Time to go all in

Written by @ArsenalView_

In a league with the smallest of margins, our 15 minute slumber at the start of the game against Watford could end up defining our season. And yet, such small margins, such patches of slumber seem all too familiar. With 9 points to make up on Chelsea, anything other than a victory in Stamford Bridge would mean the death knell of our league season. Had Costa scored the penalty late on against Liverpool, the trip to Stamford Bridge would have been a formality anyway. The onus is on us to now pull off, one of the unlikeliest victories of the season, to thrust us back into the title race. In a way, it would be liberating for this Arsenal side. The team is at its worst, when it tries to play for a result. We neither have the players with such tactical nous nor the discipline of a well drilled system to pull off calculated results. Our defense, despite all the individual plaudits bestowed on Koscielny, Mustafi and Bellerin have conceded 25 goals in the league- Just 3 less than what Manchester City and Liverpool, two teams considered to have no defense and boasting defensive stalwarts like Lovren and Stones, have conceded.

The only arrow in our quiver is attack. We are at our best when we channel the cavalier cowboy attacking spirit of the team. And it looks like we don’t have any choice anymore. Amongst the midfield choices that we have, none of the two man midfield options look ready to hold their own against a midfield of Kante and Matic- two players who have the most tackles between them in the league. Personally, I would like to replicate the 3 man midfield structure that we had against Southampton with Coquelin, Chamberlain and Ainsley Maitland Niles. While Chelsea start with a 3-4-3, they frequently become 5-2-3, isolating Kante and Matic. However, the two with their superior work rate, compensate for this isolation. This would mean that we may need to leave out Ozil outside the starting XI. However, considering Ozil’s form and the work rate that we need in these games, it may not be the worst idea to start him from the bench. I would be tempted to accommodate him in the wings, but Walcott’s superior record against Chelsea edges it for me. Ozil would also be a great player to bring off the bench when the players are mentally tired.

A pacy attack is an imperative in the game with players capable of running behind the defense. Surely, the Giroud experiment has to be over, by now. Giroud feels like a ornate, golden pillar, fixed amidst the living room. Sure, the pillar looks gorgeous, but it would have made sense in a palace. In the living room, it stands out like a sore thumb and restricts space. The Chelsea defense does not boast of any particularly pacy player, who could live with Welbeck, Sanchez or Walcott. The three are in sharp form at the moment and we would do well to unleash them on Chelsea. The three are also big game players who relish a big occasion. Iwobi and Perez nominally miss making the first XI for me. The former is still inexperienced and the occasion could be initimidating for him. Perez would be a tempting selection in place of Walcott or Welbeck, especially considering that the latter two are coming back from injuries. Perez has also shown remarkable poise in playing across the front three, as the situation in the game has demanded. However, the Ws edge him out because of their familiarity with Stamford Bridge.

Tactically, it seems to me that we end up playing with three center forward runners, who need to be fed the ball in space. We would need to go direct to these players, in the absence of a midfield that can dominate and control proceedings. Arsenal’s best chance against Chelsea would stem from us making this game an end to end traditional English game of direct attacks, administered with a press and an intent to create chaos. The greater the structure in this game, the likelier it will suit Chelsea.

For a change, it would be nice for us to try something new. A change not only essential to get us out of our current funk but also to rejuvenate our season. For a change, it would be nice for us to approach a big game with a fearless mindset, chasing a victory. If there was ever a test of character for this squad, it comes this Saturday. Here’s to hoping they prove our worst fears wrong and deliver us three points at Stamford Bridge.

 

 


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