Saturday, 22 March 2014

Chelsea vs Arsenal: Match Preview + Wenger's millennium thoughts


I am not looking forward to this match.

The fact that this is Wenger's thousandth eclipses that Chelsea could well batter us today. Mourinho trouncing Wenger in every match is not a jinx or coincidence - Jose's a tactical genius while Wenger's a tactical imbecile.

To assume that Arsenal will break two well-documented records today just because it's Wenger's millennium is madness. Nothing magical is going to happen at Stamford Bridge just because Wenger's hit a milestone. On the contrary, the sense of occasion might distract the players from their real objective - getting a positive result.

We need our defence to be at their best today. I for one was not convinced by their performance at White Hart Lane, irrespective of the plaudits they got after the match. If we want to sneak a draw (best we can hope for), then the back four needs to be like they were against Dortmund or Newcastle.

This is one of the weakest Mourinho teams I've known, yet I'm frightened of them. While I believe that Arsenal are not far away from them in terms of talent in the team, I'm frightened because they have Mourinho at the helm.

I hate the guy, I reckon Mourinho is football's enemy, but I also fear his ruthless winning mentality. And if Wenger makes it too easy for him by failing to motivate the team and with redundant tactics, I suspect we'll see a repeat of the Liverpool hammering.

My primary target for the season, as I've always said, is finishing 2nd and winning the FA Cup. Anything below that wouldn't necessary be failure, but it would be a huge disappointment. If we want that second place trophy (much better than a fourth placed one), then we should be getting at least a draw at Stamford Bridge.

Forget winning at Mourinho's backyard, that ain't gonna happen with this tired team which is average up front. We should instead be grateful that every match starts at 0-0 and look to keep it that way until the end. Drawing at the Bridge will look like a much more positive result in hindsight, trust me.

Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium is winnable. However, defeating Mourinho's Chelsea is unlikely. The only way Arsenal can win (with this team) is if they keep it ultra-tight at the back and be clinically ruthless on the counter. To counter, we need pace, and for that Olivier Giroud needs to be dropped.

Personally, my lineup would consist of Szczesny - Sagna - Mertesacker - Koscielny - Gibbs - Flamini - Chamberlain - Cazorla - Rosicky (if he makes it) - Gnabry - Podolski. However, under Wenger, I'm almost certain that he'll pay no heed to necessary changes and only make man-to-man replacements.

I suspect we'll see the standard back five, Flamenta in the center, the forward trio of Santi, Ox and Poldi with Giroud up front. It won't be a bad attacking lineup, but I don't trust Giroud to do anything spectacular today if this is the case. He's clearly tired, his workrate is absent, his concentration is lost and personal life and fan pressure is getting to him. I'd rather have Yaya Sanogo up front.

I feel that it would be foolish and unfair to ask of Arsenal to win this game. A tired, injury ravaged squad led by tactically crippled Arsene Wenger is hardly ideal to falter Chelsea's title bid. I'm sure that the players are motivated and eager to win this match, but their efforts would be pointless if guided in the wrong direction.

If Wenger doesn't change the system and doesn't set the mentality straight, I think Chelsea will batter us.

--

I'm not going to overrate Wenger's milestone any further. In my opinion, it wasn't consistently excellent performances that earned him the feat of being at Arsenal for 999 games, it was a frightened board and deluded supporters.

No other manager would have lasted at their clubs after finishing third and fourth with Cesc, Nasri, van Persie, Wilshere, Song, Flamini, Hleb, Eduardo, Adebayor and Thierry in their ranks. No other manager would have lasted at their clubs after replacing Vieira with Diaby and van Persie with Giroud. No other manager would have lasted at their clubs after getting comprehensively humiliated by Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool.

Wenger slowly lost my respect over this season, especially when he clearly indicated that he didn't want to win the league after refusing to buy in January. It is his fault that winning the EPL has become a pipe dream now, it is his fault that a season which showed so much promise is now looking like 'FA Cup or bust'. Wenger's responsible for lowering my expectations from 1st to 2nd, and I will never forgive him for that.

If he wants my respect (and the respect of like-minded Gooners), then he'd better work out a plan at Stamford Bridge, for starters. He should face facts and let pragmatism take hold from now till May. In the summer, he should replace potential departures (Fabianski, Viviano, Sagna, Vermaelen, Podolski) with genuine quality and not youth products. It is only then will he regain his status as 'legend' in my eyes.

Let's start from today.

P.S. For the past two weeks, I was at work making a website which was finally launched a few days ago. Give it a whirl, it's called 'Brangled Minds' and has a football section as well, on which I already wrote an article.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )