the three letters tar inside a cannon
article banner
WizardOfOzil avatar


Chelsea v Arsenal: Gunners need to Regroup in Cup Semi after Forest Fall

Just over 72 hours after Arsenal were embarrassingly dumped out of the FA Cup by Nottingham Forest they must make the trip across London to face Antonio Conte's Chelsea for the second time in a week - this time at Stamford Bridge.Generally for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, the fortunes of these cups has been reversed - no one has won the FA Cup more than Wenger; while he has never got his hands on the league cup trophy. The Frenchman will be hoping that he can amend the latter this season, because "his" trophy is now out of his hands.The Forest match, embarrassing as it was, was one that showed Arsenal's ineptitude. Forest outplayed them, and absolutely deserved to progress as they were the better side. It doesn't exactly inspire confidence for this encounter, does it?The last time these sides met - all of one week ago in the league - the Blues were seconds away from victory before Hector Bellerin managed to redeem himself following a reckless challenge on Eden Hazard that cost his side a penalty, when his half-volley found its way into the net, to the ecstasy of the Emirates.It was a fantastically entertaining football match, and hopefully the same can be said about tonight's game, but one feels it unlikely Arsenal will see the same luck they seen last week. It's not that they necessarily played bad - there were good performances across the pitch - but they certainly should not have won the game, with Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata in truly shocking form ultimately helping the Gunners to a point.One could argue that former Chelsea stopper Petr Cech deserves some credit for subduing Morata, but in these instances, you would certainly fancy the striker not to fluff his lines - especially the effort in the final moments of the game, that could have easily destroyed the atmosphere in North London.This is, amazingly, the seventh time these sides have faced off against each other in the past 11 months.The first game of these seven, a Premier League encounter in February 2017, shares many similarities with tonight's game - it was played at Stamford Bridge; the futures of Arsenal's star players Ozil and Sanchez was unknown; and Arsene Wenger was unable to watch the game from the sideline following an incident with a referee.Its funny how things change, isn't it?Hopefully the result will be different however - Chelsea ran out 3-1 winners in that match-up, and then went on to win the league relatively comfortably, while Arsenal languished to a fifth place league finish.On that occasion, Wenger was not allowed on the sideline following an altercation with referee Antony Taylor which resulted in a four match ban. This time around, it is due to the comments he made about Mike Dean following his penalty decision against West Browmwich Albion on New Year's Eve.Both sides are expected to play their strongest sides in the match-up. In a two tie encounter, especially in the first 90 minutes, a side will always play different than they would in a league match - and Wenger is firmly aware of this.The last time these two sides met in the League Cup was 11 years ago - in the final. It was Chelsea who won on the day, with a young Arsenal midfielder, Cesc Fabregas, being one of the stand-out performers. He now, of course, plies his trade with Chelsea, and will be one of several players to watch out for in a strong and relatively injury free side.Chelsea have a new player since the last time Arsenal played them, English midfielder Ross Barkley, who Conté has stated will not have a part to play in the match, as it has arrived too soon for him as he returns from an injury that kept him out of the season thus far. He may very well feature in the second leg, however.Hazard sat out the FA Cup match against Norwich City on Wednesday (which ended in a draw for the Blues), but may return for tonight’s game.In terms of Arsenal personnel, it is safe to assume that the side that faced Forest will be disbanded and a team that more resembles a league side will be played.Expected to be included in this line-up is Alexis Sanchez, and with talk of a move to Manchester City picking up pace, one feels that this match or the league game against Bournemouth will be his final game in a red shirt. While his move is beginning to seem inevitable, it would be a slightly more positive way to step-out if he were to assist in Arsenal reaching the final of the league cup.Potentially returning from injury are Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi, who will undergo late fitness tests ahead of the visit to west London. Xhaka (groin) and Mustafi (knock) are close to recovering, but both players only have an outside chance of playing, so may have to settle for a place on the bench. Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey are both also approaching fitness, but are expected not to be ready for this match.For sure, this match represents a very tough encounter. The Gunners have won just one of their last nine visits to Stamford Bridge in all competitions (W1 D1 L7), the last win a memorable encounter that ended 5-3 in the Premier League in October 2011, with a Robin Van-Persie hat-trick stunning Andre Villas-Boas side. To make matters worse, confidence isn't exactly sky-high following the cup exit and the uncertain future of some of our starting players. Nonetheless, a good performance will be needed to keep any hope of proceeding to the final in the second leg at the Emirates on the 24th of January alive.Arsenal travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea in the semi-final of the League Cup tonight, with kick-off at 7.45pm.