Will Arsenal come up short in another game against a big team? Phil Thompson thinks so...
Last Updated: 27/12/10 10:40am
You are guaranteed wonderful football whenever you watch Arsenal, but they often come up short against the big teams.
They have already lost to both Manchester United and Chelsea this season, and a pattern is starting to emerge when it comes to these big fixtures. They'll win the odd one, but generally they find the battle a bit too tough.
United and Chelsea are capable of playing fantastic football, but those sides possess physical attributes that cause problems for Arsene Wenger's team. Perhaps the Arsenal manager needs to suss out a way of dealing with that.
I'd like to see him consider using two defensive midfielders against Chelsea on Monday and not approach the game as adventurously as he usually does. The only issue is whether or not he has the personnel to do that effectively.
Alex Song can do that job, but the likes of Denilson have often been found wanting in that role. However, when you play two attacking full-backs in Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy, then Song alone does not provide enough protection for the central defenders.
I would approach the game with a more defensive mindset, but Wenger is stuck in his ways and believes in his philosophies and his players. I think he will stand by his tried and tested formula if only because of the lack of players he has available to him in that position.
There's no doubt that Arsenal will have a say in where the title ends up, but I still would not say with any confidence that they have what it takes to win it.
In fact, I believe Chelsea are about to come back strong in the title race in the second half of the season. After a bad run, I was very impressed with them against Tottenham and I could feel the confidence returning to the players - even in the first half when they were 1-0 down.
They may have dominated the second 45 minutes, but I was more impressed by the first half when they showed character and ability in the face of adversity. That had been seriously lacking in the previous weeks.
You may have seen the discussions on Soccer Saturday regarding the role of John Obi Mikel, who is a fine player but tends to slow the game down. He allows teams and players to get back behind the ball and I think Chelsea have suffered for that.
I much prefer to see Michael Essien as the holding midfielder and that will bring the best out of the returning Frank Lampard. Carlo Ancelotti will need to look at changes in that area.
I'm sure the Chelsea boss was frustrated to see their game against Manchester United postponed because his squad has been growing in confidence; Lampard is back to fitness and Didier Drogba looked sharp when he came on against Spurs.
However, I think this could be the game when they get back to winning ways.
AWAY WIN - I think Chelsea will pip this 1-0. I feel they have been growing in confidence following a poor run and I just think Arsenal tend to come up short in these games against their big rivals. For those reasons I'll go for a narrow away win.
THOMMO'S TOP MAN
DIDIER DROGBA - I think Drogba released a lot of frustration in the game against Tottenham after being left on the bench and he will be the big player in this match. He has an outstanding scoring record against Arsenal and I would back him to be the matchwinner against Arsenal.
Paul Merson will be back after Christmas