Arsenal v Chelsea
Capital One Cup
Kick off: October 29, 2013 19:45 PM BST
In less than two weeks time we might get a lot of answers how this season will turn out. We will play four matches in three different competitions (Capital One Cup, Premiership and Champions’ League respectively) in the space of just 12 days and all four opponents (Chelsea, Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, Manchester United) have won the Champions’ League in the past 16 years at least once.
Our first opponents are Chelsea and the reigning champions of the Europa League are a real force to reckon with, their squad depth is insane.
Just when you thought Chelsea couldn’t have been more repulsive, they decided to re-appoint Jose “The Mouthinho” Mourinho in the summer. The Portuguese manager returned to Chelsea after a rather unsuccessful spell with Real Madrid. Despite all the flaws he had shown as the La Liga side’s manager, his presence on the Chelsea bench has persuaded many people to believe that Chelsea are the No. 1 favourites to win the Premier League.
And, it’s not easy to dispute – Chelsea have had a very strong team for some time but they have had a presence of a champion on the bench before Mourinho arrived and only time will tell whether they channel his presence. They didn’t lose anyone important over the summer – more importantly, they added Andre Schürrle, Marco Van Ginkel, Samuel Eto’o and Willian to their ranks. Their rivals – apart from Arsenal – went through a lot of changes: Manchester United lost Ferguson and started a new life with David Moyes, Manchester City sacked Mancini before last season ended, and appointed Pellegrini as well as making a lot of changes in their squad, the Spuds lost their best player and signed a lot of new players that haven’t found their feet yet and Liverpool are yet to prove they can go through a whole season without Luis Suarez’s attempts to press the self-destruction button. Mourinho – who has won the Premiership twice already – has been in the best position compared to his rivals.
Quality-wise, it’s hard to find many teams in Europe that are stronger than Chelsea.
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Petr Čech has been one of the best goalkeepers in the world for almost a decade and played an important role in Chelsea’s triumph in the Champions League Final in 2012.
Their defence should be even stronger after Mourinho’s return. However, they’ve shown flaws so far and they are not anywhere near the team that conceded just 15 goals in 2004-05 during Mourinho’s first reign at Stamford Bridge. John Terry – who has been a regular member of the defensive line in the Premiership – might watch the match against Arsenal from the bench given that Mourinho had used the Luiz-Cahill partnership against Swindon in the previous round of the Capital One Cup. Both full-backs Ivanović and Cole are among the best in the league but they also have strong covers in Azpilicueta and Bertrand who are likely to get the nod.
They will probably make some changes in the midfield as well. They have a lot of players to rotate in that area so we might see Essien, Mikel, Mata and Willian getting their chance in the starting line-up. We should pay a special attention to the likes of Juan Mata who has been a real menace against us – he has scored three goals and added two assists in just four matches. We saw against Borussia Dortmund that Flamini’s absence leaves more space for our opponents’ attacking midfielders and Mkhitaryan exploited it. Oscar, the Brazilian attacking midfielder that is responsible for Mata’s woes at Chelsea, has been the best player and a top scorer for the Chavs but it’s likely that Mourinho will give him a rest. Eden Hazard is another brilliant attacking midfielder that Mourinho can count on while Andre Schürrle has been a refreshment for the Chelsea attack as he can both provide width and be clinical around the box.
Finally, their attack. Mourinho made a rather suspicious decision to send Romelu Lukaku on loan to Everton. The Belgian has been dubbed the ‘New Drogba’ for some time and his level of performances haven’t gone away from that direction. However, Mourinho opted for three strikers at his disposal – Samuel Eto’o, a highly decorated striker who hasn’t found his feet at Chelsea yet, Fernando Torres, who gave a brilliant performance against Manchester City yesterday, and Demba Ba, a player who is yet to show his full quality with the Blues.
