Sunday, October 3, 2010

Arsenal v. Chelsea

In less than an hour, Arsenal visit London rivals Chelsea in a very big match. Chelsea are favored to win the Premier League this season. And Arsenal will be hard pressed to beat them today, especially after Chelsea lost last week at Man City. The Gunners are still a bit depleted in defense, with regular keeper Miguel Almunia and central defender Thomas Vermaelen still out injured. Alumnia's replacement Lukasz Fabianski played very well in Arsenal's Champion's League victory at Partizan in midweek, but Chelsea's strike force - especially Didier Drogba, who has been a scoring machine against Arsenal in recent years - will provide a much greater challenge. Arsenal are also still missing their talisman Cesc Fabregas. The Gunner midfield remains formidable even without him, but no one else seems capable of playing the kind of through ball that cuts open a defense like Fabregas.

Every fan of football should be hoping for an Arsenal victory today. It's not just that Arsenal play a more attractive brand of football than Chelsea, but they also do so within their means. Chelsea is a team of superstars (a la the "Galacticos" of Real Madrid), put together under the auspices of an extremely wealthy owner - a Russian oligarch - who is willing to suffer huge deficits season after season to buy championships. As an aside, I would like to see the Premier League impose a luxury tax on teams, including Chelsea and Man U,  that do not balance their books to pay a tax equal to the extent of their deficits into a fund that would help level the playing field for less wealthy clubs (not including the likes of Arsenal).

Getting back to today's game, the Gunners will have to be physically very tough to get a draw at Stamford Bridge. They will have to be error free to get a victory.

UPDATE: Well, Arsenal did play physically tough, but not error free. The final results was Chelsea 2 - Arsenal 0. Despite long spells of possession, the Gunners showed very little cutting edge. Even on the few occasions when they seemed to open the Chelsea defense, Arsenal failed to take advantage. As far as individual players are concerned, Arshavin had a couple of decent chances, but also made several poor passes, and was lazy coming back on defense. Song and Diaby worked hard but did not move the ball quickly enough. Arsenal's best players on the day were probably Nasri and Sagna. Obviously, the Gunners  are a lesser team without Fabregas and Vermaelen, but it's unclear that their absence made much of a difference today. In a game that pitted money against class, money won. The Gunners just don't have enough guns to compete at the highest level of the Premiership or the Champions League. And that's why they cannot be expected to win any silverware again this year (and why Fabregas can be expected to join Barca at the end of this season). Wenger's continuing efforts to win his way (on the cheap) appears increasingly quixotic in an age where money rules in football.

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