Monday, 23 December 2013

Wenger plots key changes to win -Ozil/Walcott axis vital for victory

Morning Gooners.

We're finally here and I'm sure all ready for tonight's game with Chelsea after what feels like an eternity without any football for Arsenal. But make no mistake, this is a big one. A victory is what is required and not just to propel us back to the top of the table with a two point cushion.

For too long Chelsea have been able to grind out results against us. We've been the better team on many occasions but have failed to record a win against them. This is our opportunity. The team is well rested, the majority of our players are fit and we're in good form. Tonight's game is an opportunity to show we are able to beat the bigger teams and show the world we're really in the title race.

We've managed to get ourselves to the top of the league because of our strong defensive base. Excluding our trip to Manchester City where lots of individual errors were the cause of our downfall, the back five have been incredible this season. The players in front of them have been fantastic to, closing down space and making challenges in order to win the ball back at the earliest opportunity.

Without Laurent Koscielny, who has an outside chance of playing tonight but is likely not to be risked, the captain Thomas Vermaelen will return to the side to make only his fourth league appearance of the season.  Alongside him at left back, I'd expect Kieran Gibbs to play after his extended rest after being left out of the squad which played at Middle Eastlands. Bacary Sagna and Per Mertesacker will take the other two positions in defence in front of Wojciech Szczesny in goal.

In midfield, I'd expect the manager to go with Mathieu Flamini alongside Aaron Ramsey in the deep-lying roles. The Frenchman has started in the last four league games after missing the 2-0 win over Southampton through suspension. Meanwhile the Welshman has been in excellent form, scoring eight league goals in his 16 appearances.

Ahead of the Flamini/Ramsey axis, I'd play Theo Walcott on the right. He loves playing against Chelsea it seems. Inside of him, we'll see Mesut Ozil in the centre with Santi Cazorla on the left. Olivier Giroud will no doubt lead the line.

Arsene Wenger has never beaten Jose Mourinho and tonight's game is time for that statistic to bed. The manager wants this group of players to show him how far they can go. It's clear that if we have any ambitions of winning the league we beat the bigger teams at home and after putting away Liverpool in November with a comprehensive win, the players must turn up tonight with the same attitude.

It's a big game so I'm sure the atmosphere will be electric. The crowd can certainly play its part and like against Napoli and Liverpool, I'm sure they will act as the 12th man. I can't wait. Let's get those three points and give every Gooner an early Christmas present.

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