Without going on to the internet and running a quick search I can’t even remember the last time we won in a big game against one of the traditional ‘big’ teams, so I’m under no illusions that this afternoon’s lunchtime match against Chelski will be a bloody difficult one to pick three points up on. Heck, we’re halfway through the season and we’ve only won five Premier League matches all season, so getting a win today with the injuries we’ve got felt like it’s going to be a very tough ask, because we’ve become the draw masters and only have three wins at home in nine games and if you look at the home form league table we are precariously perched in at 15th in the division. For a team with the supposed lofty ambitions that we have that’s pretty atrocious to be honest and it’s why you can understand why Mikel Arteta reiterated this last week that the importance of making The Emirates a tough place to come cannot be underestimated.
So our depleted team must do something today which I would stack are against the odds, given our poor form, fragile confidence, plus injury problems: we have to win.
It’s a tough ask though. Chelski gave the Tiny Totts a schooling just before Christmas and I’m expecting a similar level of intensity from them again today too. Plus they have far less injury worries than we do and even had Mason Mount not playing on Boxing Day, which means he’ll be fresh and probably causing us problems this afternoon. He’s a hard-running, free-shooting, midfielder who will have no problems having a go at our beleaguered defence and with no Granit Xhaka today after rumours that he’s not in the squad ahead of a possible move to Hertha Berlin, we’ve got a further weakened team to play a side who is still sitting in the Champions League spots.
But we have to find a way to unlock them today and if we do, it really would feel like the Arteta era is off to a good start. There were positive signs against Bournemouth but the profligacy in front of goal really feels like it cost us what could have been three very vital points. Once again we found ourselves picking up yet another draw because of our own failings and so I am hoping that today we can reverse some of our fortunes by getting one over on Chelski, who have six wins and three defeats away from home, so they’re certainly no mugs on the road.
Lampard will most likely play with three at the back and having Azpilicueta and Alonso as the wing backs, with one of Kante/Kovacic/Jorginho in the middle of the pack and Mount/Willian sitting behind Abraham up top. Against that ‘orrible lot down the road they attacked down the left hand side more than anything else, up against a Tottenham team who went with a 4-3-3. We won’t go with that today but it will be a similar variant of I suspect, with Lacazette up top (not that he deserves it after his performances recently), Auba wide with one of Nelson or Pepe starting the either side. Given what Arteta said about Pepe’s effort in training – sort of half hinting that he needs to do more – I suspect it might be Nelson that starts, but the Ivorian has shown on a number of occasions that he has an x-factor about him so I just wonder if he doesn’t fly in the face of his comments by starting him today.
For us we really do need to make the most of getting somebody like Ozil into space. He got plenty of it against Bournemouth and we created the greatest number of chances all season. That’s no co-incidence and so it’s no co-incidence that Arteta has also said we need to make the most of Ozil to get this Arsenal squad going in the right direction. Ozil will help to create the chances but it’s those forwards that need to be finishing them and so all eyes need to be on Laca and Nelson now because both were poor against Bournemouth and both were given opportunities to pop up with goals throughout the game. We can’t keep relying on Aubameyang every week. It’s time both of those players – and Pepe – started contributing more and you’d have to think that means today because we will most certainly concede. We have a terrible defence, a makeshift defence, a defence that has been on it’s knees and unless Arteta has channeled a different instinct from Guendouzi to go wandering, then there will be space for Chelsea’s attacking players to put pressure on our back four. And if you’re Frank Lampard today you’ll be telling your wing backs to absolutely overlap with the two behind Abraham to put pressure on our kids at full back. So there’s going to need to be some protection given to them both today. What I will say, however, is that I thought both Auba and Nelson gave a little more protection so I wonder if that will play a part in Arteta’s selection decision this afternoon. We shall see.
Anyway, that’s probably enough from me for one day, so I’ll say my goodbyes for another one and I’ll catch you all in the morrow.