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Arsenal’s Premier League Trip To Chelsea Previewed

Arsenal make the trip to Chelsea in the early kick off today. It’s a game they really need to get something from after taking only one point in their last two league games. The fight for fourth spot is going to be a tough one this season and Arsenal need to pick up the pace to stay in it.

Currently they are six points behind Spurs with a game in hand and superior goal difference. A win could see them overtake Spurs with another win at home to West Ham on Wednesday in Arsenal’s game in hand if Spurs lose at home to United later today. It’s not an impossible scenario, but winning at Chelsea is the hardest part of it for Arsenal.

Chelsea have only managed one win in their last seven home league games, but that was the 8-0 thumping of Aston Villa. They have been far more effective away from home since Rafa Benitez took over as caretaker manager. Wins in both of those games for Arsenal would actually see them close the gap on third placed Chelsea to two points.

It looks like Arsenal will have the same players available to them that they had on Wednesday night in the FA Cup victory over Swansea. The temptation for Arsene Wenger will be to go with the same line up which performed so well in the second half of that game in particular. He certainly has to keep Jack Wilshere in the team after he gave a virtuoso display.

Laurent Koscielny will be available again after serving his one match ban in that game, but I think the partnership between Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen has to be allowed to continue. I think the best central defensive partnership for Arsenal is one containing Mertesacker and either Vermaelen or Koscielny. It’s up to the boss to find that perfect combination and I would be very surprised if Mertesacker didn’t play.

I have never been wholly convinced by Vermaelen and Koscielny together in the team and I think it would be a mistake to play them against Chelsea. The defence performed admirably against Swansea despite not having an awful lot to do and I think the same defence should play again. I thought Vermaelen looked like he might just be coming back into some good form too which could be very important for the team.

In midfield Wilshere has to play the same role that he did against Swansea with Abou Diaby behind him and probably Francis Coquelin too. I would hope to see Olivier Giroud play at centre forward too as I think his ability to act as a target man could be very important. It’s hard to look beyond Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla in the wide roles which would see the same team start as on Wednesday night.

I’m sure there will be a temptation to play Lukas Podolski in particular and both Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain too. There is no doubt that all three of those players could fit into the team, but I think the same team should play again after the way they played on Wednesday night. The way they pressurised the Swansea players into mistakes was something that will be needed against Chelsea for the full 90 minutes.

Arsenal have traveled quite well this season and only City have lost less games than them away from home. They have the best defensive record away from home in the league along with Swansea and they will need to show that against Chelsea. When Chelsea won 2-1 at he Emirates earlier this season they exploited Arsenal’s weakness from set pieces.

Arsenal were outplayed in that game but created enough chances to have got at least a draw from the game. If their defending from set pieces had been any better the result of that game might have been very different. Chelsea still pose a real threat from set pieces and Arsenal have to be aware of that today.

Chelsea have some very good players and the ability to cause problems for any team. To get a result today Arsenal will need to work very hard for every single minute of the game. I expect Chelsea to play their strongest team despite their upcoming Capital One Cup semi final second leg.

The Premier League is far more important and they need to consolidate their current third position. They are 13 points behind the leaders though with 16 games to play and have no realistic chance of winning the title. They would be quite happy to take all three points today and move 11 points clear of Arsenal.

Arsenal have been hard to figure out too often this season as their performances have varied so much from game to game. All too often they have been far too slow out of the blocks and done very little in the first half of matches. They need to be switched on from the first minute to the last if they are to get anything from this game.

I think they have the ability to do just that and I’m predicting a very narrow victory for Arsenal as I always do. Hopefully a victory over Chelsea will give the team the boost it needs to go on and get the results they need to finish in the top our. A defeat wouldn’t make that impossible but the boost a victory would bring could be very important.

There are some more big games coming up for Arsenal before the end of the month, but every game is a big one right now really. They are playing twice a week at the moment and it’s not easy for a club with such a small squad. Hopefully some quality players can be added before the transfer window closes to give the boss some more real options.

At least Theo Walcott’s future has been decided and he won’t be leaving the club this summer after all. I genuinely thought he was on the way out the door and I’m pleasantly surprised that he signed his contract extension. I’m still not completely convinced by him as a player at the highest level though and most certainly not as a central striker.

It makes a change for a player to decide his future lies at Arsenal and for Walcott to buck the trend of recent seasons. I’m not sure he’s good enough to warrant being the top paid player at the club and what the consequences of his wage rise will be in wage negotiations with other players. The next big test for Arsenal will be the future of Bacary Sagna as he has only 18 months left on his contract and he looks like he could be the next player to choose to leave the club.

His displeasure with the sale of the clubs best players over the last few seasons has been reported before and I can’t believe the club haven’t tried to secure his future already. He is a very good full back and there would be plenty of clubs interested in buying him if he decided his future lay elsewhere. It’s another drama the club could do without and I really hope it doesn’t come to that.

Back to today’s game and Arsenal’s chances against Chelsea. I don’t think Arsenal’s season has really kicked off properly yet, but the right result against Chelsea could be just the catalyst they need. I may be more than a little over optimistic in my assessment but that’s just the way I am when it comes to my team.

By  @JamrockRover

Don’t forget to check out his Arsenal Blog at http://everarsenal.blogspot.ie/?m=0

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