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ahmad193
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PostSubject: Chelsea - Arsenal   Sat Mar 22, 2008 7:59 am

London's Calling

The Premier League title race has seen a distinct shift in the balance
of power and probabilities in the last week - towards the North-West,
and particularly Manchester United; and away from London, especially
Arsenal.

Now this much-hyped weekend - already inflated from Super Sunday to
Grand Slam Sunday by Sky - could see that balance further tilted, or
redressed.

For neutrals relishing as close a race as possible, as well as for
Liverpool fans, the best outcome would be wins on Sunday firstly for
Liverpool and then for Chelsea: that would leave the Big Four closer
together than ever before this season. For Manchester United
supporters, victory over the Merseysiders and a draw or Chelsea win in
the London derby would be ideal. Chelsea will be best-served by beating
Arsenal after watching Liverpool triumph at Old Trafford. And for
Arsenal fans, a Liverpool win followed by the Gunners beating Chelsea
at Stamford Bridge would be the footballing gods' way of saying sorry
for Eduardo's injury and the four successive draws that followed it.

Rolling & Stumbling


Chelsea's failure to beat Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Wednesday
night, after leading three times, meant they missed the opportunity to
draw level with Arsenal on 67 points going into Sunday's clash.
Nevertheless, they are now only two points behind the Gunners, who are
becalmed in a sea of draws - four on the trot - and could
leapfrog their North London rivals into second place by beating them at
Stamford Bridge.

The question is, will the Blues silence the critics of Avram Grant, who
- they claim -falters in the big matches in precisely the way his
predecessor, Jose Mourinho, rarely did? Or will Arsenal, who led
the table almost from the off, rediscover the winning knack just in
time and open up a five-point gap on Chelsea while maintaining pressure
on United above them? The stakes are high, and the top end of the
table is very much in the melting pot. Although this weekend's outcomes
won't decide the title race, they will have a significant bearing on it.

It would be a damaging psychological blow to Arsene Wenger's young
Gunners if Chelsea were to beat them on Sunday and so displace them as
United's main challengers for the title. Having been out in front for
most of the season, Arsenal's dip in form has come at just the wrong
time. Ironically, they have still lost only once in the League all
season (indeed, they have lost just once in each of the four main
competitions) and if they fail to clinch the title they will have to
blame themselves
for drawing too many matches (ten). A similar propensity to share
points rather than seize them has afflicted Liverpool's title
challenge, even more damagingly (The Reds have been involved in 11
draws).

Even though Manchester United have lost more games than the other three
'Big Four' teams (four, compared with three each for Chelsea and
Liverpool, and one for Arsenal), they have also won more (22) and drawn
fewer (four) than any of their title rivals. And with three points for
a win, these are very salient statistics.

Drawing On Mental Strength?


Particularly frustrating for Arsenal and their fans is that seven of
their draws have been against sides outside the top six, in matches
they were expected to win. Of those, four of the most damaging were
against Birmingham (home and away), Wigan (away) and Middlesbrough
(home) - and three of those games were within the last month.

If Arsenal do end the campaign without the Premier League crown, the
pivotal moment in their season may well be identified as the third
minute of their game at St Andrews on 23rd February, when Eduardo had
his leg shattered. The Gunners went into that game knowing that victory
would put then eight points clear at the top; in fact they have dropped
precisely that number of points since that sickening moment. Although
all teams suffer injuries to key players during the course of a
campaign (thankfully rarely as serious as the one Eduardo sustained),
and all are victims of dubious penalty awards against them (as Arsenal
were in the dying seconds of that game at Birmingham, when Gael Clichy,
caught napping, nevertheless appeared to play the ball before Stuart
Parnaby fell over his foot), the relevant factor is how they recover
from such set-backs.

Arsene Wenger has stressed his side's mental strength, but the hard
fact is that, in their last four Premier League matches, they have
appeared to be affected still by events at Birmingham. They need,
starting at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, to reassert their undoubted
quality and self-belief. When they are on song there are few teams that
can live with them: possibly only Manchester United, and certainly not
AC Milan or - they must convince themselves - Chelsea.

If that psychological flaw in the current Arsenal side can be
attributed to their relative youth and inexperience, another key factor
in their season is more tactical and concerns their less than
water-tight defence. Arsenal consistently look more likely to concede
goals than do Manchester United, particularly from set-pieces.

Until recently that was less of an issue because their fluency going
forward was complemented by a cutting edge in attack that could be
guaranteed to deliver end-product. But with the flow of goals suddenly
becoming trickle in the absence of Eduardo, Adebayor's braids and,
until recently, Robin van Persie, the defensive lapses have become more
costly.

