Last season ended what was clearly a long period of trophy drought for Arsenal. They came from two goals down to beat Hull City in the FA cup final. Before the Cup success, boss Arsene Wenger was taunted by a chief enemy in the dugout, Jose Mourinho. But that was after he (Wenger) drew first blood by suggesting the Portuguese was ‘’afraid to lose’’ in the frantic title race that Manchester City won.
In reply, Wenger was branded a ‘’specialist in failure’’ by the Chelsea boss. Albeit, he had the last laugh with the gunners’ eventual FA Cup triumph. But domestic results on the road, especially the nauseating 6-0 demolition in Stamford Bridge made last season’s achievement bittersweet for the North London club.
It was the Frenchman’s 1000th game in his managerial career. A draw would have been a fair outcome to calm the nerves of an Arsene Wenger, who has never beaten a Jose Mourinho team. But a calamitous match saw the team exit Stamford Bridge in terrible shame.
‘’It’s one of the worst days of my career, ’’ Wenger said in his post-match conference.
The players came under heavy scrutiny regarding why they shockingly switched off, after what seemed like an inspiring start at the Bridge. Yet, Wenger must take a huge chunk of the blame for his team’s poor display that day. His rigid and stubborn antics have seen his side stutter on numerous occasions, most especially against the big four teams in the league.
Wenger’s occasional poor selections and tactics have seen big teams figure them inside out, and that has almost always make them vulnerable and easy to destroy.
Furthermore, the manager’s reluctance to overhaul some vulnerable positions in the squad have raised further questions on the team’s hunger for titles.
After the acquisition of Alexis Sanchez, David Ospina and eventually Danny Welbeck, Arsenal managed to replace Bacary Sagna with Mathieu Debuchy and brought in a precarious Calum Chambers from Southampton. And that was it. A summer transfer overhaul left the North London outfit with only six established defenders.
Predictably, the injury plague struck again. Debuchy twisted his ankle all alone against Manchester City. That has seen the France right back miss some key games for the club. His absence forced a young Chambers to stick at right back. In central defence, it’s dire. An injury to either Kosiceny or Merteshacker could lead to Flamini or Gibbs as replacements.
However, Arsenal’s selection have some positives ahead of this Sunday’s London derby.
In Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal posses a diminutive machine with immense work rate. His burgeoning pace has a way of traumatizing opposition teams. And if the telepathic bond with Danny Welbeck continues, Cahill and Terry’ would definitely have their hands full.
Welbeck has been a standout after his switch to London. In his debut game against familiar rival, Manchester City, he hit the woodwork. But the 23-year old striker has since not looked back.
He now boasts four goals in five appearances for Arsenal, and most recently scored a competitive hatrick in his team’s demolition of Turkish side Galatasary in the Uefa Champions League.
In his former club, the England Striker was drafted to the left flank of a three-man attack that left him isolated. In Arsenal, he has been handed the main striker berth that has boosted his confidence.
After the thumping of Galatasary, team-mate Alex Oxlade Chamberlain noted:
‘’ Danny is a great player and he has shown it for many years at Manchester United’’
But how can Welbeck be influential for the visitors against an experienced and solid Chelsea back four on Sunday?
His intelligent runs, eye for goal and awesome positioning makes him a threat and that gift can trouble the Chelsea central defence pairing that is susceptible to pressure. Danny’s success however rests in the legs of the German Sheppard Mesut Ozil.
Ozil again on Wednesday night sent a message of intent that he is a phenomenal force when played from the middle. Identical to Welbeck’s troubles, Ozil has struggled to perform when switched to an unfamiliar position on left flank, to accommodate more players in midfield.
Wenger must now integrate Ozil to his customary slot to bring the best out of the 25-year old.
Chelsea though are built very difficult to beat under Jose Mourinho. With Matic and Fabregas lurking, Arsenal must avoid committing too many bodies upfront, because the latter would notably seek to find Diego Costa, who is having a scintillating maiden season in English football.
Arsenal Champions League collapse in the Westfalenstadion stadium against Dortmund showed how the team’s the back four tend to fizzle out under pressure.
That is a path Jose Mourinho’s disciples would love to exploit in the derby. Mou prefers his team to start games on the front foot, controlling possession in the process and staying disciplined at the back.
If Arsenal are unable to find their feet in the first 15 minutes, an early goal might go in for Chelsea. However, an early goal for the Gunners could change the dynamics of the game and hand Wenger a first win against a familiar foe.