points from the game – 

This display will be used as a yardstick, and a stick to beat us

Much like Oxlade-Chamberlain, we know what we are capable of, so to see us underperform is frustrating. Now we have witnessed our excellent parts work as a beautiful machine? Well, we now want that in most matches, and when we fall below this bar, then criticism will follow. We played football that was packaged in pure silk, and it was used to bludgeon an opponent that had given us many scars. This performance gives us hope for the season, but it could also be a horrible reminder of what we could be. Let us hope for the former.

Coquelin still has a place

Before going off with injury in the 31st minute, Francis Coquelin was enjoying every minute, gleefully running around the blades of grass and destroying every part of Chelsea’s build-up play. He has his uses, and we all know his limitations toward attack, but in terms of his strengths? Not many in the league, never mind in our team, does what he does better. Let us hope he is back soon. Xhaka may be the present, and the future, but Coquelin is a player we need in our squad. 

Ozil is back on form.

The best players, even when the inevitable dips in form occur, can still contribute towards the game. Ozil has been well short of his own particular standards so far this campaign, but this could well rank as one of his finest 90 minutes in our shirt. His touch was pure sex, his awareness is derived from the gods. He was clearly enjoying every minute, and he was more than pumped for this game. He deceptively covers more ground than most people think, but he was tracking back with as much fervour as Alexis at times.  His goal, which he started by making Kante look like a lost little boy, needs to be watched repeatedly to remind any doubters what he does. We love you Mesut.

First Sanchez tapping the Cannon, now Ozil. So very happy with this.

Alexis to stay as a striker, for now

This issue has garnered much debate, but the results speak for themselves. Alexis may feel more comfortable on his native left, but he has the building blocks for a striker, and his numbers are evidence. As long as he continues to hit the net, then Giroud and Lucas may be twiddling their thumbs for a while longer. His finish to open the scoring was sumptuous, and answers any queries regarding where he can play. The little Chilean can play where he wants!

Theo is back

Theo divides opinion like Moses parted the Red Sea. He has had long periods, even seasons, when his form has seen him put in displays that have no part at the club. This season though, he has gone back to basics. Used his main strength in the right way, and he has made one simple change. He is working harder. As a result, he has stayed in the team, and is making things happen. On a consistency basis, Theo has been one of our best players so far this campaign. Like Marmite, whether you love or loathe him, you cannot argue he is effective. He may still lose the ball a little too much, but so does Alexis. Keep doing what you’re doing Walcott, and you will easily surpass your best ever season. Keep working hard.

Arsenal Vs Chelsea – Match Preview

On the back of our last two games, and Chelsea coming off the back of a tough EFL Cup game against Leicester and a comprehensive loss to Liverpool, bookies comprehending the odds would make us slight favourites.

Then, the aforementioned bookie would remember Arsene Wenger’s recent dire record against Chelsea, and the projected odds would be in turmoil once more.

A last-gasp win against Southampton, a backs against the wall draw in Paris, followed by two victories each gained by scoring four goals, represents great form for the Gunners. Not only that, but our squad is nearing full strength, so all pointers are looking towards a fantastic opportunity for a win against our London rivals.

In terms of naming the team, Wenger will give a late test to Olivier Giroud, who is nursing a toe injury. The game has come too soon for Aaron Ramsey, who is back in training but is not match fit yet. Danny Welbeck, Per Mertesacker and Carl Jenkinson are still unavailable.

Even if the French striker does make the cut, will he make the actual eleven? Despite many critics proclaiming that Alexis Sanchez doesn’t work as a sole frontman – and it is clear he isn’t as effective as when he performs in his natural role – the goals are flowing, and the results are there for all to see.

So, it’s a straight fight between the Chilean and the bearded Gaul for the striker spot, but Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal and Petr Cech are all expected to come straight back into the side.

Another bone of contention is whether Granit Xhaka should start. The Swiss midfielder has impressed since joining, and his recent long range screamers have only served to act as a megaphone, proclaiming to all his talents. Wenger has stated that the reason Xhaka is currently getting splinters on the bench is cohesion, and that will take time to build. So, it looks like Cazorla and Coquelin will be given the job of marshalling the centre of the park.

Antonio Conte will have the League’s most effective villain in full force, with Diego Costa in rude form in front of goal – and causing controversy in every game he has played. The Spaniard/Brazilian reverse Benjamin Button will keep Koscielny and Mustafi on their toes. 

Will Cesc remain on the bench? Will Oscar be nominated to sit behind Costa? Conte has just as many players to choose from, and this clash – no matter how early it is in the season – will have a huge impact. If a side can emerge victorious, then the belief that will coarse through the side could propel them up the table.

Arsenal are the side in form though. Three wins on the bounce, and Conte seems to still be searching for his perfect gameplan. One clean sheet for the Italian in his League games thus far is not exactly the Italian masterclass in defending that Stamford Bridge would have been hoping for.

The bottom line though, is that for these games, form has never been much of a powerful variable. What will win this game is guts, tenacity, fitness, and a little sprinkling of genius. We have this in buckets. 

We will need to keep all of our men on the pitch though – our last two games we have succumbed to red mist and managed to get a player sent for an early bath.

One eerie indicator? Chelsea have enjoyed ruining Arsene Wengers milestones in the past. His 500th and 1000th games all coincided with Chelsea losses. It is high time to exorcise this blue demon. Seeing as Wenger is celebrating his 20th anniversary with the club, that doesn’t bode well.

The worst stat regarding this crunch game though? Sky Sports have revealed that in the last eight games that today’s match official Michael Oliver has taken charge of involving the Gunners, we have failed to win any of them. Chelsea though? They are unbeaten in the last thirteen games that Michael Oliver has officiated.


Predicted lineup – 

Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi, Sanchez

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0.