September 29, 2012
It sometimes feels like ever since the internet was born there have been Gooners on messageboards demanding the signature of one Eden Hazard. In fact I heard that the only reason Tim Berners-Lee set about creating the World Wide Web in the first place was because he’d heard there was a particularly talented sperm kicking about in some Belgian ballbag and he was just desperate to find out if it had signed a pre-contract agreement with anyone yet.
So it’s with a sense of some bitterness that a lot of us will witness the boy Hazard finally making his way out onto the pitch at the Emirates today dressed as he will be in the blue of those natural resource exploiting chancers from West London.
Just when we thought it was okay to start laughing at Chelsea again they went on that bus parking tour of Europe last season and in the summer got back to their high spending, FFP scoffing ways by signing up two of the hottest properties in world football in Oscar and Hazard for a combined total of around £65 million. And they’re already reaping the benefits. To absolutely nobody’s surprise both players look the real deal and Chelsea sit atop of the early Premier League table with four wins and a draw.
Still, cynics would argue they haven’t faced any major tests so far and although Arsene Wenger appeared to be casting envious glances in the direction of Hazard in his press conference on Thursday he’s looking pretty happy with his own less obvious summer business. Today will be a good test of that. How will Podolski and Cazorla measure up against Oscar and Hazard? But it’s not the only subplot.
There’s also the question of how our much more organised backline is going to cope against a now Drogba-less Chelsea. Having been roundly bullied by Didier over the years I’m sure it’ll be something of a relief to ‘only’ come up against the striking talents of the £50 million Fernando Torres. Of course he’s hardly lived up to that hefty price tag but you can’t help worrying that without Drogba around anymore he’ll finally emerge from that massive shadow. As ever this season Arsene Wenger has a decision to make at centre back. With Vermaelen back from his virus he may opt to drop Per Mertesacker for the first time in the league this year in order to pair TV up with last week’s point stealer Laurent Koscielny.
It’s a tough one. Le Boss said after the Man City game that he’d simply pick the duo best suited to the particular threat of the opposition. But Mertesacker was excellent last week, particularly when we threw men forward looking for the equaliser. His superior positioning enabled him to snuff out their counter attacks at the point where it looked as if we might be overwhelmed. That’s a quality that could come in useful today.
The other big decisions rest on who to opt for up front and on the right hand side. Against such tough opposition I fancy we’ll stick with Ramsey on the right to give us that little bit of edge in the midfield area. Up front is a tougher call and Arsene has been talking about the issues that guide that decision:
Up front affects the [whole] team. Whether you have a more mobile player or a more [physical] player affects the passing of the team.
We can be efficient with both styles, I even think we can combine the two which I try to do in some games. It is good, you cannot play a season with one striker.
Presumably Giroud is who he means as the more physical player but in fairness his movement has been excellent at times. The benefits of putting someone like Gervinho up there are he’s that much more able to switch positions with the other forwards, particularly Podolski, which gives the full backs all sorts of headaches.
I suspect today he’ll go for that latter option, possibly using Giroud from the bench to offer a different kind of threat as the match wears on. I think we’ll line up like this:
Jenks – Per – Verm – Gibbs
Abou – Art
Rambo – Caz – Pod
John Terry is bound to be the subject of abuse from the home fans this afternoon but we should maybe tread a touch carefully. He’s one of those who seems to thrive on that sort of adversity and it would be just like him to throw himself at a corner in our box and try to make a hero out of himself – blood pumping, badge kissing, screaming at the crowd as if he’s been the victim in all of this. The abuse is inevitable and deserved but frankly I’d rather we just ignore him than give him what he wants – to feel like the most important man in the stadium.
And ultimately today shouldn’t be about John Terry. Or Didier Drogba. Or even Eden Hazard. It should be about showing the world that while we haven’t splashed out £90 million on new signings this year we’re still building a team and a spirit that can compete with anyone’s bulging chequebook.
If You Liked This...
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- Cheer up, Gooners! Remember when we used to play like that in Europe?
- PHW to force Robin to stay? + AW remembers who Cazorla is, decides he likes him
- New Vieira on his way? + How can I be expected to suddenly get behind John Terry?