EPL: Chelsea V Arsenal
September 29, 2010 | In: Articles
League Position: 1st
League Form: LWWWW
The Blues perfect start to the season, winning their opening five league games of the season, came to a bitter end last Saturday, with Manchester City maintaining their scintillating run of form against Chelsea with their third successive victory over Carlo Ancelotti’s side. The scoreline may have been just 1-0, while the match itself couldn’t have been more even, but the reaction to the loss from the media has been quite spectacular, with Chelsea seemingly at crisis point following back-to-back defeats (Losing in the Carling Cup to Newcastle beforehand) when in reality it couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Chelsea’s response to a disappointing weekend was to maintain their 100% start in the Champions League. Goals from John Terry and Nicolas Anelka were enough to see of French champions Marseille at Stamford Bridge, although it would be a fair and honest assessment to say Chelsea weren’t at their breathtaking best and could be interpreted as arrogant for allowing themselves to ease off the gas in the second period. Still, the result did all the talking and they’ll now go into their weekend meeting with London rivals Arsenal in buoyant mood, some would even say expectant, as Chelsea are the overwhelming favourites to win this contest what with Arsenal losing their unbeaten record in the league last weekend and falling foul to several injuries.
While Chelsea’s flawless start to the Premier League may have diminished, their record at Stamford Bridge remain imperious. Only their conquerors on Saturday have actually beaten Carlo Ancelotti’s side in a Premier League encounter on home soil, while the Gunners were comprehensively beaten 2-0 in the last meeting at the Bridge. In fact, so strong are Chelsea at home that the last time they conceded a goal in front of the Chelsea faithful was back in March in a 7-1 hammering of Aston Villa – six home league games without conceding, over 600 minutes without shipping a goal at Stamford Bridge. An unbelievable achievement when you combine it with their prolific scoring record as well, with Chelsea scoring 35 in the same game span (seven games) and scored an incredible 68 at home last season; 16 more than any other side in the division.
The various statistics make for one awe-inspiring picture, daunting if you’re an opponent. Their record at Stamford Bridge is just as formidable, winning all three of their encounters with West Brom (6-0), Stoke City (2-0) and Blackpool (4-0). It goes without saying that all three were easy fixtures on paper but they way in which Chelsea sailed through all three was quite spectacular. Arsenal’s defence is still leaking goals to suggest Chelsea’s free-scoring nature at the Bridge won’t came crashing to an end like their 100% record did last weekend, so anyone thinking of opposing the Blues either has a death wish or knows something the rest of us don’t.
League Position: 3rd
League Form: LDWWW
Much like his opposite number, Arsene Wenger demanded an immediate response from his players following a drab weekend in the Premier League, where Arsenal relinquished their unbeaten start to the season at home to newly promoted and huge underdogs West Brom. To say the result came as a shock would be an understatement, but in football teams don’t have long to fall back, regroup and fully assess the situation and where everything is going wrong. And that is the problem for the Gunners as they prepare for arguably their toughest league fixture of the season, off the back of a dreadful league result at the weekend and a rather unconvincing win in Europe.
We shall briefly start with Arsenal’s loss to West Brom by merely saying the Gunners were rubbish, simply not good enough to the point where even a side ranked as 17.00 outsiders outfought and outclassed them in West Bromwich Albion, who aren’t renowned for their giant killing qualities. It was their first important fixture without influential midfielder Cesc Fabregas and didn’t it tell. Despite boasting the likes of Samir Nasri, Thomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Andrei Arshavin in midfield, Arsenal lacking any sort of drive, spark of ingenuity in the centre of the park. Only Samir Nasri avoided some of the stringing criticism Arsenal received although that was simply because he single handily reduced the arrears to at least make the scoreline more of a humbling than horrifying.
The reason why we love football so much is you never really know what to expect, no-one knows what’s waiting around the corner and for Arsenal it was a kick up the backside. A firm reality check if you like, and perhaps it could even work in their favour as they seek redemption at Stamford Bridge against table-topping Chelsea. Arsene Wenger did at least see his players reply in a positive manner with victory in Europe, albeit in unconvincing circumstances away in Serbia against Partizan Belgrade (1-3), but there is still a question mark hanging over Arsenal following that shock loss at The Emirates a week ago and the bookies have realised it too by slapping a sort of underdog price tag on the Gunners for Sunday’s gripping contest.
Arsene Wenger hasn’t had it easy this season, although that is no excuse for their defeat last Saturday. Even so, it has been tough for Wenger but life doesn’t get any easier for the Frenchman, who claims Cesc Fabregas is a major doubt for Sunday’s showdown with Chelsea, while their rock at the back Thomas Vermaelen has been completely ruled out of the contest with an Achilles heel meaning the same centre-back partnership which was found wanting against lowly West Brom eight days ago, Squillaci and Koscielny, will start against a Chelsea side who have so far been nothing short of prolific in front of goal at the Bridge. Meanwhile Manuel Almunia, the keeper which took the brunt of the blame for the 3-2 defeat against the Baggies, is also a doubt with an elbow injury meaning Lukasz Fabianski, Arsenal’s hero of the hour in midweek, could be thrown into the Lion’s pit in the Spaniard’s wake.
Match Prediction: Chelsea to WIN – 1.80 WilliamHill
Chelsea ran riot against Arsenal last season, with their physical presence on and off the ball just too much for Arsenal to handle. Granted the Gunners are more nimble but without a host of key players, with Cesc Fabregas facing a race against time just to be fit – to which even if he does make it you would have to place question marks over his conditioning. The Blues score goals for fun at home and against a very shaky and so often found wanting Arsenal defence, we can’t envisage anything less than a comfortable win for Chelsea, as they look to bounce back from their bitter defeat at Eastlands a week ago.
Arsenal’s best chance of winning this contest lye’s in the fitness of Fabregas, as the Spaniard is capable of conjuring something pretty spectacular out of nothing and he’s about the only player in the Arsenal team who can. Arshavin can be dangerous when on his game but he needs regular service, an unlikely scenario considering how dominant Chelsea are in the midfield with possession, while Nasri could be their biggest threat when going forward, a player with the potential to go on one of those mazy little runs of his before composing himself with a precise finish.
Over/Under: Over 2.5 Goals – 1.88 Bet365
First Goalscorer: Nicolas Anelka – 7.50 Coral
Correct Score: 3-1 Chelsea – 15.00 SkyBet
Chelsea – 1.80 WilliamHill
Draw – 3.70 bWin
Arsenal – 5.00 Boylesports