Monday, November 23, 2009

early chelsea thoughts

A bit early to be turning to the chelsea game, with the champions League job still to be done against Liege midweek, but it occurred to me today- personnel dictates that Wenger shall not be relishing the make-or-break game.

Again, my worries revolve primarily around the physicality, or lack thereof, in the current Arsenal team. And we know there's probably no team better equipped to exploit it than chelsea. The likes of Stoke and, in their Allardyce incarnation, Bolton can knock us out of our stride with their attritional assault, but chelsea have players with talent to match their grit, and thus have often proved our worst nightmare. In the FA cup semi-final last season, Arsenal were not just outfought but outplayed too by their London neighbours.

That game is an interesting case study. Wenger is usually stubborn in what he wants his team to do, doesn't take his cue from the opposition. That day was an exception. With the Wembley pitch in tatters, the manager seemed to anticipate a scrappy game, and chose to some extent to play the game on the opposition's terms, playing Diaby and dropping Van Persie into an ineffective five-man midfield. The diminutive Arshavin was benched (and scored four at Anfield when unleashed days later).
This last move by Wenger has been brought up many a time by his critics. But then, on some level you can see the logic. chelsea are lethal from set plays and Arsenal's team lacks height. More bemusing was the exclusion of the combative Song.

In any case, it seems that this weekend Wenger may not even have much of a choice. As I've been saying, the options that would be brought in when added stature is needed- Bendtner, Diaby and to some extent Van Persie, although he'd be playing anyway- are injured. I'm not sure about the Diaby situation, but I'm gonna have to contradict myself and say I hope he's back in time, because I have a bad feeling we could get murdered in the air otherwise. At least Denilson has returned as an option to add solidity in midfield, but he's not a man who'd add a great deal of aerial prowess.

It might take a large slice of luck to come through this game unscathed. The continued unavailability of Lampard, Drogba and Ballack would do nicely, but in unlucky November, I'll not hold my breath...

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