It’s the Battle of London. In one of the most competitive Premier League title races of recent times, four team are vying for the prize with just 8-9 games left in the season. Two of those contenders for English’s domestic league are bitter London rivals. Chelsea vs Arsenal live from Stamford Bridge could be a crucial game, as a loss for either side could be disastrous in two different contexts for both sides. Chelsea lose, and they allow Man City and/or Liverpool to overtake them, Arsenal lose and it could probably mean the end of their title challenge.
In this debate, we look at the how this game will pan out from a Tactical point of view. What methods can Chelsea follow to claim a home victory? Can Wenger inspire his boys to get a huge victory in the race? All these questions and more, answered below:
Where can they win the game? Out wide. Arsenal concentrate a lot of their attacking players in the middle of the pitch. The ones in advanced positions are surely more adept at playing in the middle, and out of available options, Oxlade-Chamberlain offers the most convincing alternative out wide. This means that the Arsenal full backs often push forward to provide the width. Sagna, and certainly Gibbs is much better going forward than defending. The fact that these players love to go forward leaves spaces behind them, which can be exploited by Chelsea’s best players, Hazard and Schurrle. It was a method adopted at the Emirates too in the pre-Christmas encounter, and yielded some good chances.
Where can they lose it? The biggest weakness for Chelsea this season has been up front, and this is the area that is most likely to cause them trouble. The team has been organised, tough defensively, and very hard working. Such qualities do not easily result in the creation of many clear cut chances. Stats reveal that they are well behind their direct rivals in terms of clear cut chances created, and this definitely means that they need a good finisher. Eto’o has done a fine job, popping up in big games such as this, but his scoring pattern is a bit unreliable. The now 30 year old Torres’ record at Chelsea has been the butt of many jokes and Ba is unlikely to find a place in the squad, let alone start. Whoever starts is going to be up against the formidable duo of Mert-cielny, and this is a battle Chelsea look unlikely to win.
Who could prove to be the key man? Matic in midfield will be important. If he can do a job like he did at the Etihad, Chelsea will gain a lot going forward. Aside from him, Hazard is surely Chelsea’s go-to man.
External factor: 2 goals before half time were a big positive, as Chelsea were able to get through the second half on cruise control against Galatasaray. Despite this, coming off the back of a midweek game isn’t easy. Matic will be fresh, but finding him a partner might be tough. Ramires is suspended, and Lampard probably cannot give 90 minutes. Cue David Luiz?
Where can they win the game? Arsenal will have to come into the game looking for all 3 points. Their aesthetic link-up play through the middle will be challenged by Chelsea’s organization. They will of course be missing their talisman Ozil and the fact that Rosicky is doubtful doesn’t help their case. A player like Walcott would have been useful against what is probably going to be a narrow defence but in his absence Oxlade-Chamberlain could well see himself in a wide role. Arsenal will commit players to the attack and they would be well served trying to stretch the play on occasion.
Where can they lose it? Chelsea’s discipline has already been touched on above and Arsenal have their work cut out for them. In addition, Arsenal have to be very aware of the threat posed by Chelsea on the counter. Their susceptibility to the counter attack was on show the last time the 2 sides locked horns and the recent drubbing against Liverpool is once again reminder of how pace can expose their defence. The duo of Mertesacker and Koscielny have been as solid as any partnership at the back this season but with Sagna and Gibbs bombing forward, Chelsea will back themselves to hit Arsenal on the break.
Who could prove to be the key man? Flamini should find himself in the starting line-up and along with Arteta has the important job of providing much needed cover, especially for his full-backs. Attacking wise, Oxlade-Chamberlain offers something more dynamic than his teammates and could be the man to unlock the Chelsea defence.
External factors: With the Champions League no longer a factor, Arsenal can concentrate on their title charge for the next couple of weeks. The duo of Ramsey and Ozil will be sorely missed but with games against Swansea and Manchester City coming up in the next week, the Gunners simply can’t afford to blame the external factors. Not if they want to win the league.