Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal is also set to be one of his most important. If the Gunners can get a result against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, it could blow the title race wide open.
Arsenal are likely to field a very similar team to the one that won at White Hart Lane. Despite the good form of Lukasz Fabianski, Wojciech Szczesny will continue in goal. Szczesny will hope to iron out the errors that crept in to his game against Spurs. A more clinical player than Nacer Chadli would surely have punished his untimely second-half flap.
The back four will surely be identical. Bacary Sagna, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs were outstanding at Tottenham, and they will need to be so again to keep Chelsea at bay. Sagna and Gibbs will need to be particularly vigilant to stop Eden Hazard causing damage by cutting inside from the flanks.
Arsenal’s only change is likely to come in midfield. Chelsea’s recent defeat against Aston Villa means this has become a fixture that Arsenal cannot afford to lose rather than one they have to win. With that in mind, Wenger may well opt to introduce Mathieu Flamini alongside Mikel Arteta at the base of Arsenal’s midfield. Flamini and Arteta would offer Wenger stability, strength and a wealth of experience.
Flamini’s inclusion will not see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain drop out of the team. Instead, he will be moved forward into a right-wing role. Wenger will hope Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pace and direct running will test Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea’s right-footed left-back.
Bringing Flamini in will most likely see Lukas Podolski drop to the bench. Podolski was anonymous at Spurs, and he is not renowned for offering support to his full-back. In his stead, Santi Cazorla will move over to the left flank.
After his goalscoring heroics in the derby, Tomas Rosicky seems certain to continue in the central attacking-midfield role. Rosicky insists he is now able to exert his influence upon the biggest games. The Czech midfielder told Arsenal.com:
I am not a big goalscorer but I can score big goals. I would like to get on the scoresheet more but for me it's not easy.
It will be a vital game against Chelsea but still there are so many games to go so we don't know what will happen after that. It can change very, very quickly in two games and of course you talk about Chelsea and Man City but you have to talk about Liverpool as well. There are four teams there and it is absolutely exciting.
Upfront, Arsenal will once again call upon Olivier Giroud. Against the partnership of Gary Cahill and John Terry, Giroud will certainly have his work cut out. This would be a fine time to confound his critics and prove that he can score against top-four opposition.
Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Arteta, Flamini; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Cazorla; Giroud.
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