Last weekend they rode their luck a little and picked up all three points at Old Trafford. Lukaku who has been a talking point in the last few days due to the loan rules, is a handful and is playing very well. These are the exact type of games where a team like Chelsea sneak an advantage by adding to good squads but without those players playing against them.
We can cross off number four because Arsene has already explained that Bacary Sagna has a tight hamstring. Carl Jenkinson will be brought back into the fold after perhaps subtly being edged out a little to regain some of his form/confidence. Long term I have no worries about Jenko at all. He has the right hunger and attitude as well as having played long spells in the team last season and looking impressive with it. As long as his sharpness and confidence are good tonight then he will be fine. Now as for the rest of the above personnel, Arsene has an issue. All those players are key players for this team and it is why they have played the most football this season. You leave all five out of the team and as I said above you lose not only quality but you lose continuity and understanding. If as Arsene eluded to in his press conference, he rotates game by game it means that in some very big games we will be starting with Özil or Giroud or Ramsey on the bench. I'm not sure we want to do that.
With the games coming thick and fast Arsene Wenger has spoken about the need to rotate over the next few weeks. The return to health of most of our squad couldn't have come at a better time. Usually we start the season with a clean bill of health only for half our team to be crocked at this stage. Maybe that is the answer. Give a few a kick in pre season so they return just in time for the hectic period, often a time when we drop points. I mean you can't get injured when you are already injured can you? Stupidness aside for a moment. Many have bemoaned our lack of strength, often pointing to our bench at the likes of Akpom or Hayden but there is little you can do when the back up players and in some cases the back up to the back up are injured all at the same time.
There is no chance of Arsene Wenger taking this game lightly and playing fringe players. I was listening to the Clock end podcast last night and a caller thought it would be sensible to rest Giroud for Bendtner. That just isn't going to happen and neither is Theo Walcott playing up front in place of
Manchester United were given free licence to kick Arsenal players without punishment, Jose Reyes was given special attention on the day. I am almost certain that Manchester United will have a similar approach this afternoon. They will be aggressive and look to deny us time and space which is the way to disrupt our game. If they go out to match us on the ball then they know that they will struggle so Manchester United will play to spoil. If they do have that approach then it is a great compliment to our squad. What I am unsure about is how we will approach the game. Will we go there not to lose as we did in Dortmund? I hope so. If we go to Old Trafford and take the game to them then we could be walking into their trap. Their trap of disruption, frustration and counter attacking. Alex Ferguson had done that to us so many times in the past but we are a far more experienced squad
Now the game plan would have been sound if it weren't for Cesc Fabregas backheeling into the path of Iniesta on the edge of our box and also big game Bendtner failing to control a Jack Wilshere pass in the dying minutes. Oh and not to forget van Persie being sent off for shooting at goal a second after the referee had blown his whistle. Only Arsenal
Liverpool's 3-5-2 formation is very interesting. I quite like the idea on paper. It allows two strikers yet still have the ability to match packed midfields. It is probably a system that suits playing us at present because of our lack of genuine wide players due to injury. Walcott, Chamberlain, Podolski and now Gnabry will all miss the game. I wonder if Arsene will consider using Nacho Monreal in place of Gibbs. Not because of ability but down to the fact that Monreal tends to attack the wide areas where as Gibbs likes to cut inside. Monreal has been impressive in recent cameo appearances and his 90 minutes midweek.
- Chelsea (h) Thoughts & Line Up:: Serge Gnabry deserves his chance to shine
- Crystal Palace (a) Pondering the pivots, Santi in for Jack? & Starting quickly
- Borussia Dortmund (h) Thoughts & Line Up: Could Giroud be key to avoid Dortmund Press?
- Norwich City (h) Thoughts & Line Up: Cazorla & Özil, Flamini or Arteta? Decisions for Arsene
- West Brom (a)Thoughts & Line Up: Rosicky or Wilshere should be Arsene's only real decision
- Napoli (h) Thoughts & Line Up: Higuain out, could Arteta and Rosicky come in?
- Swansea (a) Thoughts & Line Up: Extra push for Gnabry?