Scouting Report: Arsenal vs Chelsea
Chelsea have come off two huge victories in the last week. Their matches against Spurs and Barcelona may have brought a lot of glee to Arsenal fans but should they walk out of the Emirates with three points, it really puts a top four spot in jeopardy for us which seemed all but secured until the loss to Wigan on Monday.
Since the appointment of Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea have looked like a tough side to beat and that is due in no small part to Di Matteo’s 4-2-3-1. It is a fluid formation going forward and very difficult to break down defensively.
They have played with a much more defensive mentality in recent times and look to attack on the counter. Playing a high line on Saturday could pose problems for our defence since Chelsea have also been playing a much more direct brand of football. They could easily spring a 50-60 yard pass to the lone striker up front to catch the opposition defence off guard and as we saw, it cost Spurs dearly last weekend. If they do choose to start Fernando Torres up front instead of Didier Drogba that wouldn’t be the best approach for them to take and could rule out the long ball as a major threat.
Chelsea’s attacking movement will no doubt put the pressure on Arsenal’s defence from various angles. Their wingers play a very advanced role and are often level with the striker, forming a three man front line. They also stay compact, forcing the opposition fullbacks to come inside to defend them. This leaves space out wide for the Chelsea fullbacks to overlap and cause problems down the wing. Good ol’ Cashley is usually found a lot higher up the pitch than Jose Bosingwa who will be filling in for the suspended Branislav Ivanovic. The open space on the left means the honourable John Terry then moves wide to cover the gap. This is the only real exploitable part of their formation as it leaves them open on the counter.
If allowed to set their defence it will be very difficult to penetrate the box and we could find ourselves struggling to create like we did against Wigan. Chelsea tend to throw everyone behind the ball but as proven by Barcelona on Wednesday it isn’t absolutely impossible to get in on goal. It was just their poor finishing that cost them.
If the defence does manage to set up, then quick, one touch passing to get in behind the back line is a possibility but the better option would be attacking from out wide. A lot of chances against Chelsea in the last few games have been cut backs from the byline, when the back four are far too deep into the box, leaving an open gap for a midfielder to run into and have a shot on goal.
Juan Mata has arguably been Chelsea’s best player this season. Using his pace and dribbling ability, he’s always a threat in attack and it’s not easy to really gauge what he is capable of.
Mata does drop deep to help bridge a gap between the deeper lying midfielder and the attack. He doesn’t drift out of position too often but he can definitely be a threat down the wing being his primary role under Villas-Boas.
The Weak Link
Ivanovic would have been the major threat in defence had he not been suspended so second choice right back, Jose Bosingwa could be targeted as a weak link in this match. If Wenger gives Ox a chance down the left then it could be a very interesting match up with the 18 year old more likely to come out on top.
This will undoubtedly be a tight affair with the most likely outcome being a draw. Arsenal do however have the knack of going up a gear when facing a big team and we could possibly pull off a very important win.