So Arsenal’s first big game of the Premier League season is nearly here, it’s a chance to see where we are in relation to one of our rivals.
After the convincing victory against Nottingham Forest I fully expect (like I need to write this) another wave of full rotation. A team very similar if not exactly the same as the one that put 4 past Hull City away will take to the field at 5.30pm this afternoon.
The only real question mark I reckon will be that of Granit Xhaka, not because of his thunderbolt shooting, or his charming good looks but as Clive said on this weeks Arsenal Vision podcast (have a listen if you haven’t already) without Giroud starting (I’d imagine) we lack height from set pieces and power in the middle of the pitch. They have Matic, Cahill, Luiz, Costa and Ivanovic. That could be a little worrying for Arsene Wenger from corners or free kicks around the box, especially as our centre backs are not exactly the tallest in the world. Xhaka would bump up the average number a little. I can’t imagine that Coquelin will not start this game so if anyone drops out for the Swiss international then it will more than likely be Santi. It’s a shame that Santi isn’t a few years younger and more mobile so we could play him on the left and make room for Xhaka even if that is a tad unfair on Iwobi who has been largely excellent so far.
Mean Lean’s Predicted Line Up:
Chelsea have had a similar start to the season as we have, we both have ten points from five games, both teams have been beaten by Liverpool at home while both teams have been searching to find some consistency in their game.
Luckily for Arsenal or at least hopefully for Arsenal, we seem to have found a little fluency in the last few games. I find it fascinating to see us go from disjointed to slick in the matter of days. At home to Southampton on September 10th we started slowly and looked a very different side to the team that beat Hull City seven days later. Was it the opposition? Well the Saints were in a bad run of form while Hull City were looking good. Perhaps playing at home is a problem for us at this moment in time. I don’t know why but I expected our home form to be in the toilet at present but that really isn’t the case. Obviously the Liverpool game was one to forget, well certainly for 45 minutes but our last defeat before that happened all the way back in March when we somehow conspired to lose against Swansea City even though we had roughly 7,500 attempts on goals or something give or take a couple.
We are unbeaten away from the Grove this season and largely our performances have been good to very good. At home we have looked less convincing as the Liverpool and Southampton performances showed. Due to the lopsided start of away matches this season we have a number of home games to look forward to, so this is a great chance to produce a good performance, get a win against a team we have largely struggled against and the home fans back onside.
The Emirates stadium as felt like a place itching to show discontent, at least that is the feeling whenever I have been at home in recent times and we've not played as well as we could. When folk are carrying bits of A4 paper or banners rolled up in their pockets then you know venting has to be somewhere in the conscious mind for many.
But as Arsene has said many times, it is down to the team to show the fans the way forward. We have to start the game quickly not only home but away too. Sometimes it feels as if we find it very difficult to increase our gears after a slow start but a quick start full of high energy, passing and movement sets the tone for the rest of the game.
Arsene mentioned the need to start quickly last weekend after some slow starts so I hope that is drummed into the players. Given that it is Chelsea I can see both teams being very up for it from the start.
The midfield should be a pretty interesting part of the pitch. N’golo Kante was excellent at the Emirates for Leicester city last season and I imagine he will be important for them as Conte will not want to allow us to get into our stride. Cesc Fabregas who impressed in midweek could well start the game, unless Conte wants to be more conservative, leaving the Spaniard on the bench until later on in the game, I doubt it though.
Our record against this lot is not good, not good at all. We have won 5 times in the last 31 matches. Some of that is understandable. When we moved from Highbury, Chelsea were moving massively in the other direction thanks to Roman and his mega bucks but in recent years we have been catching back up with them and I’d like to see us prove that on the pitch. Preferably with a full compliment of Arsenal shirts on the pitch come the full time whistle, in fact I’d like to go one better and see Chelsea play with 10 men against us for a change, is that asking for too much? I'd be well up for a Costa red card after 30 minutes, Chelsea already a goal down after a Cesc Fabregas back heal to Alexis who blasts in our opener. I do enjoy a good dream.
Clearly not everybody’s cuppa tea but I think Francis Coquelin could be vital for us today. Chelsea have a lot of quality on the break and will be looking to take advantage when they break our moves down, a midfield of Xhaka and Cazorla for example could get torn in that situation without the legs and ball winning ability of the Frenchmen. I thought he played a lot better in possession at Hull City, perhaps he was allowed to do that or it was against players not as good as Kante and Matic I don’t know, I just hope that game gave him enough confidence to perform in this game.
Unlike Mustafi, the non panic purchase of David Luiz could be quite interesting against our circle of fun in the Arsenal attack. Defending has never been the central 'defender's' greatest strength so I hope he gets pulled all over the place by Arsenal’s movement on that side of the pitch.
Eden Hazard will be looking to have a go against Hector Bellerin and the youngster will surely need the help of Theo Walcott who, to be fair has improved that side of his game this season, well at least thus far.
The next four PL fixtures after Chelsea will be Burnley (a), Swansea (h), Middlesbrough (h) and Sunderland (a) so we have a real chance to put some good numbers on the board. If only we can start this sequence with a victory. We need to find a way to score goals at home against teams who aim to stop us from doing just that. It's a real chance to grab some momentum and I'm sure Arsene will be hoping his team can snatch it with both hands.
We've managed to net 8 times in the last two games so let us hope and pray that continues today, preferably with not allowing Chelsea and Costa anywhere near Petr Cech's goal.
Come on Arsenal, do us proud and get those scrummy three points today. Please.
I'm heading out straight after the game for a few drinks so no post match stuff until tomorrow at the earliest.
I hope you enjoy the game, if you do then we've probably won. Here's hoping.