Chelsea head to North London this Monday for what should be a cracker of a Premier League match against Arsenal. With Manchester City and Liverpool finishing their respective matches on Sunday, the Gunners could find themselves at third place in the League table before kickoff at the Emirates. But that should not dent their confidence as Chelsea’s strikers’ blues in the front of the goal continued in the Capital One Cup quarter-final encounter against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Jose Mourinho’s men squandered numerous chances to put the game to rest and have only themselves to blame for missing out on a second trophy this season. The UEFA Super Cup was snatched away from them by Bayern Munich in August with the last kick of the game from Javi Martinez followed by a weak penalty attempt from Romelu Lukaku, who in fine form while on loan at Everton, is ironically being missed at Stamford Bridge. While City marched on to the semi-finals with a straightforward victory against Leicester City, Chelsea’s Cup run ended in the dying minutes of the match courtesy of clinical finishes from the opposition — initially by Fabio Borini, a striker on loan from Liverpool, and later on by the South Korean mid-fielder Ki-Sung Yueng.
Arsenal endured a tough game at the Etihad last week as their defense suffered at the hands of Manuel Pellegrini’s marauding men, but the defeat has not been met with the sort of repercussions that emerged after the 8-2 mauling at the hands of Manchester United a couple of seasons back.
Confidence still flows through Arsene Wenger’s men as they managed to put three behind City’s defense and had it not been for a few questionable decisions from the referee, the game might just have finished differently. With Arsenal enjoying a long overdue rest that should put the consecutive tough losses they suffered behind them, the Gunners can look forward to the upcoming London derby with relish and confidence.
Chelsea’s best goal threat might be from the likes of Eden Hazard and Ramires — their potent midfielders. Per Mertesacker and co. would have to rediscover their lost defensive prowess and pull their strings together to help Arsenal get back to winning ways. With Jack Wilshere poised to serve his suspension and miss out, the onus might be on Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey to provide defensive solidarity and protection to the back four. Arsenal need to put the mauling at Manchester behind them and focus on their strengths again. If they can choke Chelsea’s creative midfield forces, they should not find it too tough to emerge victorious from the match.
Lukas Podolski, a key figure of the Gunners’ dressing room, is poised to make his comeback in this match and that should do a world of good for his team. While Mourinho must be breaking his head to figure out how to get the best out of Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o, Wenger knows he can count on Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Ramsey to continue their fine form in front of the goal.
A combination of factors should work Arsenal’s way against Chelsea and if they emerge with all three points from the match, it would provide a perfect prelude to a tough schedule ahead which sees them play five games in a space of 12 days. Of all the big guns they have played in the League this season, Arsenal has beaten only Tottenham and Liverpool.
The upcoming match against Chelsea holds more significance for the Gunners in terms of everything from form to confidence and they need the win to keep their season and title aspirations intact. After all, it bodes well to hold your own form aloft rather than count on your rivals slipping up — a dangerous attitude that seldom defines the mentality of a big club!
Chaitanya Goparaju is a Soccer writer for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @chaitanyagvc