Match Preview - Chelsea v Arsenal - Closer than people think!.

So here we go. In a little under four hours time Chelsea take to the Stamford Bridge pitch to take on our old nemises Arsenal. After two b...

Feb. 07, 2010 - London, United Kingdom - epa02020719 Chelsea's Didier Drogba (L) pulls the shorts of Arsenal's Gael Clichy (R) during the English Premier League soccer match, Chelsea vs Arsenal, at Stamford Bridge, London, England on 07 February 2010.

So here we go. In a little under four hours time Chelsea take to the Stamford Bridge pitch to take on our old nemises Arsenal. After two bad performances from both sides in our last league games, both sides will be looking to get back on track, put a marker down and come away with three points. Should Chelsea be confident?, Are (some) Arsenal fans right to be wary of the game today?. Come 6pm this evening all our questions will be answered.

Now if this game was played a week ago I believe both sides would have a different approach and outlook to it. After what happened last week both sides are now faced with the possibility of losing again and twice in a week which would put a major dent in our ambitions for the title, even at this early stage in the season. This could be in the back of the players and managers minds today and we could end up with a tight, nervous game today which we had had once or twice before.

When Chelsea play Arsenal it's always a big game no matter when and where and today is no different. Forget your Liverpool's and Manchester City, this is the biggest game of the season so far for both sides.

Emirates Stadium, Arsenal v Braga , Uefa Champions League 15/09/2010  Arsenals goalscorers, Marouane Chamakh, Cesc Fabregas & Andrei Arshavin of Arsenal Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Being a Chelsea blog and with my blue-tinted glasses i'm going to have a look at the opposition first. So let's take a look at the Arsenal.

In Goal.I think even if you aren't an Arsenal fan you would look at their side and wonder what the hell Wenger has been doing with his Goalkeeper since Jen Lehmann left the club. If you are going to challenge for the League you need a rock in goal. Almunia and Fabianski are not what I believe Arsenal fans are comfortable with.

Its always been a surprise to me that Wenger and the Arsenal board didn't pull their fingers out and get hold of Schwarzer from Fulham in the summer when they had the chance. I believe Fabianski will play today and he could be in for a tough one today. For your back four anyway, they need to have confidence in the person behind them in goal, if they don't it causes problems and mistakes on the pitch. This is an area that always let's Arsenal down until they get it sorted.

Their Defence.
For me Clichy and Sagna are underrated and at times are left exposed either by their centre backs or the midfield. They will always look to attack and get forward and cause Chelsea problems. Chelsea need to be on their guard today and make sure we stop them from getting forward.

Arsenal's Sebastien Squillaci (R) challenges Partizan Belgrade's Cleo during their Champions League Group H soccer match in Belgrade September 28, 2010. REUTERS/Ivan Milutinovic (SERBIA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

Today is a baptism of fire for Squillaci & Koscielny. New to the english game and doing well so far, today is a different ball game altogether. They haven't played much together and this could be key for the massive game today. Up against arguably the best all round centre forward in the Premier League at the moment in Didier Drogba, it will interesting to see how they get on.

The Midfield.
Always the strength of the Arsenal side, their midfield can rival anyone in Europe at the minute but that is when everyone is fit. No question Fabregas is class and if he misses the game its a blow for the men from the Emirates. I can't see why Wenger wants to take the risk with him and maybe put him out for longer so do not expect to see him today.

I like Song in their midfield (what's he done with his hair by the way) as he plays the Mikel role and is very effective. The difference between the two is that he at times, likes to also get forward. Jack Wilshire for his age is outstanding. Of that there is no question. He is already making big big strides in the game and his assist for Arshavin the other night proved he isn't daunted by anything in the game. I only hope that our youngster McEachran can make the same impact in the game. Who's to say those two won't be the heart of England's midfield in five years time?.

Enough has already been said about Andrei Arshavin. For me, wasted down the left but when he is on his game is different class (just ask the Anfield crowd they will agree). The concern for Arsenal fans has to be that at times he goes missing in the game, doesn't track back and is very ineffective without the ball. If he is up and at it and on his game today then he could prove our biggest threat.

Emirates Stadium, Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion , Premier League 25/09/2010  Samir Nasri of Arsenal tangles with Pablo Ibanez of WBA Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

For me anyway the most underrated player is Samir Nasri. I have said to the Arsenal fans I know that if Fabregas left (or should I say when he does) you have a ready made replacement in Nasri. At times last season when Cesc was out, Nasri took it upon himself to step up and take the mantle in midfield. He has natural talent and ability and can be a match winner given the space and time with the ball. Chelsea's midfield need to close him down today as often as possible. He can hurt us today.

Forward Line.
Without doubt Robin Van Persie & Theo Walcott after the start he had to the season, missing is a major blow to the Gooners coming to the game. Chamakh up front on his own with have a job on. He has quality, has an eye for goal and is already amongst the goals this season.

You have to admit, even not being an Arsenal fan, Wenger has an eye for a player and more often than not you are left wondering at the time, "who is this bloke?" and they go on to be great successes in the Premier League. I believe this bloke will be, and could be the 20 goals a season striker the club has been looking for since Henry left the club.

However, today he is up against Alex and JT and will have such a job on against these two. Especially if he plays up on his own.

