Football News: Premier League Match Preview Wednesday 3rd January 2018


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Premier League Match Preview Wednesday 3rd January 2018
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Wednesday 3rd January 2018

Arsenal v Chelsea 7:45pm kick off

Kolasinac (ankle injury expected return 14th January) out
Koscielny (achilles injury) late fitness test
Ozil (knee injury) late fitness test
Monreal (ankle injury expected return 20th January) out
Giroud (hamstring injury expected return 14th January) out
Ramsey (hamstring injury expected return 10th January) out
Cazorla (plantaris injury) out

Arsenal have been in patchy form through December, a loss to Man Utd was followed by 4 draws in the final 6 matches of 2017, as Arsenal dropped to 6th. Even a short-lived switch to a back 4 failed to improve matters, as the team's performance level dipped markedly. The Gunners no longer look like the free flowing attacking behemoth with a weakness at the back which stopped them challenging for the title. They are still open defensively, but their attacking fluidity is almost gone. In the past it was like trying to block up a dam with the water flowing all around and over the top while opposition defenders tried desperately to block it. The movement was exceptional and the play would search for gaps all over the pitch. Now they are more like a sledgehammer trying to smash in a wall, constantly just smashing at the same spot over and over again, charging at the centre where all the defenders are. Only Ozil seems capable of playing the passes needed. Despite that, at home they are still one of the strongest teams in the league, with 8 wins in their 10 home games and only 1 defeat. It is the away form that is letting them down.
Most important player: Alex Iwobi. I am struggling to understand what Iwobi actually offers. Yes he has skill, but there is no end product, no killer pass, no goals, no drive, no will to win, no workrate. It is time he stepped up and showed exactly why Wenger persists with him in the side. You cannot carry passengers if you want to win the league.

Musonda (groin strain expected return 6th January) major doubt
Luiz (knee injury expected return 6th January) doubt

There are more and more flashes of last season's champions as this season goes on, though little can be taken from their demolition of the truly awful Stoke side at the weekend. The Pensioners do look like a team on the up, despite the hiccough against the Hammers, or maybe because of it? Sometimes it feels like this team needs a kick up the backside to wake it up and get it going again. Could it be just the release of pressure now that Conte has admitted the title race is over? Whatever it is, Chelsea look back to the team that just seems able to pick up a win no matter how well or otherwise they are playing. The difference is that this season they are battling for 2nd and hoping for a monumental collapse from Man City to raise any hope of the title.
Most important player: N'Golo Kante. If he is full of his usual energy up against the static Arsenal midfield, he can dominate it completely.

Defining Battle: while Arsenal are very much about the centre of the pitch and use very little width in their play, Chelsea are quite the opposite, despite the two teams using a very similar formation. The wide areas will define the match as Chelsea's wingbacks are the key to stopping them. If Arsenal can push back the Blues wingbacks and keep them penned in their own half, then they will have gone a long way to ensuring a result. If the wingbacks are allowed to charge forward at will, then Chelsea should have enough to get the result they need.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-3
Ed003 - 3-2
Ed004 - 2-3
Ed007 - 1-2
Ed018 - 2-2
Ed025 - 1-1
Ed033 - 1-2

Editor's Predictions Table
1. Ed002 - 137 points
2. Ed033 - 136 points
3= Ed025 - 135 points
3= Ed003 - 135 points
3= Ed004 - 135 points
6. Ed018 - 130 points
7. Ed007 - 121 points

*1 point is awarded for the correct result, 3 points for the correct score.
**updated 3rd January 2018 (not including results for that day)

Written by Tris Burke

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