Arsenal V Chelsea: Let's set the scene...the preview

This afternoon Chelsea travel to the Emirates in another key game against one of our main rivals that can have a major effect on the title ...

This afternoon Chelsea travel to the Emirates in another key game against one of our main rivals that can have a major effect on the title come the end of the season. If we win, we go 11 points clear of Arsenal and 5 ahead of United who won yesterday. With the traditional busy Christmas period upon us and the African Nations cup ahead on the horizon in January its another must win game.

Right now I think we all would take a scrappy 1-0 and the three points and let's hope that we get the win. Arsenal have different ideas to the game today and will want to keep their home record going.

Arsene Wenger has said ahead of the game:

"There is a period for any team to come out and show its strength. For my team, this moment has come, We have the strength and we want to show we're strong enough to beat them."We are not anymore a team that has to be considered to be young. I believe for us the most important thing is to stick to our game, do not focus on any special individual on the other side, because you win these kind of games by dominating the game. If we focus too much on Chelsea it won't help us."

Big words from Arsene as usual but the key player for them is Robin Van Persie and he is out for 5 months after it was confirmed he needs surgery on his ankle. Without him Arsenal do not pose the same threat with the likes of Vela and Eduardo. They are both finishers through and through whereas Van Persie is also a link man to their impressive midfield. If Theo Walcott plays up front then there is a danger for us that needs to be addressed. But, I for one, do not see Walcott playing through the middle today.

The key battles for me is the midfield. Arsenal will have to match our physical presence in midfield and cope with our two boys up front who are playing well and scoring goals for fun this season. Denilson, Fabregas, Song, Rosicky or Nasri will have to match our midfield today, if they don't then Lampard, Ballack, Essien and Deco will have a field day.

I wasn't impressed with the way we played the other night and we will need to play much better to get the result today. But we showed last season our quality and our class as we beat them 4-1 at their place and I just hope we can put in the same performance again today.

Ahead of the game Carlo Ancelotti has said:

"This is not a decisive match for Chelsea or for Arsenal, It's an important match. Arsenal will want to win the game, and Chelsea also, but it's not decisive for the title. It would be 11 points if we won, but Arsenal would have a game in hand. It's not so important for the title. It is a very important game because Arsenal are one of the most important teams in England and Europe. They're playing very well. I like their style - they try to play and attack to create difficulties for the other teams. It will be a very good test for us."

He also spoke about the return of Frank Lampard: "He has worked incredibly hard for many, many hours and he is in good condition,".

The return of Lampard today is so so important. The other night we lacked the final ball big time. Deco's flicks and tricks are all well and good but there was no final ball. This is where Lampard comes back into the side and fills the void. He eye for a pass and the quality of his final ball could be key to opening up Arsenal's back four.

I am just wondering though ahead of the game exactly who Ancelotti will start with in midfield today. He said:
"Arsenal have very good midfielders who we have to control." So does that mean he will adopt the Christmas Tree formation and play three across the midfield in front of our backline with two behind Drogba? Or will he stick with our tried and trusted 4-diamond-2 formation?.

I would like to see Essien in the holding role as I still think at times Mikel gets caught out of position and also dives into tackles in big pressure games so its Essien there for me. I would bring in Lampard next to Ballack just ahead of Essien. This would be tough on Malouda as he has been playing well, but in a game like today we have to be strong and Lampard is a stronger player than Malouda. When Ballack plays we have the perfect balance each side of Essien for me. He does the simple things well but still would love him to hit a 35 yarder into the top corner. I would love to see Joe Cole today behind the front two, but I think he will stick with Deco. If he does, he needs to pull his socks up bigtime and put in the kind of performance we expect. If he plays like he did the other night, then get him off and give Joe his chance.

But its not just about our midfield, even though in games against the Arsenal its always key. But Drogba and Anelka have the quality to win games like these on their own. I would like to see Anelka play further up the pitch next to Drogba as at times he comes too deep and leaves Didier isolated. Saying that, Anelka dropped deep to collect the ball for his goal at the Emirates last season. In that instance there was an end product, but more often than not nothing comes of it.

If Drogba is on his game today then I fear for the Arsenal backline. There is no Gibbs today and Gallas is a major doubt. Mikel Silvestre will have his hands full with either Anelka or Drogba. Today will also be "Welcome to the Premiership" when Vermaelen comes up against Drogba. Drogba needs to win his battles against him early. If he doesn't and Vermaelen gets on top it could be a long afternoon. But, I think Drogba knows that his performance the other night against Porto wasn't up to standard and I think he will be raring to go today.

So all in all I can see this being a tight game to start with. Arsenal will look to get on the ball and play their football but the Chelsea machine needs to get on the ball ourselves, win our battles in midfield and up front and play the ball into the front two early. We must start well. I would love a repeat of last season, but I can't see it today. Unlike the other night I would take a crappy 1-0 win. No matter what or how we play, this is a must win game today.

Let's take the game and the Premier League by the scruff of the neck and impose our authority, starting today. COME ON THE BLUE BOYS!

Prediction 1-0 Chelsea - Drogba.

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