The Chelsea FC is preparing to square off against Arsenal FC on Monday in a match that will give them a chance to head into Boxing Day in a tie with Liverpool FC for the Premier League lead. The reputedly antagonistic relationship between Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been written about in great detail over the last week. The fact that no Mourinho-coached team has lost to a Wenger-coached team in nine meetings is a statistic which has gotten a great deal of play in the media.
The fact that the two men do not appear to like each other very much has kept the stories alive. When the two teams meet on Monday, however, it will be the players on the field that will be deciding which team will leave with the lead in the Premier League standings. Arsenal will not be easily beaten. Winning streaks aside, the Arsenal squad is stacked with talented players determined to keep this from being the week when they surrender the top spot. Mourinho has commented during this past week on the skills of Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil, admitting that he will present a significant challenge to the Chelsea attack.
Ozil is famous for his ability to turn mistakes made by opponents mid-field quickly into counter-attack opportunities. He has struggled to an extent, according to Wenger, with the physical challenges of the Premier League style of play. Despite admissions that Ozil might be needing a break soon, all indications are that the record contract Ozil received to come and play for Arsenal will prove to be well worth it for the club. With Theo Walcott emerging as a favorite target up front, having scored twice in last week’s loss, Chelsea could be scrambling early to defend against the pair.
John Obi Mikel, Chelsea’s Nigerian midfielder, will need to take the point in that defense. His normally defensive style will likely not be enough if he is able to seize control of the middle early, and hold it. Chelsea FC could have a better chance to claim a share of the Premier League lead if they are able to do what Manchester City did last week against Ozil. If Mikel can translate his stopping power into an effective counter-attack to Oscar or Juan Mata, it is possible. If Arsenal’s expensive midfielder has a weakness to exploit, it is the time it takes him to re-establish a rhythm when taken out of it.
Most Premier League experts are not giving Chelsea much of a chance to hold the line against Arsenal. The stakes are high enough for Mourinho’s squad, however, that anything could happen. The top teams are all so close in points that the outcome of Monday’s match means the difference between being tied at the top of the standings and holding in 5th place with Tottenham and Newcastle hot on their heels. Arsenal, no matter what the outcome on Monday, will go into Boxing Day no worse than in second place. It could come down to who needs the win more. This could be a defining moment for the Chelsea FC, with their chance to claim a share of the lead in the Premier League on the line.
By Jim Malone