Might Arsenal’s Slim Hopes Of 4th Place Be Killed Off Tonight?

Preview of this evening’s game at Stamford Bridge

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The usual five talking points ahead of tonight's 8.15 Premier League kick off away to Chelsea.

Draw Kings
Arsenal have drawn their last three away matches in the Premier League – at Everton, Bournemouth and Palace. Now, not losing on the road certainly makes for a change after many of the results in 2019, but points-wise, three out of nine is not really much different from what we have been used to. The Gunners have won two out of eleven away from home in the league this season, and the reality is that with Chelsea sitting in fourth place, if Mikel Arteta’s team are going to threaten them, they really have to win this evening, and the head coach admitted this in his press conference yesterday. So logically, if I was giving you tips for this evening’s game, the last thing I’d do is back Arsenal taking all the points. Although maybe that isn’t such a big ask as you might think.

Chelsea unpredictable at the Bridge
There was a time when Chelsea’s stadium was a bit of a fortress, especially when Jose Mourinho was running the show, but nowadays, it seems like anyone fancies their chances of taking three points there. In the Blues’ five home league matches, West Ham United, Bournemouth and Southampton have all taken maximum points. Yes, you read that right. Frank Lampard has put a lot of his faith in youth, and it might work out long term, but the price to pay waiting to see if it does is inconsistency. Note how Mikel Arteta has resisted the temptation to use younger players where experienced ones are available, starting Mesut Ozil and sending Emile Smith Rowe out on loan, as well as keeping Joe Willock on the bench. Bukayo Saka has played simply because there are not really any alternatives, and he can at least deliver in attack, but he’s the exception that proves the rule. Lampard has the excuse of the transfer ban that meant the club were very limited last summer in what they could do by way of improving a squad that was losing Eden Hazard. And truth to tell, a lot of Bridge regulars are supportive of seeing the product of the club’s Academy after years of buying in talent. There’s nothing like homegrown is there?

Recent History isn’t great
Arsenal have recorded victories at home, and three times at Wembley over Chelsea, most importantly in the 2017 FA Cup Final. But their last win at the Bridge was way back in 2011. Here's the team from that day: Szczesny – Djourou (Jenkinson), Mertesacker, Koscielny – Ramsey, Song, Arteta, Santos – Walcott (Rosicky), Van Persie, Gervinho (Vermaelen). It was Mikel Arteta’s tenth appearance for the club. So a while back to say the least. It was a 5-3 goal-fest. Looking at Arsenal’s recent results, I think it’s fair to say we can’t expect too many goals this evening. Since Arteta was named as Arsenal head coach, the team have played seven times and only once has there been more than two goals – and that was when three were scored in the reverse fixture against Chelsea… that 2-1 defeat between Christmas and New Year. On which note…

So how are you feeling Papa?
Shkodran Mustafi was culpable for Chelsea’s winner at the Emirates, and many were surprised when he was selected last Saturday against Sheffield United. In truth, he wasn’t as bad as he sometimes is, but it was interesting to see Arteta put him in the side ahead of Rob Holding, who was on the bench. One can only assume the head coach wasn’t too impressed with the one appearance Holding has made so far under him, against Leeds in the FA Cup. Sokratis was ill at the weekend, but will surely return to the line-up this evening if he has recovered. Given how rusty Holding looked against Leeds, it feels like this is too big a game to risk him in after that performance. Arsenal lacked a bit of physicality on Saturday and there’s no debate the Greek number 5 can provide that.

Mesut continues
Since Arteta picked his first team on Boxing Day at Bournemouth, Mesut Ozil has started every game, including the FA Cup third round tie at home to Leeds. And in spasms, he has impressed. One assumes he is following instructions to retain his place in the team, even if, in the eyes of many, he seems to disappear for large sections of the game. If Arteta is to play four forwards, with all of them dropping deep at times, the only natural alternative to Ozil, now that Smith Rowe is at Huddersfield, would seem to be Dani Ceballos, who has been on the bench in three of the last four matches. How long Arteta will retain faith with his highest earner is probably going to be dependent on results. The reality is that chances haven’t been exactly plentiful of late, and the man who is chiefly responsible for opening up defences is the number 10. Let’s hope he has a huge game this evening.

