Scouting Report: Arsenal vs Chelsea

Chelsea’s Champions League run last season is probably what really brought to light Roberto Di Matteo’s reign at the club. It was the defence-first kind of football that just managed to take absolutely everything in the world that annoyed you and make it look like it was nothing. But it was that kind of negative football that won them Europe’s biggest trophy, it’s the same kind of football that England were so enthusiastic about over the European Championships and it did work to a certain extent.

So obviously, you wouldn’t expect Di Matteo to change his style much. Even the signings of Eden Hazard hasn’t added much in that regard. Last season, we saw just how tough they were to break down as the match ended in a goalless draw.  Offensively we do have a little less to worry about. The absence of Didier Drogba is probably the most comforting thing going into this match.

The Formation

Chelsea play a defensive 4-2-3-1. They look to contain the opposition, striking on the counter. The big problem here is that unlike the match against City, where we expected to dominate possession and did for the most part, we’re going to face a team that’s set up to draw the opposition in. Chelsea will definitely make it difficult to get through their backline as a result of that. The saving grace is that, apart from Mata and Hazard, they are generally very poor in possession (only completed 70.7% of their passes in the final third in the previous fixture) so we should be able to dominate the match.

The Gameplan

As mentioned earlier, Chelsea will look to draw us in and hit us on the counter. As mentioned several times over the course of the season, Arsenal’s deeper line makes it tougher for us to be caught off guard. Less players are committed forward with the talent up front more than able to compensate. Again, the beauty of the 4-2-3-1 we play is that we’ll see the short triangles coming to good use in breaking Chelsea down.

We saw against City how their relatively deep line was constantly been drawn out by quick passing, leaving them open on multiple occasions for us to counter.

They play a very direct game as you’d expect. It left us really exposed at Stamford Bridge last season but a better defensive approach at the Emirates ensured that we got a point out of it, although we arguably deserved all three. That shouldn’t be as much of a problem this time around with Arteta sitting back to intercept long balls to Torres.

The Dangermen

The man has a name that practically wants you to put him in this section. Eden Hazard is about as dangerous a player as you can get. Every team these days seems to have at least one all-round footballer. Hazard can pass, dribble, shoot and has the physicality to hold his own against stronger players. The Belgian almost seems to play in a free role so it won’t be easy to mark him either.

In the opening few games of the season he’s definitely had a few chunks kicked out of him by opposition defenders. It’s led to Chelsea having penalties and freekicks in dangerous positions. Arsenal aren’t exactly a rough team but a few mistimed tackles here or there and we could be in real trouble. At the same time, not aggressively closing down could lead to even more dangerous scoring opportunities.

The Weak Links

It’s not easy to pick any one player out as a weak link. Chelsea have good players who also happen to be prone to quite a few mistakes. Petr Cech has been quite poor over the last year or so. Players like Mikel and Ramires lose possession far to easily. With Torres you never know how many easy chances he’ll miss and how many difficult ones he’ll score. So it’s not a question of pinpointing a single weakness but trying to exploit Chelsea’s shortcomings as a whole.

The Verdict

Chelsea have only just scraped by in their games so far. Arsenal have been in good form and should be able to take this one at home.



About Saurabh

Childhood Arsenal fan. Student of the game.

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