Normally, going to Stamford Bridge without Cesc, van Persie, Vermaelen, Walcott and Bendtner, and with Fabianski in goal would fill me with terror. Today I’m only filled with a mild trepidation.
Chelsea are champions, worthy ones at that, and until last weekend had pretty much swatted everyone out of their path in the league. Man City proved a tougher test and gave us some hope that they weren’t as unbeatable as they appeared. Of course there’s a big difference between the way City play and the way we play.
Last weekend was two Italian managers going at it like two Italian managers, funnily enough. City’s team is big, strong and packed with defenders/defensive midfielders. Ours, pretty much, is not. Thinking about the team I do wonder if he’s going to pick more or less the same as the one that played midweek. There are only two positions I would be unsure about: Koscielny or Djourou at the back and Rosicky or Diaby in midfield. So we’re looking at:
Fabianski – Sagna – Squillaci – Koscielny/Djourou – Clichy – Song – Wilshere – Rosicky/Diaby – Nasri – Arshavin – Chamakh
In defence I’d probably go for Koscielny, he proved he’s up for the physical battle against Kevin Davies and in the midfield it’d be Rosicky. I know Diaby gives us a bit more in terms of height and power but frankly I don’t trust him to put in the effort required. That said, I think the manager will and the Czech will be on the bench.
Up front Marouane Chamakh will have a tough task on his hands against John Terry but what’s interesting is how he talks about another role he’ll have to play. He says:
We have to be organised – the team who defends the best will come out on top
Which is kind of worrying seeing as they are better defensively than us. However, defending is not the sole domain of the defenders, as Chamakh points out.
It is not just the defenders and the goalkeeper who must do that work. Strikers like me are the first defenders – and we must consolidate.
It will require a huge team effort, hence my reservations about Diaby, to get a result out of his game. I know we’re missing important players but there’s still enough quality in that side to hurt Chelsea in my opinion. However, it will only happen if we work really, really hard. Chamakh points to Drogba as the dangerman, as has everyone else, you need only look at his record against us in recent games. He’s a very difficult player to play against, but if he doesn’t have the ball then he can’t do much.
Cutting off his supply lines really is the most effective way to defend against him which means when their full backs look to get forward, and they will, they have to be tracked and closed down quickly. They’ll certainly miss the threat from midfield that Lampard gives them and if we can get Nasri on the ball enough he’s shown he’s in good goalscoring form at the moment. And I just have a funny feeling about young Jack today …
More than anything, even the result, we have to show that we can compete with Chelsea. Last season exposed a gulf between us and them which was painful. We’ve got to put that right today. I can take losing this one if we play well and give it a good go. That said I do think a result is important for the belief of the team and for the fans belief in the team. Even though we stayed in touch last year despite the defeats it was disheartening to see the way we were taken apart.
If I were a betting man, which I sometimes am but I’m not this morning, I’d put a couple of quid on a draw. I think this is a game in which we need to score first but I think it’s one we can get something out of. It’s down to how much the players want it and, in fairness, the noises have been good. Time to translate that noise into performance.
Alex Song reckons we can channel the toughness of Vieira and Adams. I remain unconvinced about that, to be honest, but I’m happy that’s what they’re talking about. If we can look at every Arsenal player when they come off the pitch today and know they’ve given 100% then there can’t really be any complaints.
Especially as I believe that if they give that much then we can get a result today. Time to show we’ve learned some lessons from last season.
Come on you gooooooooners.