So, Chelsea are inconsistent, and Arsenal are struggling to win games. It kind of suggests another draw. Yet, as stated at the top of this piece, the Gunners really need a win tonight, and we might see Arteta gamble towards the latter part of the match if that is the only way he can see his team winning. There’s no debate this is a bad one for captain Aubameyang to miss, so his team-mates have to step up to the plate and make the rest of the season at least interesting, rather than the current positional purgatory.


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  1. Pauljames

    Jan 22, 2020, 09:26 #116321

    Pepe and Ozil were passengers , whilst it’s no secret that Mustafi is just not up to the job. Having said that why didn’t Luiz just stay on his feet instead of making a drama out of a crisis? Given the number of poor players on display it’s little short of a miracle we weren’t hammered last night , so 10 out of 10 for the spirit and commitment.

  2. Bard

    Jan 22, 2020, 09:03 #116320

    Gutsy performance and a special goal from the Brazilian. We looked properly at it. If the board could only get behind MA and buy a couple of players we might have the makings of a half decent side. We wont go anywhere unless we do. Playing the likes of Mustafi and Ozil is like playing with 9 men every week.

  3. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Jan 22, 2020, 08:44 #116319

    Did n't see that second half effort coming - saved by an 18 year old and some much needed luck. Terrible goals conceded again by the two likely lads, really appalling easy goals for the opposition to convert. Ron and I spoke about George Best running with ball being a thing of beauty, well I thought Martineli's run and goal was also a thing of beauty, he looks a real class act and backs it up with a real workrate.

  4. itsRonagain2

    Jan 21, 2020, 23:23 #116318

    Or perhaps that the Yorkies refuse to spend as much on their punts John ha ha !!! I think MA will tighten us Marky and make a presentable team again , as mentioned , without a lot of better players he won’t hit the heights with us. Rodgers? He ll have an offer in the next 12 to 18 months that will mean the owners will allow him to move on. Keep them top 5 or 6 and he s safe I think. Big job though. Despite Vardy this season they need a couple of good forwards one of which will need to be a heavy scorer. Hard to get esp to a smaller club. I agree with you re PG and JK. Wdt surprise me if Klopp went first. Bayern want him and I think he wants them. Be gone in a year or so I think. His jobs done unless he s turned on by trying to do the fabled ‘ back to back’ attempt.

  5. John F

    Jan 21, 2020, 22:52 #116317

    I hate to encourage betting but we should all be cleaning up with all these draws.I am going to put my house ,wife ,cats and kids on the next one being drawn £5.50 (it's cheap up here in East Yorkshire).

  6. markymark

    Jan 21, 2020, 22:43 #116316

    To be fair PT I think something has to shift. I reckon City will lose Pepe. Klopp might be persuaded to stay a little longer. If Arteta can get us competitive then for the next 2-3 years I’m fairly content. Next interesting scenario building up is if the Leicester honeymoon is over. Their executive are sackers so it’ll be interesting to see if that scenario plays out

  7. Exiled in Pt

    Jan 21, 2020, 22:35 #116315

    Martineli and Saka were our best 2 players against Sheff United and again tonight as you say John Big futures for both.. Mark I agree MA can move this club forward but under this owner it will not be in to the top 2

