Arsenal v Chelsea: Arsenal have to beat Chelsea - Not the other way around!
It's now the game of the season on Sunday at the Emirates. Jose Mourinho's side have led the Premier League from day one but face...
It's now the game of the season on Sunday at the Emirates. Jose Mourinho's side have led the Premier League from day one but face their toughest test against Arsenal but are they now a very realistic threat?
After Saturdays performance and three points against Manchester United, you can see this as being billed as the side with plenty of attacking flair, on a fantastic run against the side "limping" over the line.
So what of Arsenal?
The neutrals will get behind Arsene Wenger and his team to keep the title race going as long as possible and I guess the football purists will do the same but it's important to remember that football these days is a results business just as Louis Van Gaal discovered at Stamford Bridge.
But for the FA Cup last season, we all remember just how frustrated the Gunners fans had become at their lack of trophies. Twelve months on, they are back in the FA Cup Final will a chance to retain the trophy and are now in second place in the Premier League. Do we think that Arsenal have improved that much?
I look at Arsenal and everything from their midfield going forward is difficult not to like. Coquelin has been a revelation in the holding role, Alexis Sanchez has had a fantastic season, Santi Cazorla pulls the strings, Mesut Ozil has found form and Oliver Giroud is scoring goals on a regular basis.
The Arsenal Achilles Heel remains.
However, for me their problem still lies within their back four and Goalkeeper. Just look at that happened against Monaco at the Emirates for example. Their lack of defensive discipline has been their Achilles heel for god knows how many seasons and has literally cost them a decent crack at the title every year.
Look at the days of Dixon, Adams and Winterburn for example or even Cole, Lauren and Campbell - Arsenal built their attacking flair from a solid base. For some reason, as those players left the club, they were never replaced with the same quality.
You can have all the flair players in the world going forward but you MUST have those same players willing to work just as hard without the ball to support your defence otherwise you will always struggle. Coquelin can't do it all by himself and we shall find out if I am right on Sunday!
Jose Mourinho - the master of big games.
Most would have decided already that Chelsea will head to the Emirates with instructions from Jose Mourinho to park the bus. As negative as some people think that is, it's game management. If the two sides positions were switched around and this game was at Stamford Bridge with Arsenal needing just two wins for the title would he do the same?
You can bet your life that Jose would have studied Arsenal to find their weakness and to develop the tactical plan he believes in. Think back to United last weekend and to his interview after the game. He spoke of how the game played out how he wanted it to be and how we expected. Expect the same on Sunday.
Do we honestly believe that Chelsea will park the bus? I am not so sure. I believe we will look to remain solid but at the same time, utilise our attacking flair when we have the ball to punish Arsenal and their back four that isn't as solid as some people make out to be.
Fabregas is key.
We can all pretty much tell you now the reaction Cesc Fabregas will receive at the Emirates but that will not bother him or Chelsea at all. If anything it will inspire him to focus on playing well because let's face it, many will have you believe his form has dipped as it apparently always does towards the end of the season.
Many people will pinpoint Eden Hazard as the main danger and rightly so but I have a different take on things ahead of this one. Hazard is nothing without the ball, Sanchez the same as they both feed on service and being given the ball in the right areas.
Cesc Fabregas is half the threat to the opposition when he plays further forward so I expect him to revert back in the deeper position next to Nemanja Matic. It's from that position that Chelsea will rely on Fabregas to pick up the ball and to dictate the game.
As we have seen at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, given space and time with the ball at his feet, Fabregas can split a defence wide open with a single pass that can make the difference.
Conclusion - It's all up to Arsenal.
I am a Chelsea fan so I am obviously biased however, you have to look at why Chelsea are so far ahead of Arsenal and everyone else this season. Jose Mourinho spotted the frailties within the make-up of his team and went out and key players in that have made the difference.
Whether you describe Chelsea as a well oiled machine or boring is down to you but the facts and figures are there for all to see.
Sunday is about Arsenal taking the game to Chelsea to try and beat them and nothing more. Chelsea do not have to win the game and will be happy to sit in their defensive shape giving Arsenal time on the ball, knowing that with the likes of Fabregas, Hazard, Willian, Oscar and Remy we have the pace and flair to really hurt them on the counter attack.
For me the outcome of this one literally comes down to just how far Arsenal have come. Do they have enough going forward to break Chelsea down? Do they have enough to deal with Chelsea when we attack them?
On Sunday we find out!