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Optimism or Fear As Arsenal Face Chelsea


Almost everyone realizes that Mikel Arteta’s reign is a marathon. But for Mikel himself it starts like a sprint. 3 days after his first ever game in charge, it’s get up and go again. This time it’s the post-Christmas blues of Chelsea. Hopefully, the boys in red and white can keep the holiday cheer going.

As far as the performance goes, Bournemouth offered much to be cheerful about. The result though, wasn’t ideal. Chelsea themselves had a poor result on boxing day, losing 2-0 to Southampton. What it means is that this season continues to be crazy enough to give us hope of the top 4. Which definitely isn’t a trophy. At least I’m sure I saw banners to that effect.

Chelsea still sit 4th in the table with their own former midfielder turned manager in charge. The difference being he’s been in charge since the start of the season while Arteta, and Arsenal are now playing catchup. From 8 points behind and in 12th place. Arsenal are 12th with half the season gone.

I could say a lot about why we find ourselves here, but I guess we need to avoid the ghost of Christmas past, and look to the future. A win and we’ll start our slow climb back up the table and get to 9th. For those keeping track, we’d also be within 3 points of Spurs and Mourinho, which might even start awakening St Totteringham after a long slumber.

Ok, that’s too far ahead into the future. Onto the present.

The match-up

Chelsea’s youngsters have made the most of their transfer ban penury, although their board will be looking to order turkeys in the transfer market, I’m sure. Worryingly for us, this might actually make the youngsters hungry to perform. I wonder if they lost their last game because they had an eye on this fixture.

Chelsea have a good midfield and they keep the ball ticking over. They are in fact the second most passing team this season, behind only ManCity. Not only do they control possession, they are also productive, and are 2nd in shots created. Arsenal are 8th and 14th in these categories. (Feliz Navidad, Unai Emery)

Tammy Abraham is the man to watch out for with 11 goals scored. 1/3rd of the team’s total. Chelsea, despite my quip about their penury, are loaded with talent. Strong in the air, good with the ball at their feet and a striker in form. The more I look at them, the more worried I get. If I had to pick a weakness, I’d say their keeper Kepa is it.

Which might work out for the better because our strength lies in our attack. We really ought to take our chances as they come. While Auba has largely been going strong, we have to hope Lacazette brings his shooting boots this time around, and that Pepe is fit and ready to go.

Of course, with Mikel Arteta now in charge, we can also hope to match Chelsea for possession. It was the most pleasing aspect of the Bournemouth game; once again, we were dominating possession in a controlled fashion. We can still expect the odd mistake, but for the most part our players now seem to not panic when put under pressure and, instead, find a way out. There’s not much time to recover and train again, but hopefully this will be an ongoing improvement.

The effort was excellent as well, and this will need to continue. It’s a big ask with all the injuries in key positions as well, but hopefully whoever plays does themselves justice.

Sokratis is out with concussion. Tierney and Kolasinac are still recovering. Bellerin and Martinelli both have tight hamstrings and are doubts. Rob Holding and Dani Ceballos are back in full training and will be assessed, but Callum Chambers is back after suspension.


Starting XI: Leno, AMN, Chambers, Luiz, Saka, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Pepe, Ozil, Willock, Aubameyang

Subs: Martinez, Mustafi, Holding, Torreira, Ceballos, ESR, Lacazette

I’ll admit I am worried about this game. Chelsea are tough opponents at the best of times, and these certainly haven’t been that. But we’re at home, the crowd should be high on eggnog, and Arteta is bringing sexy back. No matter what, I doubt this will be a boring game. Ultimately, even as much as we hope for 3 points, entertainment is what we ask for.

Is it a first? I think it might be. I’m going to predict an Arsenal loss. A heartbreaking, narrow, valiant, gallant, loss. 2-1 to Chelsea. But I’ll keep hoping for a pleasant surprise.




