Chelsea will be aiming to get back to winning ways when they travel to take on league leaders Arsenal. The champions facing the table toppers is usually one of the highlights of the season, but this game certainly has less shine now that the Blues are struggling down in 14th place. Can Guus Hiddink’s men bridge the 19 point gap between the London rivals and pull off a huge win?
The last two games haven’t gone that well for the Blues, they’ve dropped points in both, and looked sloppy at the back. A last minute West Brom equaliser denied them in midweek, before they went 2-0 down against Everton. They may have fought back well, but there are some alarming problems that just won’t go away. How will they deal with this step up?
The free week should be a big boost to the team, giving them extra time to rest and more time on the training ground. Working on their defensive shape will be key, as that absolutely has to improve. Hiddink played with two defensive midfielders last weekend, and the team still shipped goals. Even with extra screening, there are serious problems at the back.
While there probably won’t be too many reinforcements for the backline, we should see more work put in to fixing those errors. That work will probably be done with both John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic in mind, as those two are likely to keep their places ahead of this game. Naming two defensively minded players in midfield was Jose Mourinho’s tactic in these games and we expect Hiddink to take a similar approach.
The Gunners should have Mesut Ozil back in their team before this one, and it’s hard to imagine what he could do on Sunday given the space the Blues have been affording the opposition this term. The German is having his best season since joining Arsenal, and if the Blues let him roam free then this clash won’t end well for them. If their defensive display is anything like what happened on Saturday, then Match of the Day 2 might be one to miss for Blues fans.
Ahead of these kinds of big games teams tend to sharpen up, just look at how much tighter United and Liverpool were in their clash after both recording 3-3 draws days before. The visitors should be a lot better at the back, but even that might not be enough.
There are parts of the team that are working, like Willian’s wing play, and Diego Costa’s return to form. The problem here is that Costa is expected to miss out, after coming off injured on Saturday. Just as the partnership between him and Cesc Fabregas began to click once more, the forward has picked up a knock.
Given the mounting problems, it’s hard to see anything but a home win here. The days when Chelsea would bully Arsenal off the park are gone, which means this game is going to be a real struggle.
LCN Verdict: Arsenal to win 2-0