Overall on Arsenal.
I think anyone looking at Arsenal today will agree their strength is in their midfield. If they get the ball down and play, have time and space to knock it around then it could be a very tight game. With Chamakh up front on his own he could find himself isolated and as a result Arsenal struggle to break us down. This is an argument that I think is fair to throw at Arsenal. Sometimes they over play. Even Clichy has come out and said it's all well and good playing great to watch football, it's trophies that matter.

Their weakness is their back five, especially down the middle. I think in goal Fabianski isn't their first choice and can get found out today. The two centre backs today need to be at it all game to cope with Drogba but the fact they haven't played enough together could be key.

Chelsea need to expose their weakness at the back and keep their midfield quiet.

Chelsea's Florent Malouda (L) celebrates after scoring against Blackpool during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge in London September 19, 2010.  REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) NO ONLINE/INTERNET USAGE WITHOUT A LICENCE FROM THE FOOTBALL DATA CO LTD. FOR LICENCE ENQUIRIES PLEASE TELEPHONE ++44 (0)

Now let's focus on our boys and what we need to do today.

Petr Cech is slowly getting back to form. Has kept clean sheets already this season and is looking to re-establish his dominance in the box. They only thing for me that is a weakness at times is the fact he likes to punch the ball out rather than catch it (West Ham). The fact Cech is in goal gives the back four confidence. If he wasn't there then god knows where we will be.

Chelsea's back four are solid, strong and not conceding too many goals at the moment (when all four are playing). JT and Alex are looking pretty solid these days and know each others games which is key. Ivanovic is playing well again and with Bosingwa back and pushing for a game he know's he needs to keep doing what he is doing.

Stamford Bridge, Chelsea v Stoke City, Premier League 28/08/2010  Ashley Cole of Chelsea hits the crossbar with this effort Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Arsenal fans will hate this but they can't deny Ashley Cole is back to his Arsenal best this time in a blue shirt and is the best left back in World football. He plays more as an attacking full back rather than a defender these days and will look to get forward all game. It's whether or not Arsenal can keep him quiet today.

One criticsm of Cole was last week. I still for the life of me can't work out why Cole backed off Tevez and allowed him to come forward 30 yards with the ball until, on the edge of our box, Cole tried to then close him down. They can't happen today.

Arsenal have the problem with Fabregas and we have the same problem with Lampard. For the first time last week Chelsea looked lacking without him against City. Essien is different quality and I believe a player alot of fans admire. His strength is well known but it's now added to that his willingness to get forward and score goals which has impressed me so far.

Mikel does a fantastic job. He will dig in, win the ball and play it simple. He very rarely looses the ball when he is possession of it and under pressure and his calm head will be needed in a packed midfield today.

The problem we have at the moment is Ramires. There is no question he will prove to become and good player for Chelsea but with no pre-season at Chelsea, and with Lampard and Benayoun out injured he has been thrown in at the deep end with 3 games in 10 days and last week it took its toll. He looked out of his depth and gave the ball away that cost us eventually.

I am very wary of his peformance today in such a big game. I have said it already but the midfield will be packed today and there will not be alot of time to get hold of the ball and look to make a pass. Ramires needs to play well.

Forward line.
Of course being a Chelsea fan I believe our front three are the best in the League at the moment. Unfortunatley last weekend at City, all the movement between them, all the fluidity and the attacking threat we had posed all season simply wasn't there. You have to say Chelsea fans Malouda and Drogba were not in the game. The hard working Anelka was even quiet.

It was that display last week that hit home hard on us and put all our feet firmly back on the ground. We need to see these three back at their flowing best today and force Arsenal's full back's into their own half. If they find themselves stuck in their positions it can be a long afternoon.

Aug. 14, 2010 - 06323337 date 14 08 2010 Copyright imago Didier Drogba of Chelsea Celebrates Scoring His Side s Fifth Goal Barclays Premier League Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion 14th August 2010 PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUK Football men England Premier League 2010 2011 Action shot Vdig 2010 horizontal Highlight premiumd.

The main man for Chelsea today is Didier Drogba. Taken off last week at City which was a surprise for all of us. I am hoping after having a week to think about that saying "You are only as good as your last game" he will be up for today and will give 100% to put things right. If he does he can be as effective as he was in the two games against Arsenal last season.

Overall on Chelsea.
Chelsea's team today is strong throughout. The weakness is Ramires and he needs to have a good game today. If not I would quite happily put Josh McEachran in for the game today. I just hope it doesn't prove that we are missing Lampard more today.

If Chelsea start well and the front three in particular are on form then they will provide the Arsenal back four with all sorts of problems.

Verdict on todays game.
It can go either way today. It can be a really open attacking game with goals in it or it can be a tight nervy affair. I believe a week ago both sides would come and look to attack today. Don't get me wrong, both sides will still look to do the same today, but knowing a second defeat in a row could prove costly, I beleive it will be a tight game and a piece of magic will open the door and win the game with just a single goal.

Being a Chelsea fan I have to say I really hope its for us obviously. I could get all carried away with the goals we have been scoring this season but this is Arsenal and the game will be closer than alot of people are making out.

1-0 Chelsea (Drogba).

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Why not grab a Curry, Rice and a beer for just £12!!

The Masala Zone has been awarded the following accreditations:

Best Restaurateur of the Year - Tatler Award
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Masala Zone: "10/10 for food, service & value for money" The Guardian

So if you need food before or after the game then why not head to The Masala Zone (opposite Barclays Bank) and please mention you have seen this advert on my website "Chelseadaft" for me when you go in. 

The Masala Zone - Real Indian Food!


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