Welcome to Talking Heads.
Before and after every first-team fixture, our MatchDay Show guest and an Arsenal blogger will have their say on the game.
Arsenal took on Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday and our Talking Heads for this game were former Gunner David Hillier and Tim Stillman of Vital Arsenal.
Read on for their verdict on the Chelsea game.
DAVID HILLIER, CO-COMMENTATOR
Chelsea did a tactical job on Arsenal on Saturday and it seemed that the home side really struggled to get out of second gear and break their opponents down. Chelsea pressed the ball and pushed us into wide positions, where we were not always comfortable crossing. I think Cazorla got frustrated in the midfield trying to get through into the middle. Gervinho was quiet up front and was snuffed out. Arsenal under-performed in different periods of the game. Until we went 1-0 down, we weren’t really in it - we coughed and spluttered. Then when Chelsea got the goal, all of a sudden there was a bit more urgency about us. We looked sharp for the last 20 minutes of the first half.
I expected us to come out in the second half and hit the ground running, but it never really happened. Chelsea ground us down, the defending for the second goal was pretty poor and I think that disheartened not only the crowd, but also one or two on the pitch. It just made it a frustrating afternoon for us. We saw Giroud with a good chance at the end of the game to make it 2-2. Coming off the bench, you’ve really got to take those chances. Overall though this is just a little blip in Arsenal’s very good start to the season.
Both teams go into this game unbeaten and with the best defences in the league, so this could be a tight one. Speculation over which striker Arsenal will start with will play a huge part. Personally I think they will go with Lukas Podolski and Gervinho, who are both mobile and quick - and if John Terry makes his return they could take him and David Luiz to task as neither are particularly pacy. Both teams will be fluid in midfield, with creative players like Juan Mata and Eden Hazard the ones to watch for Chelsea, along with Fernando Torres who seems to have new-found confidence. Like the last meeting between the two sides at the Emirates, I think it will be a cagey affair with few chances and maybe one goal will be enough to take all three points. Arsenal will have to be sharp up front and Aaron Ramsey could be the one to open Chelsea up with his probing runs.
TIM STILLMAN, VITAL ARSENAL
I think everyone is a bit disappointed with how the game panned out in the end. I thought Chelsea did their homework on Arsenal and reduced the influence of some of our more dangerous players and we didn’t do the same for Chelsea. Cazorla was still able to create in the final third, but overall his influence on the midfield was neutered by Ramires, who practically man marked him in the second half. I was impressed by Chelsea’s rotating three of Mata, Hazard and Oscar. There was talk when that trio played last weekend of a lack of understanding, with all three crowding into the same area behind Fernando Torres. But they looked more cohesive on Saturday. It wasn’t just their attacking influence that made a difference. All three pressed Arsenal’s defenders very hard in possession and cut off the supply to Arteta, who has become akin to an umbilical cord for Arsenal. That prevented us from building from the back, which we like to do. I don’t think Arsenal’s forwards worked nearly as hard at pressing Chelsea’s defensive line.
Losing Diaby early on appeared to upset our shape. Ramsey started very positively on the right I thought. Many will point to the fact that we gifted Chelsea two goals from set pieces and were rarely cut open by them and perhaps consider us unfortunate as a result. But in reality, I think Chelsea asserted their game plan much better than we did ours. There was never really a point in the game where I thought to myself, 'Arsenal are on top here and Chelsea look worried'. The game was under their control for the most part. Cazorla and Podolski have enjoyed good starts to their Arsenal careers, so it stands to reason that they have been identified by other teams and paid close attention to. Giroud is a striker who occupies defenders and gives Arsenal another focal point and I think the coming weeks will see him become more of a fixture in the team so he can free up Arsenal’s creative players.
This will be one of the more intriguing games between the two clubs in some years. Both sides are in a period of transition - especially up front - with new players and variations on their tactical systems. Arsenal and Chelsea are still bedding their respective styles in, which actually makes it difficult for both managers to scout their opponents effectively. The likes of Cazorla, Podolski, Oscar and Hazard have all added something to the Premier League pretty much straight away. They’ve all made a difference to their teams in the final third, but as time goes on, opposing managers will see more and more of them and devise methods to negate their influence.
Arsenal have a number of pleasing selection problems. Walcott has always had some joy against Chelsea, but Ramsey really helped our possession-based game against City last week. Giroud has found the net now, but I think Gervinho’s movement in the final third has been really good from the centre. Arsène also has three of the Premier League’s best centre halves at his disposal, but I think Mertesacker has really caught the eye back there. Lunchtime kick-offs usually strangle the atmosphere but I think there will be plenty of spice to this one. I fancy a moment of magic from one of the aforementioned creative forward players to win this one by a single goal.
* The views expressed in Talking Heads do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Broadband LtdCopyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 1 Oct 2012