Here we are; the morning of the big game; the day of reckoning; the toughest away game of the season; bloody Chelsea. There’s very little positivity from Arsenal fans across the outlets I peruse today. Few see the potential for a result against arguably the most impressive team of the season thus far.
I wish I could disagree. Pessimism isn’t something I particularly like, it’s an ugly, consuming emotion, but you have to be realistic enough to admit we face a very tough game today. Perhaps the 6-0 debacle clouds judgement, perhaps supporter expectation isn’t as high this season. Whatever the reason, a draw today would be snatched from the offerer with both hands and slobbering glee.
Can we win the game? Yes, we can – if you scour betting sites such as Betfair, we have a reasonable selection of odds. For all their attacking abilities, Chelsea do have weakness – Fabregas alongside Matic is an area I think we could exploit – and they have shipped just as many goals we have. We also have pace in the side today, and that was a feature sorely lacking from the team that were so thoroughly decimated on Arsene 1000th game.
There are reasons to have hope. I can’t sit behind the TV expecting my team to lose a game. Our attacking quartet of Welbeck, Alexis, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ozil can cause any team in football problems with their mix of pace and guile.
What causes my pessimism is Mourinho. The man may be a opprobrious urchin, but to dispute his prowess would be an act of futility. He knows how to get victories in the big games and isn’t afraid to do so in any manner he can. Worst of all, he knows how to beat Arsene Wenger. Arsene invariably sets up the team to play in a set manner regardless of opponents and it’s, unfortunately, predictable. Mourinho will send his players out to disrupt the flow of the game, unsettle our midfield and exploit the spaces behind our full backs.
The team news for the game is pretty bad. Arteta and Ramsey are both out for a month, Walcott and Gnabry are close to return but it’s unlikely either will make even the bench, and Debuchy and Giroud won’t resurface until 2015. The two small rays of light are the likely return to the squad of Nacho Monreal and the fact Didier Drogba won’t play.
Here’s how I think we’ll line up:
It’s an attacking side, but one that lacks any physicality in the central areas. Against a side of Chelsea’s power, that could prove a hindrance. There was talk Diaby could feature, but that looks entirely unlikely as his entire skeletal structure is made of cheese.
We’ll be able to keep the ball and probe, but will struggle to dominate. Hopefully I’m wrong and Arsene springs a surprise on us and gives Mourinho something to think about. Flamini will be important. Without Arteta’s cool head he’ll need to ensure no moments of rashness creep into his mind and he keeps positional discipline. He and Fabregas are still good friends so I’m hoping that might spur him on.
Prediction time. I refuse to predict a defeat, so I’m going for a 1-1 which I would be delighted with. If we come out to press Chelsea and hit them on the counter as quickly as possible, we have a chance. I’m clinging to that shred of hope and now the nerves are kicking in. Roll on 2pm.
That’s all for today, folks.
The comments await below. Use ’em to tell me how you’d line up and what you think the final score will be? Let’s all collectively cross our fingers. We are The Arsenal. We can get a positive result today.
I’ll be back tomorrow to review the game. Until then, and as always; thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.