Chelsea vs Arsenal is always a game to look forward to. Last season’s encounter in West London though, was something special.
As Arsenal went into their game at Stamford Bridge earlier this year in March, they had several reasons to be optimistic about coming away with something. Arsene Wenger was taking charge of his 1000th game as the Gunners’ manager, and after a season full of promise, the players were expected to stand up and deliver for the Frenchman. The rest though, is history.
Arsenal never got going, crumbled miserably under the pressure and failed to cope with Chelsea’s attack. The Blues ran out winners by a quite unbelievable scoreline of 6-0. Wenger’s special day was turned into one of the most dismal afternoons in his entire coaching career as Jose Mourinho’s side ripped Arsenal to shreds.
Now, the two London giants square-off again. And once again, Wenger has a personal milestone to celebrate. This week sees him complete 18 years at the helm at Arsenal, a quite incredible feat. Despite being unbeaten in the league this season though, his side’s chances of getting anything from the game at Stamford Bridge on Sunday are close to zero.
Key Injuries in Midfield:
Arsenal enter this game without two of their most important midfield players – Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey. While Arteta is required to provide protection to the back 4, Ramsey is one of the Gunners’ most potent threats going forward. Without the Welshman in the side, it is very difficult to find a regular goalscorer anywhere on the pitch for Arsenal. While Alexis Sanchez has been on a good run recently, Ramsey’s ability to score at the vital moment is unmatched by anyone else in the side.
Arteta’s absence means that Mathieu Flamini will start in the pivot ahead of the defensive line for Arsenal. The Frenchman’s form has been very suspect since he rejoined the Gunners from AC Milan last year, and he has gone missing on more than one occasion in big games. With Chelsea capable of punishing even the slightest mistake, Flamini’s performance will be very important in keeping out the Blues.
Arsenal also have some concerns at the back, with first-choice right-back Mathieu Debuchy ruled out. This means that youngster Calum Chambers will be deployed to mark Eden Hazard. The Belgian is one of the most best in the world in a 1v1 situation, and the 19 year-old Chambers is sure to have his work cut out. Also, the duo of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny will be pushed to the limit in its attempt to thwart Diego Costa, undoubtedly the best striker in the league so far this campaign. The Gunners have been unconvincing at the back, keeping just one clean sheet in 6 games.
Arsenal’s record against the big sides in the last couple of years has been nothing short of abysmal. They were not just beaten, but absolutely decimated in games against Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea last season. The Gunners conceded 17 goals in the three away games against these sides, losing 6-3, 5-1 and 6-0 at the Etihad, Anfield and Stamford Bridge respectively. Even when their form was relatively good, Arsenal struggled against sides around them in the table. This season, after a very indifferent start to the season, Sunday’s game already looks like a losing battle.
The Might of Chelsea:
Chelsea have undoubtedly been the team of the season so far. 5 victories and 1 draw from their opening 6 games sees them in a very comfortable position even at this early stage in the season. Mourinho marvellously addressed the weaknesses from last season in the transfer market, and new signings Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas have made instant impacts. Even for an in-form side, facing Chelsea at the moment is a daunting prospect.
The vultures will be circling Stamford Bridge on Sunday, as anything other than a convincing Chelsea win looks improbable. Even though the Blues are convincingly top of the table, it still feels like there are a couple of gears they can go up by. Arsenal, on the other hand, have been a shadow of the side that has entertained one and all over the years with their attractive passing football.
Despite being so early on in the season, Sunday is the perfect opportunity for Chelsea to lay down a serious marker to all the other teams by putting an injury-struck Arsenal side to the sword.