Arsenal are certainly resilient: they have picked up 17 of their 67
points from games in which they were trailing. They beat Fulham (h),
Tottenham (a), Aston Villa (a) and Everton (a) from losing positions,
and came back to salvage a point against Manchester United (h),
Liverpool (a), Villa (h), Middlesbrough (h) and Birmingham (a). Only
Aston Villa can match that, having won three and drawn eight of 11 in
which they were behind.

But given that the Gunners have not lost any match in which they've
taken the lead (won 15, drawn three); and given that they've won 10 of
12 in which they've kept a clean sheet, how much energy has been
expended chasing games in which they've fallen behind? And how many
points could have been saved by not going behind in the first place?
Tighten that defence, Arsene!

The importance to Arsenal's season of beating Chelsea on Sunday - in
terms of points, psychology and morale - is thrown into further relief
by their immediate fixture list: after Stamford Bridge, they go to
Bolton, never the Gunners' happiest hunting ground, before taking on
Liverpool in three successive matches, two of them in the Champions
League. And then it's away to Manchester United.

Big Match Blues


Although Chelsea dropped two points in their 4-4 draw at Tottenham on
Wednesday, they can still inflict real damage on the other North London
giants, Arsenal, by taking the three points at Stamford Bridge.

Unlike Arsenal, Chelsea have a lot of players in their squad with
experience of what it takes to win a league title during a tense
run-in. The Blues also have the considerable psychological edge of not
having lost in 77 Premier League games since the Gunners defeated them
at the Bridge four years and one month ago. On the other hand, Arsenal
are the only side to have taken all the points off Chelsea in any of
the Blues' last 23 League games.

Indeed, Chelsea's 1-0 defeat by Arsenal at the Emirates on 16th
December (when their former player William Gallas headed the decisive
goal against an untypically tentative Petr Cech) is their only loss in
16 Premier League London derbies. Arsenal have only lost one of 15
(0-1, at home to West Ham on 7th April 2007), and have won all seven so
far this season.

Remarkably, Chelsea have only won one of their last 11 home Premier
League meetings against Arsenal, when Didier Drogba scored in the 73rd
minute of their clash on 21st August, 2005, under Jose Mourinho.
Yet while winning four and drawing six of their last 11 League visits
to Stamford Bridge, Arsenal have won only one of their last 11 meetings
with Chelsea in all competitions, which confirms that you really can
prove just about anything with statistics. So here re some more:

Chelsea have won nine and drawn four of their last 13 League games,
since that defeat at Arsenal in mid-December. This will be Avram
Grant's 25th League match in charge of the team, post-Mourinho, and
they have won 16 of the previous 24 (67%), and lost just two - against
Manchester United (a) and Arsenal (a). Grant's only other defeats as
Chelsea boss were by Tottenham in the Carling Cup final and Barnsley in
the FA Cup. His problem is that those four games are the biggest ones
he's handled, with the possible exception of Valencia away in the
Champions League, which they came from behind to win. The perception
therefore exists, certainly within the media, that Grant lacks the
tactics and temperament to win the crunch games. Sunday should help to
advance or counter that particular argument.

You can understand the Israeli coach's plea for respect from the media
given that in the League this season, Chelsea have won 19 matches; that
is the same number as Arsenal, and only Manchester United (22) can
boast more. The Blues have lost just three, and only Arsenal have lost
fewer (one). They've dropped 25 Premier League points, which only
United (20) and the Gunners (23) can better.

Defensively, the Blues have let in 22 goals - the same number as
Arsenal. Yet in Chelsea's case, eight of those goals (nearly 40%) were
conceded in two epic 4-4 draws - at home to Aston Villa on Boxing Day
and away to Spurs this week. Only Manchester United (15) and Liverpool
(21) have let in fewer League goals, and Chelsea have kept 17 clean
sheets, which only the Red Devils can better (18). Six of those
clean-sheets have been achieved in the last nine matches.

Like Arsenal, Chelsea have not lost after scoring first, winning 16 and
drawing three out of the 19 matches concerned. But they can point
to an even more impressive home record than the Gunners, who have lost
just once in their first 50 matches at the Emirates. Chelsea have
won 45 and drawn 16 of 61 at home in all competitions since their 1-2
defeat by Barcelona in the Champions League on 22nd February 2006. And
they have not lost a league game at the Bridge since the 1-2 defeat by
Arsenal on 21st February 2004, winning 57 and drawing 20. Indeed, they
haven't lost in 97 domestic matches in front of their own fans if
penalty shoot-outs are excluded (since that defeat by Arsenal more than
four years ago).
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ahmad193
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PostSubject: Re: Chelsea - Arsenal   Sat Mar 22, 2008 7:59 am

Red Mist

However, while Arsenal are routinely pilloried for their disciplinary
record under Wenger, Chelsea are fast elbowing them aside in the
bad-boy stakes. They've collected six red cards in the Premier
League this season, a statistic that only near-neighbours Fulham can
match.

