Tuesday 28 March 2017

Six things we can expect from Arsenal v Chelsea in the race for the Premier League title

Arsenal Wenger confronts Jose Mourinho on the sidelines at Stamford Bridge earlier this season
Arsenal Wenger confronts Jose Mourinho on the sidelines at Stamford Bridge earlier this season

Jack de Menezes

What should we expect to see at the Emirates today as Jose Mourinho's Chelsea take on Arsenal? Here are some things.

1) ARSENAL TO STORM OUT OF THE START BLOCKS

Arsenal always seem to work an early chance against Chelsea, yet fail to take it.

This was the case at Stamford Bridge in October as well as in the 6-0 drubbing they received against the Blues last season.

On that occasion, Arsenal’s failure to score allowed Chelsea to break down the other end and take the lead through Samuel Eto’o, and it was all downhill for the Gunners from there.

But if they are able to take an early lead, then they’ll have a chance to beat Chelsea at their own game. It’s no secret that Chelsea are experts in protecting a lead, but if they are forced to chase a game, we may yet see a weakness in this side.

 

2) CHELSEA TO GROW AND ASSUME CONTROL MIDWAY THROUGH THE FIRST HALF

Should Arsenal fail to score early in the match, expect Chelsea to constrict the Gunners into making mistakes – much like the one that saw Laurent Koscielny give away a penalty at Stamford Bridge – and take the lead as a result.

In eight of their last 12 meetings, Chelsea have gone ahead and not relinquished the lead, and you’d tip the league leaders to do exactly the same.

On the flip side, if Chelsea begin to get frustrated if they fail to convert their domination into a lead, they could leave themselves open to the Arsenal attack, which is by no means lacking in quality. Give the likes of Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud a sniff, they will waste no chance in seizing their chance.

 

3) TENSIONS TO SPILL OVER ON THE SIDELINES

The best battle between the two teams is likely to come off the pitch of Sunday as Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger clash once again. The last time the two stalwarts of the managerial game went toe-to-toe, they had to be separated by officials as Wenger took exception to Gary Cahill’s tackle on Sanchez, primarily by taking aim at Mourinho. That was towards the start of the season, with little on the line and tensions reasonably at a low.

With the two teams now at the forefront of the title race – albeit the Blues a long way ahead – and the fixture coming at the business end of the season, expect frustrations in the Emirates dug-out to boil over at some point. Neither Mourinho nor Wenger are great at hiding their emotions, while their respective coaching staff which includes Rui Faria and Steve Bould need no second invitation.

 

4) A LESS THAN WARM WELCOME FOR CESC FABREGAS

Fabregas faced Arsenal for the first time since leaving for Barcelona at Stamford Bridge, so he was able to get a feel for the reception he’s likely to receive on a much bigger scale this weekend.

On that occasion, a mixture of applause and jeers greeted the Spaniard to the pitch.

While there will be more of those who give the club’s former captain a positive response on his return to North London, they are pretty much guaranteed to be outweighed by the boo brigade.

 

5) EDEN HAZARD TO HAVE A SAY IN THE RESULT

The Chelsea wing appears to be in unstoppable form at present on his relentless campaign to win not just the Premier League title, but the PFA Player of the Year award to boot.

It’s likely that Hazard will have at least one clear-cut chance at goal that if he takes, will set the wheels in motion towards another Chelsea victory.

Yet if the Belgium international fails to take advantage of it, Arsenal will grow in confidence and start to believe that they can emerge victorious from the encounter. If they win on Sunday, who knows what’s possible between now and the end of the season.

 

6) BOTH MANAGERS TO PLAY DOWN A VICTORY SHOULD THEIR SIDE WIN

Don’t be fooled by what Messrs Mourinho and Wenger say after the match. Should Chelsea win, expect Mourinho to come out and play down the title race being over, despite his side potentially holding a 13 point gap with 15 points available and a chance to seal the title against Leicester on Tuesday.

But if Arsenal win, expect Wenger to claim the seven-point gap is still a difficult challenge to bridge, with the words “anything is possible” thrown in for good measure.

The realistic view is that even if Arsenal win this weekend, it will take an unprecedented collapse from the Blues to prevent them from recapturing the title that they haven’t won since 2010.

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