On paper, this looks likes a no-brainer. Chelsea didn’t have too many problems beating Arsenal 2-1 when the two teams previously met, but with their poor home form and the Gunners putting all their faith in last year’s result and Jack Wilshere, maybe we’re in for a surprise.
Chelsea have an 8 point lead over Arsenal in the tables, and their combination of strong defending and clinical finishing through Fernando Torres and Juan Mata was too much for Arsenal back in September. Things have changed since then, especially for Chelsea, who went on a terrible slump shortly after, costing Roberto Di Matteo his job.
Not that Rafa Benitez is doing much better. Under certain lineups, especially those he doesn’t use all three attacking midfield talents (Mata, Hazard and Oscar) at once, while Victor Moses gets to play, Chelsea look very good. Also, David Luiz as a defensive midfielder is usually a better choice than leaving the midfield to Lampard and Ramires, who have a hard time fortifying the defense.
Arsenal, as always, take anything that’s given to them. After three consecutive matches without a win, including a 2-0 home loss against Manchester City, in which Laurent Koscielny proved once again what a terrible choice he is at centre back, the 1-0 win over Swansea restored the faith in the team as one that can provide some impressive football, denied of a bigger win by Tim Krul and some terrible Theo Walcott misses.
More importantly, the kid Arsene Wenger is thrusting all of his hopes and aspirations at, Jack Wilshere, scored a winning goal and played exactly where he ought to be – attacking midfield, without the constraints of helping a patched up defensive midfield. Allowing that kind of freedom to Wilshere is going to be a key aspect of Arsenal attempting to win at Stamford Bridge on consecutive visits for the first time since 1997.
The problem for Arsenal will be playing without Mikel Arteta once again, while Abou Diaby is likely to start on the bench due to not being completely fit, so soon after an injury. This means Wilshere and Cazorla will be busy doing defensive jobs they aren’t too suited for.
Chelsea are missing John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses, off with Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations, and Benitez might opt to start with two strikers instead of having Oscar in the lineup with a terrible showing once again.
Prediction – Chelsea are the better team, but haven’t won on their last three home matches. Arsenal will probably be happy with a draw, but the if Wenger uses Koscielny in the lineup again, there’s a good chance he’ll find a way to mess it up for the gunners.