Arsenal’s biggest test yet

Another week, another titanic, end of the universe type clash with some ugly rich kids. Chelsea is the name of the game today as the European champions (get used to it, they’ll be sure to remind us) make their way to the Emirates.

After having to prove ourselves against the domestic champions last week, away from home, there’s a different vibe for this week’s challenge as we get to do it in front of our own fans. The place is buzzing at the moment with the fans getting behind a proper team for once – one that is as exciting in its approach play as it is in defence. Despite this being history’s most expensive football game ever, I’m expecting a full house with wildly enthusiastic crowd, getting behind their own team for once.

We’ll be coming up against a team that has rediscovered its creative flair with the signings of Oscar and Eden Hazard, but are still not that solid in defence. Racist convict John Terry (sounds like a South African migrant living in Australia. Lulz) will hopefully command their back line like he’s wearing nylon socks on a tiled floor.

Nevertheless, we come up against a side that are playing much better than City are, and justifiably (for now!) sit top of the table. This is arguably an even more difficult fixture than last week’s, even at home, so nothing short of our top effort will do.

There are a few big selection posers for the manager to mull over today. At the back, I’m expecting Laurent Koscielny to start alongside Thomas Vermaelen for a mobile centre back pairing, with Per Mertesacker dropping to the bench. There’s also a 50:50 coin-toss between Aaron Ramsey or Abou Diaby making the starting line-up in midfield and I have a hunch the Welshman will get the pick after his good showing against Man City.

Up front, it gets trickier. Olivier Giroud is off the mark in the goalscoring department but I’m still not sure there’s another start waiting for him this time. I’m expecting Gervinho to continue in his ‘false nine’ role up front with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deputising on the right wing to give old boy Ashley Cole something to deal with on the flank.

The rest of the line-up will have a familiar feel to it. Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla will keep things ticking over in midfield while Lukas Podolski continues his good work on the left, while the full-backs and goalkeeper remain as is.

The brilliant thing about our line-up above, and even the potential replacements should Arsene Wenger think differently, is that there are no passengers in this side. Everyone will have a specific job to do, whether its Gervinho doing his which-way-am-I-going-now-mofo? dribbles, or Olivier Giroud in his place vying for every scrap and morsel he can steal from the defence. The same could be said for Diaby getting a place in midfield, or indeed if goal-scoring Theo Walcott is chosen to continue his good record against the Blues.

As skillful as Chelsea’s new signings are, there danger will come on the counter attack. It’s a huge match for Carl Jenkinson up against Hazard, while the midfield will have to work twice as hard to keep the likes of Ramires quiet.

I’m expecting us to boss the midfield and dominate possession, and I think there’s a real chance to see Cazorla and Podolski link up to their most devastating effect today. At home, we might see a little more space afforded to us than in other fixtures.

My¬†positivity tonight sees me predicting a solid win for us, though I would never assume it to be easy. A draw would be far from a disaster tonight, so I’ll probably take that if it were offered to me as well, but the potential is definitely there for this team to make a real statement of intent.

A loss, however, will see us fall seven points behind Chelsea. While harsh, it would mean yet another early season spending catch-up to the monied-up clubs.

Fingers crossed for the exact opposite.

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