It’s Christmas Eve and Arsenally Yours is preparing to don his Santa costume and sneak into the Arsenally little one’s room and leave a stocking. My agent tells me that Santa doesn’t have to be pissed to do this; I disagree, it’s a crucial part of the St Nicholas tradition. She’s good at her job, my agent, but she does like to have a nag about my eating and drinking.
Anyway, it’s about 36 hours till we face the Russian rabble from Fulham. The stats give us a mixed picture. Chelski have only won 2 of their last 9 but Drogba has 12 goals in 10 starts against us. We’re at home where our form this season has hardly been spectacular. Chelski’s away form is pretty poor though – the last time they won away was against Blackburn at the end of October.
The news regarding the Chelski line-up is that fat Lamps returns. So we can expect something like:
Cech; Ferreira – Ivanovic – Terry – Cole; Lampard – Mikel – Essien; Anelka – Drogba – Malouda
As for us, Fabianski returns, as does Diaby. I hope that we’ll start with both Chamakh and van Persie. So I expect:
Fabianski; Sagna – Koscielny – Squillaci – Clichy; Nasri – Fabregas – Song; Arshavin – Chamakh – v Persie
Comparing the two teams as I’m predicting them shows two important points.
Firstly, that Chelski will probably start with two defensive midfielders while we’ll most likely just have Song in that position. Against the better sides, sometimes we start with two ourselves so it’s possible we’ll have a middle three of Denilson, Fabregas, and Song with Nasri, Arshavin, and Chamakh up front.
I’m not in favour of making these concessions to other teams and compromising our attacking options. If we keep the ball and our front three apply themselves to their defensive responsibilities then we should ahve the confidence to start with a middle three of Nasri – Song – Fabregas.,
Another point – and a very positive one, is a comparison of the likely benches. If my team predictions are accurate, we’ll have Walcott, Diaby, Wilshere, and Bendtner (maybe v Persie too) warming the bench. Chelski, however, will have Kalou, Zhirkov, Benayoun, and Sturridge. I know which bench I’d rather have.
Key to this match will be putting a lead on the Drog. Kosquilny® will both have to be on top of their game. Song will have to restrain his striking instincts and attend to his defensive duties. I fear that Drogba’ll put himself on Koscielny rather than his more experienced countryman. In which case we’ve got to pray for an intelligent and strong performance from the young Frenmchman.
As for the odds, the bookies only favour us by a small margin. Even given their current form Chelski are widely available at 7/4, whereas most have an Arsenal win at only 6/4. That doesn’t interest me much. I’m tempted by 13/8 on a home win with Bet365. I like the look of Nasri at 9/4 to score at any time, especially given his good run of form, but the Arsenally sensible quids will be on the captain to put one away at some point – 5/2 with Ladbrokes. We may well get a pen at some point – I’ve got the feeling that Terry will scythe down one of our players, and Ivanovic is hardly the world’s most accurate tackler. Ladbrokes also have 3-1 as the correct score at 18/1 and that’s my long shot.
Le Boss is concerned about how the FA will use Jack. I do think that the amount of U21 football that Theo played last year had an effect on his form. I really hope that the FA will deal with him sensibly. It’s not in their interests to burn him out or injure him.
In the Guardian, Arsène speaks of the large number of fixtures we have in January:
I’d say for us January is a vital month because we play many games, because we are involved in the FA Cup, Carling Cup and the championship. The way in which we can focus in every game will certainly decide our season.
Let’s keep that focus on destroying those Russian-backed upstarts before we start thinking about the new year.
I’m off to give the Arsenally little one his second ever stocking. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with you and yours. Make sure you plot your escape from distant relatives to get to the pub/telly at lunchtime on the 27th. I already have plotted mine and it involves an inescapable crisis at work. There are occasions when you should keep your agent in the dark, and this is one such occasion. I hope she’ll be too busy with her siblings to notice me and the Arsenally little one slipping away to our local. Fingers crossed.
Have an Arsenally Merry Christmas,