Evening all. We welcome Chelsea to Emirates stadium tomorrow aiming to secure our first league win over the Blues since October 2011, as well as reclaim top spot in the table after Leicester beat Stoke this afternoon to leapfrog above us.
On that occasion at Stamford Bridge, some Dutch striker bagged a hat-trick for us, John Terry reproduced his Moscow special by slipping on his a*se, and even our fattest ever player – Andre Santos – got in on the act by helping himself to a goal.
But our last league win over Chelsea on home soil was in December 2010, when goals by Alex Song, some Spanish midfielder and Theo Walcott helped us to a 3-1 success over the then Double holders. Chelsea go into tomorrow’s game as kind of double holders again, having won the Premier League and League Cup last season, so perhaps that’ll prove a good omen for us. It’s been too long since we turned them over in the Premier League, so hopefully tomorrows’s the day we set that wretched record right.
Speaking of which, Arsene Wenger says that much like our wins over other rivals such as as the two Manchester clubs this season, taking three points from Chelsea would suggest his team are progressing nicely in terms of performing in the ‘bigger’ games:
It is another one where we can show we have moved forward. It is another game where people look at us and see how we behave because, even if Chelsea are not in the best position, you look at their squad. It is a big game because of the quality of players on the pitch and it has a big importance to us because we play at Emirates Stadium and we know it will be important to win these types of games. We have certainly proved our battling potential [this season] through big solidarity, through great togetherness and as well because we are ambitious and we have more experience than in the past. One of the advantages of having experienced players is that they know that sometimes it’s just about battling and not always only about playing well.
As for how we’ll line-up tomorrow afternoon, Mesut Ozil will no doubt replace Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from last weekend’s starting selection at Stoke, but then it gets a little more uncertain, depending on the availability of Alexis Sanchez. If the Chilean is deemed fit to start, any one of Theo Walcott, Joel Campbell or Olivier Giroud could conceivably make way for him. Sanchez for Walcott would be a straight swap, Sanchez for Campbell would mean Theo switching flanks to the right and Sanchez for Giroud would mean Walcott upfront.
Personally, I’m not sure what I’d go with if I was picking the team. I think if it’s a choice between Walcott and Campbell based on recent form it has to the Costa Rican who gets the nod. On the other hand, Theo has a good goal-scoring record against Chelsea. Dropping Giroud to play Walcott would be more than a little harsh on the Frenchman, who’s been in fine form recently, but Walcott running off of Terry’s shoulder is also a very exciting prospect.
Elsewhere though, you’d imagine we’ll be unchanged, unless Mohamed Elneny’s showed in training that he’s ready to replace Mathieu Flamini, or Arsene Wenger wants Gabriel on the pitch to counteract Diego Costa’s nastiness with some Brazilian aggression of his own, and gives Per Mertesacker a little rest. I doubt it though.
On a personal level, and against my better judgement, I’ll be watching the game with two Chelsea-supporting ‘friends’, who decided to get the ‘banter’ going a day early by texting me pics like Wayne Bridge celebrating his winner at Highbury in the Champions League quarters in 2004, Cashley Cole lifting the European Cup and also one of Arsene when he tripped and fell at a train station on the way home from an away game.
Now, I could have reminded them about the fact we’ve been English champions on 13 occasions compared to their pitiful five triumphs and such like, but I found the following, which I think, although slightly out-of-date, sums our opponents up more succinctly in the closing paragraph than I ever could:
COME ON ARSENAL !