There’s nothing like a good old fashioned derby to kick start the weekend.
On Saturday two of London’s most successful teams face off at Stamford Bridge, with Arsenal looking to continue their run of fine form against a Chelsea squad currently embroiled in controversy.
And both teams are coming off respectful 2-1 wins in the League Cup, but the similarities end there.
After enduring a highly documented rough start to their season, Arsene Wenger’s men are finally coming together and producing the attractive football Gunners fans are used to.
Wenger is also starting to see some important players come back to the fold, and it appears better days are in store for the manager. It seems like just recently the manager was public enemy No. 1 and his job was at risk, but he has guided his men valiantly through the criticism and skepticism.
Andre Villas-Boas on the other hand has faced just about everything during his short stint in charge of Chelsea, and with a fresh batch of issues on his plate, winning at home is the only thing on the young manager’s mind.
Chelsea’s mega roster of big names and huge salaries sit six points behind the league leaders Manchester City, and Arsenal have shot up the table to seventh after picking up crucial wins.
Just like previous London derbies, I expect the drama and intensity to extend throughout the entire 90 minutes, and most experts pick Chelsea to come out on top.
But Arsenal have not let outside opinions affect them all year, and this Saturday the Gunners will come in and take a massive three points from their neighbors.
Let’s examine 5 reasons why the Gunners will emerge victorious over Chelsea Saturday.
The sparkling form of the Dutchman is arguably the main reason why Wenger’s men have shot back to prominence.
Van Persie was handed the captain’s armband at the beginning of this campaign and he has led his men through turbulent times. He has 10 goals in all competitions and is the main source of scoring for the Gunners at the moment.
His future is in doubt but what he is presently doing for Arsenal is remarkable. Opposition defenses cannot stop him and he is playing the type of free-flowing football that has Wenger prioritizing ways to tie him down to another contract.
The striker is bearing all types of responsibility for his squad and he will be looking to prey on the Chelsea back four all night.
The difference in personnel will play a gigantic role in the outcome of this match.
Didier Drogba is suspended and players like Nicolas Anelka, David Luiz and others are all coming off 120 minutes of football against Everton mid-week. AVB’s selection is few and far between at this point and he will be forced to field some fatigued legs on Saturday.
Arsenal on the other hand will be strengthened with the return of Thomas Vermaelen, who has been bothered by a pesky injury. He played against Bolton Wanderers in their League Cup win and has dispelled all rumors of his health.
The Gunners will have a fresh starting lineup with a majority of players that didn’t feature in the game against Bolton. The Belgian is an important player for Wenger to have and his presence will boost Arsenal immensely.
Usually Wenger’s side is the one having to deal with public scrutiny, but going into this game AVB will face a lot of questions from the media.
The big news heading into this game is the decision regarding John Terry’s inclusion. After his wild week of accusations, Andre Villas-Boas has come out and stated Terry will be in the starting lineup against Arsenal.
With the history JT has in the headlines, every decision from here on out regarding the England international will be put under a microscope, the very last thing AVB needs.
Plus the once-formidable Stamford Bridge has become a lot leakier this season. Considered a fortress for so long, Chelsea’s defense is off to its worst start since the 2003 campaign.
Arsenal have put detractors aside for the time being and are starting to gel defensively and up the park. Wenger and his men are hoping to add to Chelsea’s pressure by walking out winners.
How the tides have turned in London, much to the surprise of many.
Arsenal are in stellar form and are looking to prolong their charge. They have had three different competitions in the last two weeks (League, Champions League and League Cup) and have come out victorious in all of them, a great sign for the side.
The Chelsea of this season lack the coolness and maturity they are so used to displaying. Rash tackles, unnecessary banter and inexcusable bookings have haunted the Blues this season and I expect them to get pretty chippy if Arsenal find the net first.
The Gunners haven’t exhibited the soundest judgment at points but they are getting better at keeping their heads, and Wenger will be adamant on keeping it that way this Saturday.
The highest level of football will do a number on the body, and it takes an older player a lot longer to recover from the day-to-day rigors of playing elite footy.
Arsenal is a club that prides themselves on culturing young talent, and as of late Chelsea has adopted the exact opposite mentality for their team.
While Wenger is a shrewd manager who is notorious for uncovering unknown and unproven talent, Chelsea spends millions to bring in whoever they want; healthy or not.
A vast group of core players in AVB’s side are in their thirties, or quickly approaching it. Chelsea’s aged bodies are starting to get torn ragged by younger, quicker opponents, especially the defense.
The Gunners know this and will be coming out flying the second the whistle blows. Wenger will want his team to exploit the frailties of an old Chelsea side.