Chelsea to put the boot in
Ian Brindle previews the crucial Monday Night Football encounter between Arsenal and Chelsea.
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In the global village, there is no such thing as a local derby anymore and there are likely to be plenty of northwest-based viewers as Arsenal go head-to-head with Chelsea on Monday Night Football.
Following Arsenal's humbling at the hands of Manchester City, there was a predictable chorus across social media and the press that questioned whether the wheels will come off their season as a consequence, and while any team that concedes six is sure to feel the pain, Arsene Wenger is equally sure to concentrate on the positive of sticking three in at the other end.
Away from the hyperbole, Arsenal's home record has been typical of that required by champions. Following an opening day loss against Aston Villa, they have been unbeaten in seven games with six victories obtaining. That said, they were arguably a little lucky to come away with a share of the spoils against Everton as the Toffees were highly effectively in starving them of possession and momentum.
Jack Wilshere didn't exactly shine on that occasion, and his petulance has seen him an absentee from Monday night's fixture while at the back, Laurent Koscielny is also missing having suffered a gash to the leg last weekend.
I was happy to oppose Chelsea in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday and while comparisons between the outfit that lined up at Stadium Of Light and the team that will turn up at the Emirates are somewhat meaningless, it must worry Jose Mourinho that they failed to kill off a game in which they created plenty of chances.
Mourinho has played the media card spectacularly well en route to this game by ensuring that plenty of focus has been shifted onto the likelihood of Ashley Cole appearing on the bench against his former club, but this is a venue where the Blues have done well in recent seasons and they were 2-1 winners last term thanks to some exceptional goalkeeping by Petr Cech. Earlier this year, a strong XI knocked Arsenal out of the Capital One Cup and they have a generally excellent record when visiting the Gunners.
Monday's game is one where the effectiveness of the midfield players will decide its outcome and the experience of Michael Essien could mean Chelsea miss his presence after the tough-tackling midfielder picked up his fifth booking in just six appearances during the week.
Both teams are capable of attractive football but there is a steel fist within the velvet glove at Chelsea and having gained his team a penalty in somewhat controversial circumstances at Stamford Bridge last term, Ramires will be keen to impress his critics here.
Fernando Torres seems sure to return up front after being rested in the Capital One Cup while Lukas Podolski's availability should ensure he manages a place on the Arsenal bench with Olivier Giroud retaining striking duties.
Ordinarily, Chelsea's away form would make them a clear second best in this fixture with 11 points from an available 24, and six goals conceded against Sunderland and Stoke City in their last two starts.
However, they've shown an ability to produce performances at a time when it counts most and ahead of a vital Christmas period, three points here could really set the title race alight. I'll back them to do exactly that.
Verdict: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1
Chelsea have won eight and lost just two of the last 11 meetings with Arsenal in all competitions.
Jose Mourinho has never lost against Arsene Wenger as an opposition manager (W5 D4 L0).
The Gunners have conceded as many goals in their last two Premier League games (7) as they had in the previous 13.