We believe that the outcome of this match will depend more on how Chelsea approach the game, in terms of the state of their morale, the fatigue levels, team selection and tactics, rather than on how Arsenal line up or the tactics they will follow.
This is because Arsenal’s line up in the probable absence of Rosicky is likely to be the same as that against Fulham with Baptista playing up front with Adebayor, in more of a 4 4 2 formation. Wenger’s options are further limited as Ljumberg will probably not be fit enough to start. Although we would still not advocate his inclusion even if he was fit! The midfield is likely to be Fabregas, Silva, Hleb and Diaby.
We do not think that Wenger will tinker with the formation either, as he likes to stick to the same system in order to get the young players accustomed to it as much as possible.
And he is not likely to try something new like playing Hoyte at right back and Eboue in the wide midfield position is he? Although we think there is an argument for this suggestion, as tactically it may stifle Chelsea on the flanks. It would mean adopting a 4 5 1 formation with which we are much more comfortable and Baptista left on the bench to come on if Arsenal need to get a goal. This will mean that Hleb and Eboue will be the wide players and a trio of midfielders in Fabregas, Silva and Diaby. Sounds pretty strong to us! Keep dreaming!
But what will Chelsea’s tactics and formation likely to be?
We do not believe that the outcome of Man U’s tussle with their local rivals will affect Mourinho’s approach to the game. Chelsea still have to go for a win whatever that result will be since there will still be two matches and a maximum of six points left. And they have that game against Man U at home on the Wednesday. They would want to go into it with their hopes still intact. So a more attacking formation is likely to be adopted with Robben probably starting, Essien brought back into midfield and Boulharouz coming in defence. This will allow Lampard to play in a more forward position than at Liverpool where he was more withdrawn and as a result anonymous.
Since Mourinho needs to win the game and Ballack is not available then an attacking formation reminiscent of last season is likely to be adopted; probably 4 3 3. Robben and Joe Cole on the flanks and Drogba alone up front but with Lampard venturing forward whenever possible. We expect Makelele and Essien will be the other midfielders although you never know with Mourinho. He may go with Essien at right back and keep Mikel in the side. This will give him an even more attacking threat from the right.
This is written on the Friday so we do not know who is available or what the press gossipers are saying. It is only based on an appreciation of the kind of pressures each manager is facing.
As we said the Manchester derby will not affect Mourinho’s approach. However an area that the outcome of that game is likely to affect Chelsea is on morale. If Man U win that game Chelsea’s players will be thinking deep down inside that its slipping from them and remember they have not won any of their last three matches…..
Lastly, fatigue will we believe be a major factor.
It has been a gruelling season for the Chelsea players, involved in all major competitions right up until the end. This is beginning to take its toll as their recent lacklustre performances against Newcastle, Bolton and Liverpool have shown.
As the game wears on do not be surprised to see Arsenal score. Remember Arsenal have scored more goals in the last quarter-hour of Premiership matches than any other club (21 goals)!
Above anything else Arsenal have to first nullify the service to Drogba especially the long balls. This means defending properly against him in the air but also stopping the supply especially from A. Cole. Whoever plays on that flank will have to track A. Cole and put him under pressure and the same of course applies to the other midfielders and Adebayor. Defending from the front will have to be the order of the day!
And secondly they have to reduce the threat from Chelsea's wide men by marking tight and doubling up against them.
Taking everything in to consideration we would have been very upbeat if Baptista was omitted from the Arsenal line up! As we have said before all eleven parts of the jigsaw puzzle have to be at their top for the whole to work. With the Beast in the side we are not so sure.
However he gets into good positions and if he takes one of the chances that are bound to be created he would have done his job for the day.
But Chelsea’s mental and physical condition may do more to decide the outcome of this game rather than anything else!