This weekend Arsenal have a crucial home Premier League fixture at the Emirates Stadium. After two successive draws and with Leicester and Manchester City breathing down their neck in the title race, the Gunners’ will need three points come Sunday evening. Their opponents are the team’s bogey side, Chelsea. Despite Chelsea suffering their worst season in over a decade they will still prove a stern test for this Arsenal side. Could a victory in this game be a statement of intent that Arsenal are here to stay?
Aside from victory in this season’s Community Shield, Arsenal have not beaten Chelsea in a Premier League game since their 5-3 triumph at Stamford Bridge on the 29th October 2011. Many spoke of Arsene Wenger finally breaking his curse against Jose Mourinho with this season’s Community Shield victory, although a month later in the league a beleaguered Chelsea were still able to secure a 2-0 victory against high flying Arsenal.
Since then the fortunes of the two clubs could not have been more different. Arsenal have turned a corner and now look to be one of the favourites for the title this season, whilst Chelsea have sacked ‘the special one’ Jose Mourinho and languish in 14th, only four points away from the relegation zone.
Therefore in the eyes of many Arsenal will go into the fixture with the tag of favourites, whilst Chelsea would apparently have nothing to lose. Whilst it looks a straightforward fixture on paper, football isn’t played on paper and with such a poor record against Chelsea, Arsenal fans will be nervous going into the game.
A major boost for Arsenal will be the returns of key players Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Ozil has been hugely impressive this season and leads the league in assists, although missed last Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Stoke because of a small foot inflammation. Sanchez returns after missing the last two months with a hamstring strain. Both are hugely creative playmakers who will cause the Chelsea defence a lot of problems throughout the match.
For Chelsea if they can find a way to get their main players involved in the game they have a chance of stealing victory at the Emirates. So far this season key players such as Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa have not produced anywhere near their normal high quality performances. Whilst as a team Chelsea have not played well all season, it’s these key players that have taken a lot of the stick from pundits and fans for the team’s poor performances.
If Arsenal can keep midfielder Willian quiet in the game they have a good chance of securing at least a draw. The Brazilian has stepped up this season and has been one of the few players who has not dropped in form this season for Chelsea. Interim manager Guus Hiddink only came against Arsenal once in his previous caretaker spell in 2009. He impressively dispatched them 4-1 at the Emirates, although of course that cannot be taken into account too much as the sides are very different almost seven years later.
So far Hiddink has led a resurgence of sorts, as Chelsea are undefeated in six games with him in charge, although only two of these games were wins with the other four being draws. Since impressively dispatching the flying Crystal Palace away 3-0 they have drawn at home twice to West Brom and Everton, and were very fortunate a last minute offside goal from John Terry secured a point in the latter game.
Making a prediction on this game is genuinely difficult, although many will predict an Arsenal victory. Whilst the form table may suggest this, in reality this will likely be a very difficult game for Arsenal. It does present their best chance to defeat Chelsea and end this very poor run of form they have against their London rivals. In a topsy turvy Premier League anything can and has happened, although Arsenal need to avoid this potential banana skin and come away from the game with three points if they want to stay at the top of the table in this hotly contested Premier League title race.
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