And it should be seven given the behaviour of ex-Gunner Ashley Cole at
White Hart Lane last Wednesday. Cole's horribly mistimed lunge at
Alan Hutton may or may not have been malicious but was certainly
reckless and in the current climate he was lucky not to be shown a red
card. But his reaction to Mike Riley's awarding of a free-kick to Spurs
for the tackle - and the mob-handed response of his team-mates, led by
shop-steward John Terry - also deserved sterner action by the referee,
particularly in the week that the FA's new RESPECT initiative was
launched.

In the face of the furore that followed, Cole issued an apology to both
Hutton and Riley, which was something, though possibly not enough to
justify Grant's lionising of Cole's alleged "maturity." Grant
anyway could not resist using his praise for Cole's apology to slam
Arsenal's Emmanuel Eboue, whose clash with Terry in December left the
Chelsea skipper sidelined with broken metatarsal bones.

Grant berated Eboue for not apologising, in turn prompting Wenger to
defend his player, saying the Ivorian had nothing to apologise for as
the challenge had been accidental. Wenger also took the opportunity to
defend his erstwhile charge Cole, insisting for former Arsenal
left-back is not a dirty player.

Such pre-match verbal jousts, plus the likely presence on the pitch on
Sunday of Cole, Terry, Eboue, ex-Blue William Gallas and ex-Gunner
Nicolas Anelka, should contribute to a hectic afternoon for match
referee Mark Clattenburg of Tyne & Wear - especially considering
that there have been 35 bookings in the last six league and cup
meetings between these two clubs, excluding four red cards in the last
three.

How The Bosses See It


Chelsea boss Grant, concentrating on the football rather than the
controversies, said: "There are eight games to go. We wanted to get to
the position where it would be in our hands.

"We've worked hard for this from when I came here and now we need to use this situation. I am very happy with my team's form.

"We've played very good football in the last few games and scored a lot
of goals. We are in a good shape in the right moment and I am very
proud of this and respect what the players have done."

Meanwhile Wenger said of his squad: "I don't think we have a problem
with motivation. To progress now we are in the final sprint. That is
the moment where the tactical observation is gone and you just try to
win the game.

"I believe we are in a situation where the direct confrontations with
the top three teams will have a direct influence on the championship.

"It's who can beat the direct opponents that will win it. That's what we want to achieve on Sunday.

"We know they are two big games on Sunday. What is new for all four teams is they all want to win the games."

Head-To-Head

Overall, the two clubs have met 141 times in League action, with
Chelsea winning 39, Arsenal 58, and 44 games finishing as
draws. In the Premier League, the statistics are Chelsea 5 wins,
Arsenal 15, Draws 11.

At Chelsea only, the Blues have won 22, Arsenal 23, and 25 have been
drawn. In the Premier League at Stamford Bridge Chelsea have four wins,
Arsenal five, and six have finished all-square - including last
season's corresponding game (on 10th December 2006), when Mathieu
Flamini fired Arsenal into a 78th minute lead, only for Michael Essien
to equalise with a thunderbolt six minutes later.


FORM GUIDE

Chelsea

19 Mar (Premier League) v Tottenham (A) DREW 4-4
15 Mar (Premier League) v Sunderland (A) WON 1-0
12 Mar (Premier League) v Derby (H) WON 6-1
08 Mar (FA Cup) v Barnsley (A) LOST 0-1
05 Mar (Champions League) v Olympiakos (H) WON 3-0
01 Mar (Premier League) v West Ham (A) WON 4-0

Arsenal
15 Mar (Premier League) v Middlesbrough (H) DREW 1-1
09 Mar (Premier League) v Wigan (A) DREW 0-0
04 Mar (Champions League) v AC Milan (A) WON 2-0
01 Mar (Premier League) v Aston Villa (H) DREW 1-1
23 Feb (Premier League) v Birmingham (A) DREW 2-2
20 Feb (Champions League) v AC Milan (H) DREW 0-0


TEAM NEWS

Chelsea


Goalkeeper Petr Cech is facing a fitness test on the ankle injury that
kept him out of the draw with Tottenham on Wednesday, so Carlo Cudicini
is on standby. Grant will recall Anelka, Michael Ballack and Mikel John
Obi, but he may contemplate making a change or two in defence after his
normally solid backline crumbled at White Hart Lane.

Squad: Cech, Cudicini, Hilario, Ferreira, Belletti, Carvalho,
Alex, Ben-Haim, Terry, A Cole, Bridge, Ballack, Lampard, Essien, Obi,
Lampard, Shevchenko, Pizarro, Sidwell, Wright-Phillips, Malouda,
Drogba, Anelka, Kalou, Makelele.