  8. itsRonagain2

    Jan 21, 2020, 22:33 #116314

    There was a time when we used to play with 10 men frequently under Wengos earlier yrs and prevail. A result there with 10 is really good plus point. Signs that MA has his charges in battle mode. We ve not seen battling at Arsenal for well over 10 yrs. We have to look after the lad Martinelli. It’s nit been clever to identify him as soon as we first seen him as a real player. It’s so obvious isn’t it. Noting the earlier posts about the GG / MA comparisons. I can see the parallels in terms of the team structures each inherited but wd say that the comparisons are hard to justify. Main reason being that the board back then didn’t have a plethora of sponsors and commercialism to cater for so to protect the image of ‘ the brand ‘ unlike today. I think the Bosrds actions back then had been the same for the previous 40 yrs pre GG too. It was the old school tie. Corinhianism. Every post war manager at Arsenal had to fit to the Boards template. Marlys right in Keane. GG fell out big time over being allowed to have him. I don’t think any Board has fully backed any Coach at Arsenal. We ve just had good managers bar the odd disaster s like Wright Howe and Emery all who s intent was spot on but all who failed for different reasons. Wengo had a conduit via Dein to gave his will met at Board level. He got lucky. He was lucky throughout. I truly think think that AFC s conservatism has stopped us having a record more like Uniteds. We ve a glorious history despite the previous Boards wd ve had via the 20 th Century and despite the autocrat owner we ve got now. It’s a fantastic history with this in mind. We ve hardly ever to never mixed big spending with team building. All them Borads and the owner now would say our conservatism is the reason for the success. To a degree they’re right. The unknown is how much more we could have won had they have been braver. We ll never know lads will we.

  9. John F

    Jan 21, 2020, 22:26 #116313

    1st half was a car crash and you just can't do anything with two players who make errors like that. We looked the better team in the second with Martinelli and Saka outstanding.What a future those two will have especially Martinelli he ran his socks off.Strange game as had we kept 11on the pitch we might not off been so focused and could of lost it as before the sending off we were very poor.I have seen Auba miss those one on ones but Martinelli just looked so assured for an 18year old.

  10. markymark

    Jan 21, 2020, 22:23 #116312

    PT - so was I calling for his head. Look at the spend since 2006 , look at the comments around how Wenger spends his money . Liverpool built their side from Coutinho . No asset growth you start from scratch. That’s why Stan’s net spend is so high. Usmanov wanted to keep Wenger so we were effectively stuffed whoever would have owned Arsenal. 2-2 is a massive result considering how we were impacted . This manager is different and will lead I sincerely believe to a different outcome. I’d much rather be under Arteta than OGS., Only a complete collapse into relegation dog fight would convince me otherwise. I think this is a classic case of result lag. The performances are coming. Judging by this the results will come

  11. Exiled in Pt

    Jan 21, 2020, 22:11 #116311

    Let's hope they can build on that performance..

  12. Exiled in Pt

    Jan 21, 2020, 22:09 #116310

    Well played 10 men Arsenal, now that was a great response...

  13. Exiled in Pt

    Jan 21, 2020, 21:15 #116309

    Another thing I was calling for Wenger to go in 2008 so you don't need to point out his contribution to the demise of our club..

  14. Exiled in Pt

    Jan 21, 2020, 21:12 #116308

    Mark - I was talking about poor buys this summer. That does not account for all the money since 2006. You and I will have to agree to disagree mate. We got rid of Wenger until we get rid of this owner this club will not challenge for trophies it's as simple as that.. You can keep on telling me we should be smiling as Man Ure and the scum and Chelski are all shit so we are still in with a shout. I don't support them so I couldn't give a toss what happens with them I am just sick of this club going nowhere under this owner..

  15. Nicky3336

    Jan 21, 2020, 20:53 #116307

    Mustafi is a disgrace and should never wear our colours again. This fraud has time and time again cost us goals with his comical efforts at playing part of a back line. Mikel please stop trying and being nice lose this muppet to any side willing to take him. 35 mins in without a shot on goal, on or off target, down to 10 men and without a hope in hell of even a point as stands. No wonder Auba wants out, even I’d be embarrassed to turn out as part of this shower of shit right now.

  16. markymark

    Jan 21, 2020, 20:52 #116306

    Exiled - you’ve answered you’re own question you believe it’s money spent on the wrong players ? Therefore that’s where the money has gone. I should remind you that under Wenger we earned precisely no asset growth whatsoever in the last 5 — 8 years of his reign as both he and Gazidis followed the disastrous keep money back policy . Therefore deciding against buying Alonso , pathetic attempts at Suarez and leaving an aggrieved Greizman to say he’d never deal with Arsenal again after Wengo left him dangling for a month . Of course when Wenger finally realised his arse was on the line he paid top dollar for Xhaka over Kante , paid top dollar for Mustafi ( just screwed us big time ) and Ivan decided to roll 350,000 a week on Ozil. All 3 of these players are still causing us big problems . Stan’s net spend is bigger than many clubs. It’s the failure to develop asset growth like Liverpool that has stuffed us

