By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Emirates Stadium/January 24, 2017
This is the final round of our rivalry with Arsene Wenger’s team for this season and it couldn’t have been better set up with a place in the final of the Carabao Cup up for grabs. Antonio Conte will be aiming to improve his record against Arsenal having won just one of his seven matches against them to date losing to and drawing four (even though Arsenal went on to win the Community Shield match on penalties the game technically ended in a draw). Both teams will be coming into this one very high on confidence having conveniently dispatching their weekend opponents both scoring four goals against tricky opponents. With a chance to have a go at the first silverware of the season just 90 minutes (or 120 and even penalties) away, I expect this game to serve up the entertaining affair we all expected during the first leg that never really materialized. I personally cannot wait for kick off!
Arsenal is one of the teams that have a better head to head record against Chelsea having amassed a total of 75 victories over the years against Chelsea’s 62. There has been a total of 56 draws between these two London giants. In the Premier League Chelsea has faced Arsenal 51 times with the North London club coming out victorious on 19 occasions against Chelsea’s 17 with 17 draws in between. Antonio Conte has found the going tough against Arsene Wenger with just one victory against the Frenchman in seven tries (L2 D4). Chelsea has lost just two of the last 10 encounters against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium (W4 D4) with the last of those losses proving to be catalyst to our title-winning run with Antonio Conte rethinking his tactics in the second half of that woeful performance at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal has scored just six goals in their last ten Premier League matches against Chelsea – with four coming last season and the last two coming in the entertaining draw the last time we visited North London– and failed to score in seven of those matches. Interestingly though Chelsea has finished the game with 10 men in three of the last five matches against Arsenal with David Luiz the latest Chelsea player sent off against Arsenal but we’ve managed to keep all 11 players on the pitch the last two times we played against Arsene Wenger’s team. There will be a lot riding on a victory for whichever team comes out on top on Wednesday night as there will be a place in the final – to face either Manchester City or Bristol City – on offer.
Antonio Conte will surely have his work cut out for him when the time to select his team for the trip to the Emirates Stadium comes considering how well the team performed at the weekend even with some regular starters missing the game through a combination of injuries and suspensions. Michy Batshuayi certainly did his chances some good with his movements and general contributions at the Amex Stadium particularly his role in Chelsea’s second goal and he could have gotten himself on the score sheet if not for the sharpness of Matt Ryan in the Brighton goal but I think he may have to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench for this match with Alvaro Morata back available after serving out his one-match suspension. Pedro will also be available for selection and with such an important fixture I believe we’ll need all our big game players and the Spaniard his surely one of them. I’m sure the Brighton fans will be happy to see the back of our Belgian maestro considering how Eden Hazard tormented their team at the weekend and should Hazard be half as good as he was at the weekend then the Arsenal defence will be in for a torrid time at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night. Willian seemed to have finally gotten his mojo back after a slow start to the season from the Brazilian and he was also in imperious form at the Amex Stadium at the weekend and one can only hope he carries that form into this important match. Danny Drinkwater is a doubt for this match after missing the trip to the Amex Stadium at the weekend with an ankle injury but Thibaut Courtois is likely to feature after overcoming the ankle injury that kept him out of the team that beat Brighton at the weekend. Should he fail to make the trip to the Emirates Stadium I’m sure Willy Caballero will have no problem with deputizing for him once again. Andreas Christensen should be on the coach to the Emirates Stadium after Conte confirmed he only substituted him as a precaution at the weekend but should Conte decides against playing him from the start then David Luiz will get another chance to impress just as he did at the weekend. Cesar Azpilicueta, Victor Moses, Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso should all retain their places but it’s yet to be seen whether Antonio Conte keeps faith with the Kante/Bakayoko midfield partnership or if we finally get to see Ross Barkley in action in a Chelsea shirt but if you ask me such a big game is not the ideal match for Barkley to make his debut definitely not from the start. With Conte confirming that Alvaro Morata will miss the match, we’re likely to see the same attacking three as with the weekend and more importantly Michy Batshuayi gets to start his third consecutive game for the first time as a Chelsea player unless Conte decides to go with a “False 9” which is highly unlikely.