Last Starting XI (v Tottenham): Cudicini, Ferreira (Shevchenko
90), Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Essien, Makelele, Lampard, Joe Cole
(Ballack 82), Drogba, Kalou (Alex 71). Subs Not Used: Hilario,
Wright-Phillips.


Arsenal:

Wenger is still without midfielders Tomas Rosicky (hamstring) and Abou
Diaby (calf), as well of course at Eduardo. Theo Walcott, called
up by England boss Fabio Capello in midweek, is pushing for a place in
the starting line-up.

Squad: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Eboue, Fabregas,
Flamini, Hleb, van Persie, Adebayor, Lehmann, Walcott, Song, J Hoyte,
Senderos, Gilberto, Denilson, Bendtner.

Last Starting XI (v Middlesbrough): Almunia, Sagna (Bendtner
61), Toure, Gallas, Clichy (Senderos 89), Eboue, Fabregas, Flamini,
Hleb, Adebayor, Van Persie (Walcott 61). Subs Not Used: Lehmann,
Gilberto.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Chelsea


While Frank Lampard is Chelsea's top scorer with 17 goals, and their leading marksmen in the Premier League with 10, Nicolas Anelka
has netted 11 in the League, though ten of them were for Bolton.
Anelka, of course, has been striving to get fit from a slight knee
problem to face his former club. The 29 year old France international
striker made 90 appearances (65 in the league) and scored 28 goals (23
league) for Arsenal between March 1997 and August 1999. He has also
done well against the Gunners in subsequent outings with Liverpool,
Manchester City and Bolton, and is desperate to make an impact again on
Sunday.


Arsenal

Arsenal skipper William Gallas will also be facing a former
club. The 30-year-old France international central defender made 225
appearances (159 in the league) and scored 14 goals (12 league) for
Chelsea between May 2001 and his transfer to Arsenal in August
2006. Although Jens Lehmann and Gilberto Silva won the Premier
League title with Arsenal in 2003-04, both are likely to be on the
bench rather than in the starting XI, leaving Gallas the only Gunner
with experience of withstanding the pressures of the final furlong to
lift the crown. He did so twice under Mourinho, with who he had a
prickly relationship, in 2004-05 and 2005-06. The leadership qualities
of Gallas were questioned a month ago in matches against Manchester
United and Birmingham, though to be fair he has been authoritative and
defensively sound since then, setting the ight sort of example. He will
be burning with desire to prevent Chelsea getting anything from
Sunday's clash.


PREDICTION

A tense, tight, titanic struggle is in prospect, with no quarter asked
or given, and the tackles likely to be flying in. Neither side can
really afford to lose this, and while a draw would not terminally
damage either side's challenge, both will be hell-bent on winning it. A
fifth successive draw is not what Arsenal need, nor a second what the
Blues require given Manchester United's current surge.

Home advantage really is a potent factor in Chelsea's case, but all
runs must come to an end sometime - and perhaps this weekend is when
Chelsea will lose their proud home record and Arsenal will end their
winless streak.

In the last four meetings between the two teams, Arsenal took the lead;
but they went on to win only on of the games - the most recent, in
December. If they can get in front in again, will they hold out for
another victory this time?

This is a critical moment in Arsenal's season and, with the chips down
and odds seemingly against them, they may just produce another (very
timely) performance of the sort that recently left Milan chasing
shadows.

Chelsea 1-2 Arsenal


Graham Lister

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ahmad193
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PostSubject: Re: Chelsea - Arsenal   Sat Mar 22, 2008 8:00 am

i think we'll all be surprised by this one ...

a win for chelsea

3-1
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PostSubject: Re: Chelsea - Arsenal   Sat Mar 22, 2008 8:09 am

Avraam Grant is shit.

Arsenal win.
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PostSubject: Re: Chelsea - Arsenal   Sun Mar 23, 2008 12:39 pm

2-1

close enough

shit.. i hate the looks of the table

plus we're playing you guys the next couple of weeks! :r
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PostSubject: Re: Chelsea - Arsenal   Sun Mar 23, 2008 12:40 pm

we'll let you beat us in the league if you let us beat u in europe Razz

its a win win situation
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PostSubject: Re: Chelsea - Arsenal   Mon Mar 24, 2008 7:28 am

Nah, i'd rather have Europe tbh.
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PostSubject: Re: Chelsea - Arsenal   Mon Mar 24, 2008 8:14 am

then its a fight to the death

it begins

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PostSubject: Re: Chelsea - Arsenal   Tue Mar 25, 2008 5:51 pm

That was a funny one, thanks Ahmad
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