CHELSEA TAKES ON Arsenal on Saturday, only three days after beating Barcelona. The Gunners were recently beaten by Wigan but they have been up for the big games -- winning games against the likes of Tottenham, Newcastle United and Manchester City at the Emirates. Chelsea has been doing great in the cup competitions but have dropped points against City and Spurs in the league. In other words, the odds do not look great for the Blues.
Meanwhile, Newcastle and Tottenham -- Chelsea's closest rivals for the fourth place at this point (they are two points ahead) -- are playing against Stoke (H) and QPR (A) respectively. So even if the things went Chelsea's way against Arsenal, their chances of regaining the 4th place this weekend is pretty slim.
Anyhow, I've come across some good reads that can tell us how Arsenal and their main striker have been doing lately. Links and comments after the jump!
Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City
The Gunners dominated this game and got a deserved win in this game. This match analysis piece by Michael Cox is heavy on the issues City had and it does not stress much of what Arsenal did right. However, he does point to Arsenal's right side -- Sagna overlapping Walcott -- as the main threat from the home side; this is a theme we will touch again later. Arsenal played with Rosicky, Arteta and Song as the midfield trio in this game and dominated the midfield. Song played a more defensive role of the three but, as Cox notes, he definitely has the skills to push up higher or be a deep play-maker -- a poor man's Xavi with muscles if you will. Chelsea midfielders should be keeping a keen eye on him when he's on the ball.
Arsenal 1-2 Wigan
Wigan did a lot of things right in this game to pull of this unexpected win. One of which was shutting down Arsenal's attack from the right (See, I told you we will come back to that!). This piece by The Arsenal Column stresses that issue. With their 3-4-3 system, Wigan used left center-back Figueroa, left wing-back Beausejour and left wide-man Moses to effectively shut down Walcott and Sagna on that flank. Moses in particular worked his socks off running up and down tracking Sagna's runs. Ramires has done a similar job keeping Alves quiet against Barcelona but he might need to recover from that game or rest for the second leg in Spain. A well-rested Cole-Ramires pair can do a good job of defending against Walcott and Sagna but the situation is not really ideal for Chelsea at this moment.
Another note-worthy point in that piece is the detrimental effects of Vermaelen's forward runs. The center-back certainly has the ability to be an attacking threat but his persistent forward runs sometimes disrupt the structure of his team. Chelsea can definitely take advantage of this, especially from fast breaks.
The State of RVP
Robin van Persie has stopped scoring goals recently -- 1 penalty goal in the last 6 games. This piece by Mark Redford looks at what is troubling the Dutch striker. You should go read the details but the conclusions of the post are (a) Arsenal has been creating fewer chances in recent games which means van Persie has fewer number of shots per game and (b) oppositions' defenses have forced van Persie to shot from distance rather from dangerous positions inside the box. Again going back to the Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona game, the Blues did a great job of pushing Messi deep into midfield and limiting his attacking threats. The same needs to be done against van Persie -- mark him tight, cut of supply to him and make him go get the ball himself from midfield.
Tactically, I can see Chelsea doing pretty much the same thing they did against Barcelona, maybe with a little bit more attacking bite. Torres, Kalou and Sturridge might come into the attack and Mata will probably move to his role in the hole. A draw won't do any good for Chelsea's chances of finishing fourth but I don't see them going all out to get the win. Absorb-and-counter method should continue here.
Carefree, wherever you may be...