  17. Exiled in Pt

    Jan 21, 2020, 20:11 #116305

    Mark where is all the money then 100m more revenue moving to the concrete soulless bowl. You going to tell me lê fraud spent it all. Another transfer window and we do not have any money to make signings and don't tell me about the wonderful deals EL Raul made in the summer the Spanish del boy we are all supposed to be so impressed with and his mythical contacts book. Money spent on the wrong players and he done so well as he done it all on the cheap. So called biggest team in the South not for much longer with that American cunt as owner...

  18. markymark

    Jan 21, 2020, 19:34 #116304

    Bard I agree we need to score 2 at the moment. Exiled I believe that the board refused to sanction the. Purchase of Roy Keane under GG’s reign. An extremely short sighted move that ultimately of course led to the rise of UTD. Anyone who thinks that the board have somehow been better in the past only needs to look at the treatment of Liam Brady . Ron’s made previous points about Arsenals board always being ultra conservative and cautious. I really don’t think think Stan is any worse

  19. Exiled in Pt

    Jan 21, 2020, 19:31 #116303

    Bard your right the moment they decided to leave Highbury rather than increase it, we lost our soul and identity and the board cashed in and the rest is history... The sad thing is now with this owner I don't ever see it changing. 23 games played 30 goals scored 32 conceded and yet we still hear talk of 4th place and CL football... Fu*k me pardon my Portuguese...

  20. Bard

    Jan 21, 2020, 18:58 #116302

    Great post Exiled. I would add we were still a football club back then not a PLC.

  21. Exiled in Pt

    Jan 21, 2020, 16:51 #116301

    One big difference between the 2 of them SKG , GG had a board that backed him MA has not so forget the rest of the similarities its not going to happen . He is already shipping youngsters out on loan and relying on the old guard and we are not going to start looking in the lower leagues for players like GG did then . We will have poor quality European players with the odd one or 2 gems that will be sold off the moment they look good and before we ever get back to a winning trophies team .

  22. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Jan 21, 2020, 16:27 #116300

    MA is very much in the same position George Graham was in when he took over as manager, George took a massive gamble and culled the first team and brought in some younger players and bought players from the lower leagues - will MA be as brave? MA has a couple of good youngsters but no leader like Adams, that remains IMHO his biggest problem, he needs a voice on the pitch, MA needs also to find a Kevin Richardson type player and quickly. Chelsea should never have lost to Newcastle and I can't see them losing tonight - Chelsea by a couple of goals unfortunately.

  23. Pauljames

    Jan 21, 2020, 16:11 #116299

    Very difficult to fancy our chances tonight, we’ve won 2 of our last 14 PL games after all. Assuming we lose tonight the next 3 v Burnley, Everton and Newcastle will determine whether we are in a relegation battle or a push for Europe... I’m not at all optimistic it will be the latter.

  24. Bard

    Jan 21, 2020, 15:55 #116298

    Given we currently need to score more than 1 goal to have a chance of winning I dont think a win is likely.

  25. Exiled in Pt

    Jan 21, 2020, 15:43 #116297

    GR think its the best chance we have of beating them in a few seasons problem is we just dont look like scoring more than one . I would take a clean sheet and anything to reduce that negative goal difference .

  26. GoonerRon

    Jan 21, 2020, 14:05 #116296

    A coming-of-age 0-3 to The Arsenal! Or maybe 1-1 ;-)

  27. itsRonagain2

    Jan 21, 2020, 11:10 #116295

    I reckon those slim hopes are closer anorexic to be honest Kev. They could get a draw tonight there though.Chelsea are decent but hardly explosive. We re average and trying hard. Draw for me. 1-1.

  28. Exiled in Pt

    Jan 21, 2020, 11:09 #116294

    I think we can safely say tonight will not end 5-3 ! Van Persie hat-trick that day Chelsea were shocking under Villas- Boas . Think old pie man Frank may last a bit longer .. Lets hope for a win but cant see anything but a home win tonight . One thing is Luiz will turn up tonight like he did in the home game against them ...