Chelsea v Arsenal

Scouting Report - Chelsea

Before every Arsenal fixture, we'll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners' next opponents.

Arsene Wenger will take charge of his 1,000th game as Arsenal manager when his side play Chelsea on Saturday, to find our more about the Blues, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Dan Levene.  

Chelsea have sometimes looked vulnerable on their travels this season, but Jose Mourinho hasn’t been defeated at Stamford Bridge in his 76 Premier League games as Chelsea manager.

Arsenal will have to break that sequence, if they’re to record Arsene Wenger’s 573rd win in his 1,000th game as Arsenal boss.

In the reverse meeting at the Emirates in late December, a drab 0-0 draw, Mourinho played a defensive-minded 4-3-3 system, packing the centre of the pitch and relying upon counter-attacking football.

"While Hazard's outright speed is dangerous, his major feature is his incredible acceleration"

Michael Cox

At home, however, Chelsea are more adventurous and should continue with Mourinho’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system. This means the presence of a genuine No 10, probably Brazilian playmaker Oscar, who is tactically disciplined and highly intelligent with his movement and distribution. Mikel Arteta will have one of his toughest tests of the season, with and without the ball.

The main threat, however, is unquestionably left winger Eden Hazard. He’s Chelsea’s top league goalscorer (with 13, six clear of Samuel Eto’o) and top assister (with seven, three clear of Frank Lampard and Fernando Torres).

While Hazard's outright speed is dangerous, his major feature is his incredible acceleration, breezing past defenders without warning. Bacary Sagna will hope he receives support from midfield, particularly as Hazard likes to cut inside into central positions.

Mourinho’s key decision is up front, and whether to use Eto’o or Torres. Eto’o has proved capable of scoring big goals in recent weeks, netting against Galatasaray on Tuesday, after goals against Liverpool, Tottenham and a hat-trick against Manchester United.

His link-up play is neater and more precise, although Torres offers a more powerful option. Rather than looking to run in behind the opposition defence, as he did in his younger days, Torres has improved with his back to goal. He brings Chelsea’s attacking midfielders - their key players - into play effectively.

Chelsea’s major addition since the meeting at the Emirates is holding midfielder Nemanja Matic, re-signed from Benfica after three years away from Stamford Bridge.

He’s the complete holding midfielder - strong in the tackle, impressive with his distribution and an aerial force, too. He’ll drop deep in front of Olivier Giroud when Wojciech Szczesny looks to hit long balls up front, and the Frenchman might find it difficult to win headers this weekend.

It's been an interesting season at Stamford Bridge, with more ups than downs. I'm not sure what people expected when Jose Mourinho returned to Chelsea but he has probably exceeded what most people would have hoped for, in that he's hit the ground running really quickly and Chelsea are top of the league. There have of course been troubles on the way, not least losing at Aston Villa last weekend. This game against Arsenal is a real opportunity to really reassemble the title challenge.

"I can see the match having quite cagey periods and it might be a bit of a chess game at times"

Dan Levene

When Eden Hazard has looked good, Chelsea have looked good. The difficulty is that Chelsea have been really reliant on Hazard this season and when he doesn't do well, Chelsea don't tend to. The problem is that they perhaps don't have a striker that can be 100 per cent relied upon to put the ball away so an awful lot of responsibility falls on the guys playing in attacking midfield. Mourinho has said that Hazard is probably the best young player in the world and Chelsea really need him to perform if they are to get a result against Arsenal.

What I think will be really key on Saturday is that Chelsea like to play on the break and the speed of some of the Arsenal defenders will be quite important. We've seen Chelsea sweep the ball up the pitch and into the net from end to the other in just a few seconds on occasions this season. Arsenal will have to be really careful about that.

Arsenal are always a dangerous side. Chelsea have a couple of midfielders out - Willian and Ramires - so, while Mourinho's selection in the centre of the park won't be makeshift, it also won't be his first choice. Arsenal have a real chance to win some of that area. I imagine Arsenal will have most of the possession but what's important is whether or not they can turn that into something dangerous.

This will certainly be a competitive game. Both teams are rightly at the top end of the Premier League. I can see the match having quite cagey periods and it might be a bit of a chess game at times with maybe the odd goal deciding it. It's a very difficult one to call and I'm sure it will be a fascinating one to watch.

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