Now, it’s hard to imagine what Mourinho will do tomorrow. The Capital One Cup is hardly one of his priorities but with the squad depth he has and given that tomorrow he will confront Arsene Wenger for the first time since the Portuguese finished his first spell at Chelsea, he might pick a very strong team. For instance, against Swindon, in their first match in the Capital One Cup this season, they went out with this: Schwarzer-Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz, Bertrand-Van Ginkel, Essien-De Bruyne, Mata, Willian-Torres.
Given that Torres played a full match against City and that Van Ginkel has been injured, it’s likely that Mourinho will go with Mikel for Van Ginkel and Eto’o for Torres.
If we take a look at our team, our forthcoming fixtures and importance of the Capital One Cup, we might found ourselves in a dilemma: should we pick our best XI in order to beat Chelsea or rest some of our indispensable players for the Premiership and Champions’ League challenges? The Capital One Cup is not the most important competition in the world and it has a two-legged semifinal in February that makes every fixture list even tougher. On the other hand, it might be the easiest competition to win and it’s not like we will have a guaranteed victory over Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund if Wenger decides to go with the combined team against the Chavs.
Szczesny was in good form this weekend but this might be an opportunity for Viviano to show his quality to the Gooners or else Fabianski who was on the bench in the weekend.
Our captain Thomas Vermaelen has expressed his desire for some playing time and will get a chance against Chelsea. There is more than a few voices that Wenger might use him as a defensive midfielder given that Vermaelen has all qualities for that position. Jenkinson and Monreal are strong options for full-backs while the biggest concern for all of us is how our midfield will look like.
Mathieu Flamini is out, Mikel Arteta is suspended, Abou Diaby is always injured. Ramsey and Wilshere can operate in the midfield but that combination didn’t look well against Aston Villa in the Premiership. Furthermore, Wilshere’s ankle problems might persuade Wenger to give the English wonder-kid as much rest as he needs. Frimpong, Miyaichi, Hayden…might get another chance to prove themselves in the Arsenal midfield.Hayden will probably get a chance in the defensive midfielder role while Miyaichi will most likely start on the wing. If Wenger goes with a strong line-up, Ramsey/Wilshere will play next to Hayden. Rosicky might occupy the place in the hole, with potentially Gnabry on the right flank (subject to fitness).
Nicklas Bendtner will replace Olivier Giroud in the starting line-up and, given that Chelsea have conceded some goals from crosses, he might need decent service from our wings to score. David Luiz can score a brilliant 40-yard-screamer but he can also create a goal for his opponents so our attacking line might exploit that. Özil should be left on the bench and rested for more important matches like the one against Liverpool.
Chelsea haven’t lost any of the three last matches against us and on the last two occasions they won (2:1, 2:1 in the Premiership last season) with our defensive mistakes, Mata’s brilliance and Giroud’s misses as the main reasons. During his first spell at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho never lost a single match against Arsene Wenger. Maybe it’s time to break the bad luck charm and to win this game in order to generate self-confidence for the forthcoming fixtures. Not to mention that it would be a great thing to make The Mouthinho shut up!
Arsenal Wenger revealed the following team news:
[on Mathieu Flamini] He has a scan today and then we will get the results as to how long he will be out. It doesn’t look like a bad muscle injury but honestly it’s too early to give you a precise answer. It’s a groin injury.
[on Jack Wilshere] Yes, he is OK to play.
[on Mikel Arteta]
He is suspended for one game, so I will not appeal.
[on other injuries] Serge Gnabry has a problem, he got a kick on the ankle. He will be assessed tomorrow. After that we will decide who plays and who doesn’t play. I will decide [on Tuesday]. Eisfeld has a back problem.
[on Gedion Zelalem] He is not yet available. He had a knee problem. He is back in full training but he has not played yet. He will play 45 minutes with the under-18 team later this week.
[on Emmanuel Frimpong] He is still short of competition. Isaac Hayden will be involved, Ryo and Gnabry if he’s fit.
allArsenal’s Predicted Line-up
Jenkinson Mertesacker Vermaelen (c) Monreal
Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1 (slightly optimistic)