23rd December 2013
Having suffered an embarrassing defeat to Manchester City, Arsenal will be hoping to return to winning ways against Chelsea and at the same time return to the Premiership summit. Meanwhile, the Blues are looking to make amends for the Capital One Cup exit at the hands of Sunderland as well a keep their title hopes alive by winning at the Emirates.
The reality is Arsenal have shown the most consistency out of all Premier League title contenders, even if back to back setbacks against Everton and Manchester City have seriously damaged their title hopes. Nevertheless, it was perfectly clear that the hectic schedule and tied legs prevented the Gunners from giving all they’ve got at the Etihad, and no doubt they will look much better after nine days without action. Just like all other Premier League sides, Arsenal struggled to cope with Manchester City’s unbelievable attacking potential, but chances are misfiring Chelsea will pose a much smaller threat. The Gunners have so far been pretty impressive on home soil, winning six straight games before sharing spoils with Everton and they do seem to have found the right balance in the side unlike their next opponents. Arsene Wenger also has an in-form striker in Olivier Giroud and quite a few creative players in the centre of the park, with the return of Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski providing additional boost. And while Laurent Koscielny continues to miss out, his replacement Thomas Vermalen can be trusted to do a good job at the back.
I have to admit to have regarded Chelsea as main title contenders before the season started as I honestly believed the return of Jose Mourinho would be just what the club needed after a very promising campaign, but everyone can see the Portuguese manager has failed to make the expected impact. Once boasting a rock-solid defence, the Blues have been leaking goals for fun this season, while they have mostly relied on goals from midfield with Torres, Eto’o and Ba all misfiring. The only thing Mourinho managed to do was drop arguably two of the best players Juan Mata and Ashley Cole from the starting line-up, which hasn’t helped his side one bit. Despite struggling even against the weakest Premier League side, the Blues have somehow remained in the title chase, but I just don’t see how they are going to mount a serious title bid unless the squad is heavily reinforced in January. And with Chelsea going into the high-profile clash against Arsenal on the back of two very disappointing performances, I seriously doubt they can get something from this game. Jose Mourinho will have Branislav Ivanovic back from suspension, but now Michael Essien is banned.
Even if Arsenal have suffered two slip-ups in a row, the Gunners look closer to victory here as they have proved on numerous occasions this season that they have what it takes to go all the way. Chelsea, on the other hand, mostly rely on the individual quality of their players and everything suggests they will return home empty-handed.
Verdict: Arsenal Home (1)
Best Odds: 7/5