The fixture list is definitely a little harsh on Chelsea as this game comes just two days after their big League encounter against Man City last Sunday. But then you look at the amount of money they’ve spent and the options Mourinho has and there seems little reason to feel sympathetic. Demba Ba, Eto’o, Mata, De Bruyne, Willian, David Luiz, Obi-Mikel, Essien, Azpilicueta, and Schwarzer could all start regularly at many of the Premier League teams. Mourinho will probably have to rely on no more than a couple of youngsters.
With a team that strong, tactics would become irrelevant unless Wenger puts out a competitive midfield. Should he? That is the question.
It would be interesting to see Wenger’s record against Mourinho. Is it P8 W0 D4 L4? The Portuguese manager is exceptional at setting his side up to not lose. And then he usually has enough quality players and good enough ideas to nick a win.
Given the number of changes Wenger will have to make, it seems safe to assume they will concede a goal or two, at least. The Frenchman’s teams work best when there is continuity and the players have a feel for the game. That doesn’t work with wholesale changes.
With that in mind, Penalties might be Arsenal’s best hope and that too only if they can remain defensively resolute for the duration of the game and extra time.
Flamini and Arteta are absent so Wenger has to either go with a youngster like Hayden as the defensive player or start both Jack and Ramsey. I’d just throw Hayden in at the deep end and see what he can do against the likes of Mata, Willian, and De Bruyne. Wilshere and Rambo have bigger fish to fry soon enough. Even then, Wenger will probably have to play one of those two. Jack should get the nod if he is fit (problem is nobody seems to know whether he is fit or not!).
Rosicky could get a nod at the top of midfield with Bendtner leading the line. Gnabry deserves a go against the big boys and he could have a very interesting battle on the right if Mourinho plays Bertrand at left back.
Fabianksi, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, and Monreal should get a start and that leaves a couple of places to fill. Mertesacker would be the ideal partner for Vermaelen because the German is exceptional at reading the game and can be a calming influence.
On the left of midfield, the choice seems to be between the youngster Miyaichi and Cazorla. Santi seems the better choice as he’d bring experience and technical qualities to the side.
I’d like to see,
Fabianski – Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal – Hayden, Rosicky, Wilshere – Gnabry, Bendtner, Cazorla.
That seems like a strong enough side to me. But does it stack up against the team Mourinho can field? It’s a shame Flamini is injured.
Arsenal have some pace and trickery in that midfield. They can trouble the likes of Mikel and Essien if they move the ball quickly. But pushing up the pitch in numbers against any Mourinho side is always a risk. Wenger might be tempted to play Vermaelen and Koscielny together if he wants pace in defence. That will make the game very, very interesting but might make Fabianski’s life miserable.
Avoiding early mistakes will be extremely vital. Going behind will force the Gunners to be even more adventurous and the scoreline could potentially get bad enough to defenestrate all confidence while giving weight to questions about the squad’s qualities and depth.
Bendtner’s movement and link play will have to be top notch. Gnabry or Rosicky will have to continuously join the attack on the defensive line or look to get in behind. If Chelsea have Kalas and Bertrand in the back four, the Gunners should look to force mistakes through their movements by engaging these youngster and forcing them into choices and areas out of their comfort zone.
This tournament is a complete waste of time in my opinion. So I don’t really care about the result of this game. As long as the key players are able to get a break and those who play don’t get injured, it will be a success in my book.Follow @goonerdesi