  1. Hey Shard. Thanks for another excellent analysis as you almost religiously complete another preview of Arsenal’s PL top-flight encounters. I get your pessimism about the result. Of course very few of your peers take a position pre-game but they are quick to tear into the dead bones after a game as they seek to enhance their credentials as armchair generals. Although we are co-bloggers on this site, I salute your bravery and honesty.

    BTW, I am on record on twitter as giving us a 50:50 chance of a win. Clearly I respect them for how well they have been playing under Frank Lampard but honestly, deep inside I don’t fear them as much as I did during their heyday. ?I wouldn’t be surprised if we turn them over just as much as they can defeat us.. Playing it safe, a draw is the most likely outcome.

  2. Thanks Shard

    Chelsea were also probably a bit drained after the previous emotional fixture against their former coach, I too expect they’ll have more juice in the tank today.

    They have young CBs but if Rudiger has his focus back today I think they’ll be steadier in their defence.

    I would not distraught with a draw. Though the Gunners are desperate for the points.

    Arteta is still going to suffer from the toxic influence of the Emery-Sanllehi bile & vile legacy and (deliberate) dismantling of the squad – specifically all senior CMs being driven out the football club for peanuts. Incompetence or sabotage from the Head of Football Relations? You tell me! (I think most adults can muster the footballs required for an honest answer here.)

    If he’s off then there goes any hope of reclaiming a top six spot. Sure the same soppy ****s who pretended, like clowns, for twelve months that Guendouzi was ready to start in the premier league for The Arsenal when he is still not ready to be starting CM for Norwich Watford or Villa, or West Brom, Leeds etc…will be celebrating his departure and the damage to the squad. But that’s because they appear to be unwell, at best.

    In the meantime if if happens then the sane Arsenal fans, the majority who had enough of the Emery degeneracy by the summer though it took the wise blaggers several months to catch up with the arsenal fan base, well the rest of us will be watching the table till we are past fourty points, I hope.
    Given the cheating from the pgMOB yesterday it is worth remembering that these crooks and hopelessly inept (please see the England football team) cheats will try anything and everything, this season more then others.

  3. Very interesting interview of Mikel by Sky Sports

    He agrees with us here at Uncensored; the Arsenal Way is “non-negotiable”. I know there are some well-thinking friends who may disagree. But imo the past 18 months has proven that for us to be the biggest and most successful club in England there is no going back to the old ways of playing. Wenger set the template for the modern Arsenal and we need to build on it, positively and aggressively.

  4. So far, so good Uncensoreds. Arteta is whipping us into a more balanced unit. He did say his first priority was the basics which is our shape and formation, letting us defend better. Later he can focus on our offensive shape. Without Xhaka he is handicapped. Certainly today we could have used his wonderful passing range together with his no nonsense defending. Imagine the the hole that will be left when he leaves.

  5. Well lots to be encouraged by but it is disappointing.

    Anyone who thinks the team’s ability to hold the ball as Chelsea found their gears and chased the game and Ozil tired was improved in the absence of Xhaka has been snorting the funny stuff and knows zero about the football. Chambers was also a blow the team coped with well, hopefully he’s not out for long!

  6. I am not encouraged because the refereeing is now beginning to influence games against us.

    Jorginho should not have been on the pitch to scor their first goal, which was, therefore compliments of the ref.

    • To be honest, from a Chelsea pov, Guendouzi should have had a 2nd yellow for grabbing Abraham in the 1st half.

  7. I am not pleased to be spot on with my prediction.

    • Neither am I. You were too prophetic. Almost a 100% except for choosing Pepe over Reiss-Nelson. I was hoping you would be wrong at 1-0. Not getting the second was the killer.

      • Yeah, the thing is Shotta. It’s still early days, but now at least I understand what Arteta is trying to do. That makes it easier to predict stuff.

        Honestly when I started writing the preview, I thought we should win, or at least get a draw. But when I took a look at Chelsea’s squad and the stats, I felt like we’d just about lose out because of their longer period of adaptation. Basically, that was the difference. Emery staying on an extra 6 months. Or we’d be where Chelsea are.


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