With four of Arsenal’s back line out with injury, the Gunners are given an even greater task of keeping out one of the world’s best strikers.
There is perhaps no greater testament of the two strikers’ abilities that when managers are seeking for a number nine, look for a player in the Didier Drogba or Fernando Torres mold. Indeed, one of the problems in the youth game is that young players are being coached to become carbon copies of the pair, rather than retain individual identity, because of the almost universal agreement that playing with one striker is the way forward.
Strikers must be able perform many different functions and therefore goalscoring need not be a number nine’s sole principle. Fernando Torres is a great goalscorer, capable of creating something out of nothing while his pace and work-rate always keeps defenders on their toes. Drogba on the other hand can assume the role of both a target man, bullying defenders to submission, and goalscorer because of his mobility. It is this potent combination which has some people label him as the ‘world’s best striker’ and although he may seem to spend more time on the floor rather than actually playing, there is no doubt defenders fear him the most.
Drogba has worried Arsenal on more than one occasion and the Ivorian will be once again licking his lips at the prospect of facing the Gunners, though this time with half of Arsenal’s back line options missing. Last year two goals in quick succession downed Arsenal’s title hopes while Philippe Senderos testify just how hard it is to come up against Drogba and indeed Torres, who left the Swiss defender ‘distraught‘ after their encounter in the Champions League last season.
However Torres showed his limitations in the recent showing against Chelsea as the Spaniard was comfortably kept under wraps by the Blues’ defensive pair. Torres can produce moments of magic but good concentration and effective marking can see the striker’s threats nullified. Drogba on the other hand requires more than just orthodox methods and he, unlike Torres is more likely to make things for himself.
There are quite a few players who may feel they are more suited to the crown of crown of the world’s best centre forward; Ibrahimovic, Eto’o, Van Nistelrooy, Villa to name a few (though the Spaniard may consider himself more a number ten rather than a number nine) but there is no doubt that on his day, Didier Drogba can be almost unplayable.
The Gunners will be hoping they can produce a much greater threat of their own having gone unbeaten in all competitions since losing against Porto in December and welcome the return of Andrei Arshavin to the starting line-up. With Cesc Fabregas back and dictating play, Arsenal look more balanced and the attacking threat looks one of the best in the Premiership.
Defensively is the greatest concern and whether Arsenal can cope with the aerial threat of Drogba. The cautious nature of the full back’s has seen the Gunners more secure and with four plus one more back, they will be confident in containing the Blues. Should Van Persie start, the Dutchman is likely to be given license to roam and make the midfield five to stop the centre becoming over-run.
Chelsea have shown some recent cracks in the defence recently, no less than goalkeeper Cech, who was culpable in both the last two games. Essien is a big player and Hiddink will no doubt have the midfielder on Fabregas watch. The late runs of Lampard and Ballack must be watched while the wingers like to cut inside which may leave space out wide for the full backs to exploit.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Fabianski – Eboue, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs – Nasri, Fabregas (c), Diaby, Arshavin – Van Persie, Adebayor.
Subs from: Mannone, Denilson, Song,Vela, Ramsey,Walcott, Bendtner, Merida.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech – Ivanovic, Carvalho, Terry, A. Cole – Essien, Ballack, Lampard – Anelka, Drogba, Malouda.
Subs from: Hilario, Belletti, Alex, Mancienne, Mikel, Kalou, Di Santo, Quaresma, Stoch.