Chelsea vs. Arsenal: More Needed from Midfield in Battle of Lone Strikers

Dan BrettContributor IIIMarch 22, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 08:  Olivier Giroud of Arsenal celebrates with teammate Mesut Oezil after scoring his team's fourth goal during the FA Cup Quarter-Final match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on March 8, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Chelsea and Arsenal meet in a battle of the top three, with both sides employing a 4-5-1 formation for large parts of the season.

Samuel Eto'o has led the line for the Blues in their last two home matches, with Olivier Giroud regularly spearheading the Gunners' attack.

But with just Manchester City conceding fewer goals than Chelsea and Arsenal this season, chances for lone strikers will be few and far between.

Therefore, both sides' respective midfielders will have to bear responsibility if they are to keep their team's title dreams alive.


When: Saturday, March 22 at 12.45 p.m. GMT/8.45 a.m. ET

Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England

TV Info: BT Sport

Live Stream: BT Sport app


The hosts could arguably be the better suited of the two sides going into the title crunch match.

Per, four of Chelsea's top-five goalscorers are situated in midfield.

Eden Hazard has bagged 13 goals this season, with six strikes from advancing winger Andre Schurrle.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 08:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea celebrates after scoring his team's second goal from the penalty spot during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on March 8, 2014 in London, England
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Oscar has also hit six, with Frank Lampard weighing in with another five goals.

Eto'o has scored seven goals as the lone striker, highlighting the side's ability to create and score from their quintet of playmakers.

As tweeted by ESPN FC, all of those matches have come with home comforts:

In the side's 4-0 home win against Tottenham, Eto'o bagged the opener, with Hazard slotting in from a penalty.

Demba Ba also weighed in with a brace after coming on as a 76th-minute substitute.

But the team's chance creation, excluding strikers, highlighted their ability to win the Blues' fixtures.

According to WhoScored, Eto'o and Ba made up just four of the side's 12 attempts on goal.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 08:  Demba Ba of Chelsea scores his team's third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on March 8, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

However, Arsenal's reliance on Olivier Giroud could be their downfall at the Bridge.

The Frenchman has netted 12 league goals for the Gunners this season.

Aaron Ramsey has scored eight goals of his own, with Theo Walcott adding five strikes to the club's tally.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Olivier Giroud of Arsenal (L) is challenged by Liam Bridcutt of Sunderland during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Sunderland at Emirates Stadium on February 22, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Mich
Michael Regan/Getty Images

This has left responsibility heavy on Giroud's shoulders, with the striker faltering in the 1-0 win over Spurs.

Albeit a victory, the 27-year-old failed to manage a single shot on target, despite playing the entire match, per WhoScored.

Tomas Rosicky stepped up to the plate to score the winner after just 72 seconds, assisted by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Giroud has scored four goals in his last two home games, per WhoScored.

But the striker hasn't managed to net away from the Emirates since levelling in the 2-2 draw at Southampton at the end of January.

Mikel Arteta slotted home a penalty in the last home match against Everton in the FA Cup.

Speaking recently with Arsenal Player, the Spaniard praised the way in which his side can change up their options, per Sky Sports:

It helps the team because we can rotate players and we can play differently. We can play with two [in midfield] and it gives us another option. No-one has been able to play every game this season. I think the league is getting more demanding, you need a big squad, you can't afford to have only 11 players.

Giroud's biggest asset over lone striker counterpart Eto'o, arguably, is his hold-up play.

The muscular, combative frame of the Frenchman can act as the perfect foil for an onrushing midfielder.

The Gunners hold a game in hand over their Stamford Bridge counterparts and could move within one point of Jose Mourinho's men with a win.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

With nine games to go for Arsenal, the run-in looks treacherous as matches against title-chasing City and European hopefuls Everton still remain.

Add that to tricky ties against struggling Swansea, Hull, West Brom and Norwich, there could be a call for more support for Giroud up top.

If the club are to win their first title in 10 years, Arsene Wenger's chosen midfielders must carry the goalscoring mantle.

More moments, such as that offered by Rosicky, must come to the fore and take pressure off Giroud or risk burning out the striker for the crucial final stretch.