Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge back in November, a win which kicked off Arsenal’s 21 match unbeaten run. Some folks say Arsenal were given a bit of good fortune as Robin van Persie’s first goal was widely seen as offside, but sometimes good luck is exactly what a team needs to kick off a winning run.
That said, these are not the same two teams that lined up against each other. Arsenal have added some serious quality in Andrei Arshavin (who will be out with the “flu” tomorrow) and Chelsea have abandoned the Scolari/Deco experiment in favor of the more direct approach of Hiddink/Essien. Both clubs are in good form now and both clubs have something to play for: 3rd place in the Premier League.
The absolute gulf in class between the two clubs is evident not on the pitch, where Chelsea have spent “magic money” as Wenger put it to win exactly zero trophies in two years, but in the board room, where Arsenal fined Bendtner for his off field actions but Hiddink is asking Roman to go easy on Drogba after his disgusting on-field actions after their crash out of the Champions League. It’s always been that way, though, and we should expect no less from the world’s most classless club.
Drogba may miss tomorrow’s game as Hiddink thinks he’s not mentally stable enough to get involved in a huge clash like this, which begs the question, is he ever mentally stable?
Meanwhile, the tin-foil-hatters will be in full tin-foil-hat mode over the fact that Arshavin is being left out of the clash having come down with the flu. Add in that Arsene left Andrei off the starting XI during the Chelsea/Arsenal FA Cup clash and there is some strong circumstantial “evidence” that Arsene is afraid to play Andrei against Hiddink. The theory goes that Hiddink knows some weakness in his Russian star’s game and would exploit that weakness and show the EPL how to beat Arshavin. Personally, I think it’s just coincidence.
First, why would Hiddink expose his star player’s weakness? Wouldn’t doing that also hurt his Russian team too? Second, I think the FA Cup match can be explained simply as a tactical mistake by the boss. He probably figured that Arshavin would have more impact as a super sub, exploiting tired Chelsea legs at the end of a hard fought FA Cup match. And third, it is possible that Arshavin is just sick, in fact, it’s more than possible, it’s the most likely answer!
One player that Arsenal will absolutely use tomorrow is Gibbs; owing to the fact that Clichy is out for the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his back and Silvestre is shit. I think this is a wonderful inclusion, if Arsene project is to bring along youth players then we might as well use some of them. Plus, he made a mistake, yes, but nothing will help his confidence more than the manager putting him right back in to the starting XI… in a London derby… which may well decide the title… and which will certainly decide the all important 3rd place.
Right, that’s pretty much it, if you want to read Arsene talk about “magic money” or “bringing in one or two players” or hear him talk about what will almost certainly be a heated and prolonged summer transfer period, head on over to the dot com. There are more articles on that topic than Carter has little liver pills.