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Victor Moses, Bakayoko, Kante, Alonso; Hazard, Willian; Batshuayi.
Last Five Matches: WDDDD
Injuries: Gary Cahill (Hamstring) – Out; Cesc Fabregas (Hamstring) – Out; Thibaut Courtois (Ankle) – Doubt; Danny Drinkwater (Ankle) – Doubt; Alvaro Morata (Back) – Out.
Arsenal celebrated the departure of Alexis Sanchez with a 4-1 win over Crystal Palace at the weekend but defeating a relegation-threatened Crystal Palace is quite different from facing the defending Premier League champions in a cup semi-final. Arsene Wenger may decide to give Henrikh Mkhitaryan a taste of what playing for a team like Arsenal is all about on Wednesday night with the Armenian being match fit but I doubt the Frenchman will be willing to disrupt team spirit by throwing his new acquisition straight into the team with his team performing so well at the weekend. Both Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal came back from injury to feature in the Gunners’ big win at the weekend with both getting on the score sheet and so both will certainly be in the team for the visit of Chelsea on Wednesday night. Mesut Ozil, having missed the Gunners’ previous three games, also came back into the team and he was in imperious form dictating the team’s play from the right side of the attack. Arsene Wenger set his team up in a 4-1-4-1 formation against Roy Hodgson’s team with the Petr Cech in goal shielded by the quartet of Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal. Mohammed Elneny anchored the midfield with Granit Xhaka and Jack Wilshere playing ahead of him and both Alex Iwobi and Mesut Ozil provided Alexandre Lacazette support in attack. It was a pretty attacking team that Wenger sent out at the weekend but considering how conservative his team selection was back at Stamford Bridge during the first leg it’s yet to be seen how the Frenchman will set up to try and get the better of Antonio Conte yet again but however he sets the team up the motive is not likely to change from trying to win the game and give themselves another shot at the League Cup their last final in the competition coming as far back as 2011. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is an option at left back should Nacho Monreal fail to overcome the ankle problem that ended his day rather prematurely at the weekend but the youngster can also play further forward if the Spaniard were to return to the team for the game on Wednesday.
Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Xhaka, Wilshere; Maitland-Niles, Ozil, Iwobi; Lacazette.
Last 5 matches: WLDLD
Injuries: Olivier Giroud (Hamstring) –Out; Nacho Monreal (Ankle) –Doubt; Aaron Ramsey (Illness) –Doubt; Danny Welbeck (Muscular) – Doubt; Santi Cazorla (Plantaris Injury) – Out.
Eden Hazard vs. Hector Bellerin
Eden Hazard has been almost unplayable whenever he’s been in the mood and that seem to be happening a lot lately especially when Arsenal is the opposition as he seem to look forward to games against the North London club. I don’t see how Bellerin will be able to live with the hazards that Eden Hazard will bring to the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Victor Moses vs. Mesut Ozil
With Alexis Sanchez finally gone the Arsenal faithfuls will be looking to the German to step up and he duly stepped up to the plate with his performance at the weekend and he’ll be looking to continue that form but with Victor Moses likely to be in a confident mood after his goal at the weekend Ozil might not have it all his own way on Wednesday night not if the Nigerian has something to say about it.
Andreas Christensen vs. Alexandre Lacazette
Andreas Christensen will have to be on his toes at all times and his concentration must be razor-sharp for him to be able to cope with Alexandre Lacazette as the Frenchman is as dangerous as anyone in and around the box. What makes him more of a danger is that he doesn’t need too much space to wreak his havoc hence the Danish Prince must be alert to the danger posed by the Arsenal striker.
This surely is as big as it gets for both these London giants and I’m sure those that’ll make it to the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night and the millions that will be watching around the world will be treated to a sumptuous feast of football unlike the uninspiring affair that we witnessed a fortnight ago and hopefully it will be Chelsea that would have booked a place in the Carabao Cup final at the end of the night to continue our unbeaten start to the year 2018. Continue to Keep The Blue Flag Flying High as we match to the Emirates Stadium to conquer the Gunners!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Chelsea FC
Would you like to write for London is Blue? Click on the “contact us” tab located on the top menu, fill out the form, and we can get started!