Arsenal vs. Chelsea Preview: 6 Key Battles to Watch at the Emirates Stadium
Five games into the 2012-2013 English Premier League season, and Chelsea find themselves top of the league with 13 points and a goal difference of plus-seven.
Arsenal are fifth with nine points, but Arsene Wenger’s men are the only team to match that plus-seven goal difference.
Here are six mouthwatering battles to watch at the Emirates Stadium.
Thomas Vermaelen vs. Fernando Torres
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Given Fernando Torres’ inconsistent and shaky form so far this season, Arsenal captain and defensive rock Thomas Vermaelen will welcome the challenge from the Premier League’s erstwhile most fearsome striker.
Torres has shown glimpses of his old self at times but has thus far failed to find the finishing touch in the Premier League to prove that he is back to his best.
Indeed, perhaps his best days might really be behind him.
By contrast, Vermaelen has formed a rock-solid central defensive partnership with Per Mertesacker this season.
Even if the quicker Laurent Koscielny might be preferred on Saturday against a strong Chelsea attack, Vermaelen’s leadership at the back will be required to maintain Arsenal’s league-best defensive record of just two goals conceded.
Abou Diaby vs. Eden Hazard
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Slightly ahead of the Vermaelen-Torres battle will be a clash of revelations for their respective teams.
Abou Diaby has returned to his best, and might even have added that very important element of consistency to his game.
If he goes one further and works on his goal scoring, then he might very well represent the Premier League’s best challenger to Manchester City midfield phenom Yaya Toure.
Challenging Toure’s colleague David Silva for the mantle of best attacking playmaker in English football is Chelsea’s new big-money signing Eden Hazard.
Hazard has already set the league alight since his arrival from Lille and will be looking to show himself as the best midfielder on show at the Emirates.
Mikel Arteta vs. Frank Lampard
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It won’t be easy for Hazard, though.
Mikel Arteta matches up against Frank Lampard in the battle of attacking-midfielders-turned-withdrawn-playmakers. That’s a handful, and these two will be as well.
Arteta has found joy in a new Andrea Pirlo-like role for Arsenal, while Lampard, with the emergence of Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata, has taken up a similar position for the Blues.
Of course, in addition to their passing range, both players are dead-ball specialists and pack a punch from long range, so look to them as two key attacking players on Saturday.
Santi Cazorla vs. Juan Mata
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And so the battle between like-for-like players continues with Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata.
Cazorla has been nothing short of a revelation since signing for the Gunners from Malaga this summer, and he has already notched a goal and two assists for his new club.
His close ball control, dribbling and eye for a killer pass will cause the Chelsea back line untold problems, and Roberto Di Matteo’s defensive line will have to be at their best to stop Arsenal’s new star.
But Chelsea have their very own Spanish maestro in Juan Mata.
Mata has kept his place in the Chelsea starting XI despite Hazard and Oscar’s excellence this season, and that is a testament to his ability and importance to the side.
While Cazorla and Mata won’t be directly squaring up to each other, the battle between two of the league’s premier attacking midfielders should be one to look forward to.
Lukas Podolski vs. Branislav Ivanovic
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Fellow new arrival Lukas Podolski has instantly found his feet in the Premier League and has already supplied Arsene Wenger with two goals and one assist.
His finishing ability and willingness to track back and contribute defensively makes him a fixture in Wenger’s side, and he will be looking to provide his opposite number, Branislav Ivanovic, with plenty of problems to think about.
Not that Ivanovic will be fazed.
Indeed, Ivanovic will give Podolski plenty to think about as well, given his penchant for bombing forward and getting in goal-scoring positions.
He has already scored two goals from right-back, and his solid defensive work will be key to a defense increasingly looking to wean itself off John Terry’s leadership.
Theo Walcott vs. Gary Cahill
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Theo Walcott turned in an encouraging performance in the midweek Capital One Cup tie against Coventry City, which will have gotten more fans on his side in his bid to move to a striking role permanently.
Regardless of his on-field position on Saturday (or indeed, whether he starts on the bench or not), Walcott remains a player who can change a game in an instant, and thus will almost definitely be involved at some stage against Chelsea.
With John Terry’s trial going on, Gary Cahill could deputize for him in central defense, and against Walcott, he will have his work cut out.
A relatively lethargic Chelsea back line, no matter how high or deep they might play, will struggle against Walcott’s searing pace. Cahill will be looking to Ashley Cole to help him out.
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Two of the best attacking midfields in the Premier League will be on show at the Emirates on Saturday.
Given their prolific scoring record and Chelsea’s porous defence, this might just end up as a Premier League classic.
Who do you think will win the game? And who wins these individual battles? Let us know in the comments below.
Also check out: Why Wenger Should Try Walcott As a Striker