Monday night's clash could see Chelsea overtake Arsenal at the top of the Premier League. Arsenal will be desperate to bounce back from their 6-3 defeat at the Etihad and will want to prove that they can muster a result against the big sides. Although they beat Liverpool at home, they have lost away at both Manchester United and Manchester City.
Chelsea have won at the Emirates already this season in the Capital One Cup and thus will feel they can get a result again. Arsenal are the 2.30 favourites, with Chelsea at 3.20 and the draw at 3.40.
Laurent Koscielny is likely to miss out through injury which will lead to Thomas Vermaelen partnering Per Mertesacker at centre-back. Jack Wilshere will be abscent through suspension following his hand gesture against Manchester City.
Branislav Ivanovic will return having served a suspension mid-week against Sunderland. Cesar Azpilicueta picked up a knock in this tie so Ashley Cole looks likey to start against his former club at left-back. Fernando Torres should continue up top having scored in the 2-1 win over Crystal Palace last weekend. Oscar will also return to the starting line-up.
Chelsea's misfiring strikers
Chelsea's strikers have not exactly been in the goals this season. Demba Ba, Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto'o have been in pretty poor form compared to other top strikers, having all failed to score away from home. In fact, no Chelsea striker has scored an away goal in 2013 - an astonishing statistic).
The three strikers combined have managed just five of Chelsea's 32 league goals. It's worth noting that Aaron Ramsey (eight) and Olivier Giroud (seven) have outscored Chelsea's combined forwards this season, which could well be the difference between the two sides on Monday evening.
Fernando Torres was not very good against Palace, despite finding the net. The Spanish forward's goal was actually his only shot over the course of his 83 minutes on the pitch. Further to that, his all-round contribution wasn't good enough, as he completed just 12 passes during the match:
Not only did he complete just the 12 passes but as we can see above almost all of these were backwards. Two of these were from kick-off and only two went forwards. Even then, they were hardly penetrative passes.
Torres simply wasn't involved enough nor did he make enough of a nuisance of himself, adding credence to the view that he is never likely to return to his former form. His goal against Palace though should be enough to secure him a start versus Arsenal, but it remains to be seen whether a Chelsea forward will score away from home this year, especially against a defence that has been as good as Arsenal's this season.
Arsenal's midfield build-up
The midfield battle will be of great interest in this clash between Arsenal's midfield three and what at times is a midfield two for Chelsea. In fact, with Santi Cazorla drifting in from the left it can at times become a midfield four for Arsenal, meaning that Oscar will need to drop deep for Chelsea to prevent it becoming a four against two in that area, or risk Chelsea being completely overrun. Arsenal certainly have the ability to dominate this Chelsea side in these areas.
Chelsea's midfield pivot - likely to be Ramires and Frank Lampard - is reasonable but has not always looked solid this season. The two players are both better in a midfield three with some of their best qualities reduced when playing in the more reserved role. The movement of Cazorla coming in off the flank is crucial as it is unlikely that Willian (or Juan Mata if selected) will follow him inside, meaning that Cazorla can be well-placed to exploit any extra space.
Mesut Ozil didn't have the best game against Manchester City but he could be of huge importance in this game given how unnatural Chelsea's midfield pivot can be. The diminutive German could, like Cazorla, find space between Chelsea's defence and midfield and really stamp his authority on the game, as well as drift into the channels. Ozil has already created 36 chances for his team-mates this season:
As we can see 36.1% of Ozil's chances were created in the area between midfield and defence with a further 19.4% of these chances created in the opposition area. In fact Ozil's 36 chances created equates to 2.8 chances created per game, with only Luis Suarez (2.9 per game) creating more chances for his team-mates.
Monday evening clash is a very big game at the top of the table. Chelsea's away form hasn't been good which is why Arsenal are the favourites, although the West London club won comfortably here in the Capital One Cup and will take some confidence from that display. Arsenal's ability to overrun Chelsea in midfield, as well as their superior firepower could well be the difference between the two clubs on the day.
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