Two midfielders who couldn’t force their way into Spain’s engine room at Euro 2012 will be the most influential pairing when the Gunners welcome the Blues to the Emirates Stadium at lunchtime...
It might have been said countless times before, but it is worth reinforcing the belief that the current Spanish national team has a quality and quantity of talented midfielders at their disposal like never seen before. Despite both players being in the prime phases of their careers, Arsenal duo Mikel Arteta (30) and Santi Cazorla (27) are two talents that had very little to do with their country’s World Cup success in 2010 and European Championship triumph last summer, but will be absolutely vital against Chelsea later today.
Cazorla at least made the squad at Euro 2012, although playing 16 minutes during the entire tournament is the very definition of a player on the ‘periphery’, while Arteta possesses not one international cap.
That these two are now arguably Arsenal’s most important duo, providing the glue that holds the Gunners’ new found defensive stability and recognized attacking verve together, is a startling insight into Spain’s midfield riches.
Aside from Thomas Vermaelen, who should recover from illness to start against Chelsea, the first two names on Arsene Wenger’s team-sheet are that of Arteta and Cazorla.
Cazorla at least made the squad at Euro 2012, although playing 16 minutes during the entire tournament
It is widely thought that when Jack Wilshere finally completes his long-awaited recovery from injury that Abou Diaby will be the man from the Gunners’ impressive midfield trio this season to make way.
Others suggest easing Wilshere back into action as slowly as possible, rotating him with Diaby as and when, such has been the Frenchman’s good form so far this term. What is not questioned is the places of Everton’s former pass-master and the ex-Malaga magician.
Arteta has seamlessly slipped into the side since his £10m capture at the very end of last summer, a transfer which looked far-fetched at numerous points on transfer deadline day 2011 and one that the player took a wage-cut to force through.
Cazorla finally seems to have found a club where he is able to showcase his attacking grandeur at the highest level, and his first few months in English football have been nothing short than a revelation.
What is not questioned is the places of Everton’s former pass-master and the ex-Malaga magician
Hosting Chelsea on Saturday, Arsenal face another stern test of their Premier League title credentials, having earned just a point last weekend at Manchester City despite looking worthy of all three.
However, this Blues side will not have a Champions League induced hangover to contend with nor are they likely to perform as sluggishly as City did in this hotly-contested London derby.
The John Terry racism issue may have captured the attentions of Chelsea’s captain and some of their senior players, but he is available to play – although Gooners won’t mind him starting considering the disastrous display Terry produced in this fixture at the Bridge last season.
And now Arsenal’s great nemesis Didier Drogba has swapped West London for China after scoring a staggering 13 times in 14 matches against Arsene Wenger’s side, the home team will be feeling increasingly confident ahead of this game.
The John Terry racism issue may have captured the attentions of Chelsea’s captain and some of their senior players
This Arsenal side are finally playing like a solid unit, and no doubt credit must go to the interventions of the club’s new assistant manager Steve Bould for the turnaround in defensive fortunes.
Even so, Chelsea have not found scoring goals hard this season, with Oscar, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres set to offer cause for concern to the home goalkeeper’s net at the Emirates.
But with Arteta and Cazorla offering ample experience and creative spark, Arsenal can go into a match against Chelsea believing that a win is possible for the first time in years.
As both clubs favour packing the midfield, Arsenal adopting a wide 4-3-3 formation and Chelsea a narrower 4-2-3-1, the battle for supremacy in the middle of the pitch looks set to be key.
And by fielding their two Spaniard’s who have proven themselves amongst the most effective midfielders in the division – Arteta in the withdrawn role and Cazorla more advanced – Arsenal can expect to more than match Chelsea in the most important part of the field.
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