Arsenal's title ambition is entering into the deciding phase. Sunday's clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge can be termed the "season decider."
Arsenal's lacklustre performance against the Red devils last week has made the situation even more worse. Manchester United outplayed the Gunners in every department. Furthermore, Arsenal's defence looked shockingly fragile and mediocre.
A loss for the Gunners wouldn’t be the end of the world for their league campaign, but surely a defeat against the Blues would virtually end their title hopes for yet another year.
A Chelsea win would take them nine points clear of Arsenal and the three-way title race would become more of a Manchester United vs. Chelsea affair.
After being pummelled by Manchester United, Wenger must bounce back with at least one point, if not all the three points to stay alive in the title race.
Chelsea have been tagged as the favourites to win the Premier league from the very beginning of the season.
Stamford Bridge is an intimidating fortress. Chelsea's last defeat at home was in 2008, ironically, against the Gunners, thanks to the brace from Robin Van Persie. Since then, Chelsea haven't even tasted a single defeat in the 23 games played at the Bridge.
Arsenal's major concern is the lack of quality in the striking department.
Van Persie, Wenger's first choice Center-Forward, is injured, and he's virtually out for the entire season.
Surprisingly, Wenger didn't really manage to find a replacement, and he's operating with the makeshift strikers.
Eduardo's poor form coupled with injury to Nicklas Bendtner hasn't made the situation any better.
But, Bendtner is set to make his first start after the long injury lay-off, and this is the ideal time for him to prove his worth. He's the one who never says nothing. He's having tremendous confidence in his abilities, and it's time for him to show real quality and skills against top sides. The situation is perfect. In the absence of Van Perise, he's got the opportunity to play in his most preferred position as a CF and by chance, if he fails, this might probably be his last season in the Arsenal Jersey.
A "very, very, very small" injury to Eduardo is not so small, and he's out against Chelsea. He's having a frustrating season after a decent start.
Abou Diaby picks up injury after every good outing. He's one of the most improved player this season and for the first time in his Arsenal career, the supporters feels that he's vital to the cause of Arsenal. This lanky mid-fielder gives an extra dimension to Arsenal's mid-field with his "something-out-of nothing" play. He's likely to miss the game against Chelsea due to a calf injury and that's a real set-back for Arsenal.
Manuel Almunia had a few poor games this season, but he's likely to retain his place in the starting line-up.
Gael Clichy has been really poor in the last two game, and it's time for him to show up with a decent performance.
Samir Nasri is another player who's been on the periphery, lacking the vigour. Nasri was expected to perform better than what he's done in his first season, but surprisingly he's gone a step or two backwards. Hopefully, Nasri can find his lost penetration and marvellous dribbling, sooner rather than later.
Title-favourites Chelsea have been flying high with a fantastic start to the new year.
Even the absence of Didier Drogba hasn't pulled them back. Nicklas Anelka—with his improved all round play—is supporting Drogba in the best possible way.
Drogba's two goals were instrumental in Chelsea's 3-0 victory over Arsenal back in November, 2009. So, it's a no-brainer that tying Drogba down would unsettle Ancelotti's tactics. Having said that, Arsenal's defence, even with Thomas Vermealen, has suffered against Drogba; this defensive flaw surely gives Chelsea the upper hand.
John Terry's saga continues. He's been stripped of the captaincy by Fabio Capello following his alleged affair with the ex-girlfriend of international teammate Wayne Bridge. Perhaps it would be better for Arsenal to unsettle him by screaming "ooooh Vanessa" from the Stands.
Meanwhile, Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp is confident that his team can overpower Arsenal to finish in the top three; in reality, even the Spurs fans are nothing but sure that their team is not going to finish any better than sixth.
"Anyone is capable with a run. Arsenal are not 100 percent sure to be there if they get beaten by Chelsea and other teams pick up good results. If we had beaten Birmingham last week when leading 1-0, then we are suddenly not so far away from Arsenal. Someone could get third spot. Manchester City could. We could. Liverpool could," said the optimistic Tottenham boss.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Bendtner is most likely to come on as a second-half substitute. Arshavin may yet again play as the lone striker supported by Nasri and Rosicky on the flanks.
Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas is sure to start but the third spot in the mid-field is up for the grabs.
Denilson was "outstandingly" poor in the last few games, reiterating the criticism that he's not good enough to play for Arsenal.
If Abou Diaby is not fit, Wenger has no choice but to go for Denilson, yet again. Ramsey is too inexperienced to play in these big derby games, so he might not make it into the starting line-up.
Theo Walcott is set to feature on the bench.
Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermealen, Clichy, Fabregas, Song, Denilson, Nasri, Arshavin, Rosicky.
Away teams have so far struggled this season in the Premier league.
Chelsea is rock solid at Stamford Bridge, so snatching three-points wouldn't be possible without some brilliant play.
Fabregas holds the key. Luckily for Arsenal, Michael Essien's absence would give more freedom, especially to Fabregas.
Arsenal can beat Chelsea. It's not impossible, but highly unlikely.
Arsenal's lack of composure and poor decision-making coupled with some fragile defending and poor goalkeeping gives Chelsea the advantage.
This game has got a Chelsea win written all over it. Massive challenge. But, I can't see Arsenal winning this game.
A 2-0 victory for Chelsea. Drogba to feature on the score-sheet!!