Chelsea vs Arsenal: Laurent Koscielny and Samir Nasri Carry the Hopes of Gunners
Arsenal will take on the table toppers Chelsea, in a fixture, which could be pivotal to the way the season pans out. All the eleven players (and the substitutes) will all have a job to do to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but two players who could decide the game for Arsenal are Samir Nasri and Laurent Koscielny.
All the eleven players (and the substitutes), who do take the field on Sunday at Stamford Bridge, will have a job to do, and they must be disciplined throughout the game. In my opinion, Nasri and Koscielny will have the toughest task amongst all the others, and how these two fare against their opponents could have a major impact on the game.
In the absence of Cesc Fabregas, Nasri will occupy the central attacking midfield role, and will be at the hub of most of Arsenal's attacking play. He was Arsenal's most impressive player in the preseason, and has been very good in this season, even though he has missed more than three weeks of action due to an injury sustained in the game against Liverpool.
Nasri has a daunting task in front of him, because he will have to battle it out with Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel in midfield. Essien is one of the world's best defensive midfielders, and he will know that Nasri is a vital cog in the Arsenal side, and will try to shackle him.
John Obi Mikel is one of the best young talents, and will support Essien in the midfield. Both of them are strong lads, and Nasri will have to outwit both of them to showcase his creativity.
If Tomas Rosicky does start, then it gives Nasri an option of switching his position with him to stretch Chelsea's midfield. Nasri, Rosicky and Wilshere can all play in any position in the midfield, and that should be utilised against the Blues. Nasri will need all the help he gets from Rosicky, Arshavin and Wilshere. Alex Song should stay deep and provide adequate cover for the defence.
Also, Nasri will be given the responsibility of handling the set pieces for Arsenal, and he will look to be on target in this aspect as well. He will look to stretch the Chelsea midfield, and draw Essien out of position to open up space for Arshavin and Wilshere.
He should also look to move into wide spaces, and look to use Marouane Chamakh's aerial ability to good effect. Fabregas will be missed by Arsenal, but in Nasri, they have an able deputy, who could be the key to the Gunners' success.
Didier Drogba will lead the line for Chelsea, and he has been Arsenal's tormentor-in-chief, scoring 12 goals in 12 games for Chelsea against Arsenal. The Gunners will have to figure out a way to stop the Ivory Coast international if they harbour ambitions of defeating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Last year, Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas could not stop the "Drog" from scoring against them.
For this encounter, Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci will be entrusted to stop Drogba from scoring against them. Drogba will look to bully Koscielny, who is relatively inexperienced at the highest level. Koscielny has shown he is talented, but does he have it in him to cope with the physicality and brilliance of Drogba?
Only time will tell, but he will have to do the basics right to have a good game at Stamford Bridge. It was very shoddy defending from the back line against West Bromwich Albion, and they will have to be much more organized to stop the Blues. Gael Clichy has been in poor form of late, and Anelka will look to make full advantage of it. Koscielny will also have to provide cover for the Frenchman, when required.
Koscielny's understanding of the game could be very important for Arsenal. In the last encounter between the two EPL giants, Anelka's decoy run opened up acres of space for Drogba, who took full advantage of it.
Besides, Drogba is very strong in the air, and Koscielny will have to be strong and win the aerial battles for Arsenal. He was rested for the Champions League encounter against Partizan Belgrade, so that he is fresh for this marquee encounter.
Koscielny and Squillaci will be given a thorough examination of their defensive capabilities by Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, and Florent Malouda. In the absence of Thomas Vermaelen, Koscielny will have to shoulder the responsibility of dealing with Drogba, and Arsenal have a good chance of doing well, if he can shackle Didier Drogba.
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