Chelsea preview + news round-up

Good day to you. I was up late editing the upcoming Arseblog book so I’m a bit tired this morning. Nevertheless, a preview of this morning’s game has to be written so we’ll crack on with that.

The team news for today is that Thomas Vermaelen is in the squad. Arsene says he’s a bit reluctant to use him so soon after Tuesday’s comeback game but if I were manager I’d certainly start him today. I’d Per him with Mertesacker in the centre of the defence and move Koscielny to right back. The Frenchman has been fantastic in recent games but even with Jenkinson fit again – I’m making that assumption based on the fact he was in the training photos – I think a back four of Koscielny – Mertesacker – Vermaelen – Santos – represents the best we can put out.

I think Chelsea have been somewhat overlooked with all the focus on the two Manchester sides and they are a vastly experienced, high quality team who will provide a serious challenge to us today. I think they’re still finding their feet under their new manager but this is going to be a real test. We have seven wins from eight but all of those games were against teams you would normally expect Arsenal to beat.

So, I reckon/hope we’ll line up: Szczesny – Koscielny – Mertesacker – Vermaelen – Santos – Song – Arteta – Ramsey – Gervinho – Walcott – van Persie

Again, if I were manager, I’d be having a serious think about Walcott and whether or not Gervinho from the right hand side and Arshavin down the left might be an option, but Theo does like a goal against Chelsea. It’s crucial that his defensive work is up to scratch though. Whoever plays at right back, whether it’s Koscielny or Djourou, is not a natural full back and will need some protection. Mata and Cole will definitely trouble whoever’s there today and if you’re going to pick holes in Theo’s game his defensive application is one the areas in which he could certainly improve.

However, when you read Robin van Persie talking about how Theo is the player who has provided more assists for him than any other Arsenal player I suspect he’ll get the nod today. And obviously the captain’s presence will be a huge factor. I can imagine, as John Terry went round his mum’s for a shoplifted dinner last night, he’ll have had van Persie on his mind. There isn’t a striker in better form in the Premier League this season and in a game as important as this we’re going to need to him.

Arsene says:

Sometimes the big games are decided by small details, sometimes a bit going for you or against you. What is important is that we put a top class performance in and then you have more chance that those details go for you.

Arsenal have yet to win away from home this season. The trips we have made haven’t exactly been good either. Old Trafford, Ewood Park, White Hart Lane, even Newcastle, all games which we’d rather forget and it’s about time we got ourselves back on track while on the road. Arsene says he can never understand the difference between a home game and an away game, which I kind of get, but the stats speak for themselves so far this season. Still, a result today would be very positive. The boss went on to say:

A win would of course install us among the top teams in the league, but what is very important is that it would strengthen the belief inside the team and would continue our progress.

I feel we are getting stronger and Chelsea is a big test – a test of strength, a test of resolve, a test of commitment – and that is what we expect tomorrow.

There should be a lot more confidence in the team. Good wins, some of which have required real character to be shown, have boosted the belief in the squad. And I think we’re seeing the benefits of the players gelling a bit too. I don’t want to keep coming back to the summer but it was a tidal wave of mismanagement and we’re now seeing the benefits of operating in calmer waters. Today won’t be easy but if we can avoid any silly mistakes and ensure that we take one or two of the chances that come our way I think we can get a result.

In other news, Arsene talks about abuse, a subject high on the agenda due to the Chelsea captain and the allegations made against him. He says:

There is an issue of all kinds of abuse. I have worked for 15 years in England and I have been abused how many times? And that doesn’t shock anybody. And the media has a part to play as well. It is not only about racism – any abuse is wrong. Nothing is done.

You have to punish people and you will see if the rest will do it again. This is an important subject, racism, but it’s not the only one. Any kind of violence, or abuse, you have to fight against.

Which all sounds perfectly reasonable in print. Yet as grotesque as the abuse leveled at Wenger is, and regular readers will know I’ve long blogged about it, I think there’s something far more sinister if what Terry is accused of is proved to be true. As he is a figurehead, like it or not, it has far wider societal implications than a horrible song but one which we all know to be patently untrue.

For all the headlines this morning about Wenger defending Terry, saying things are said and done in the heat of the moment, the bit where he says if guilty he should be punished seems to have been a bit glossed over. And if guilty, considering his position, they should throw the book at him. And make the sure the book is War and Peace. The Concrete edition.

Chelsea v Arsenal stat pack

There will be live blog coverage of the game, so if you’re out and about or stuck in the work, you can follow what’s happening on your computer or phone. Check back later on for the live blog post or bookmark the default live blog page.

And if you fancy a flutter you can get up to £50 in free bets from Paddy Power who have the following money back special for today’s game: If there’s a Red Card in this match, Paddy Power will refund all losing 1st /last goalscorer, correct score & scorecast singles on the game.

Click here to register with Paddy Power

Right, that’s yer lot. Fingers crossed for the game. Until later.

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