Stop Fabregas and you stop Chelsea, Hamann tells Wenger
CHELSEA v ARSENAL
(Tomorrow, 9.05pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
1 STOP DISBELIEVING
The statistics don't look good for Arsenal.
The Gunners have lost 16 out of 20 away games against top-five teams in the English Premiership in the last five seasons.
Last season, they lost at Manchester City 6-3, got beaten 5-1 at Liverpool and, of course, there was that 6-0 drubbing at Stamford Bridge.
It could be the nine-year trophy drought that led to a lack of belief.
Mentally, they just didn't seem strong enough.
But I believe that last season's FA Cup win has created a more positive mentality in this team.
I believe the Gunners will not do as badly in away matches as they did last season.
They have already scored late goals against Crystal Palace, Everton, Manchester City and Tottenham when, in seasons past, they would be the ones who suffer from sucker-punches.
Arsenal have a good chance to win the league this season.
They will go far in the Champions League and I don't think they will lose to Chelsea tomorrow.
They are a different team this year with greater strengh in depth after signing Calum Chambers, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck.
The former Manchester United man looks like a great signing now playing in his preferred centre forward role, and he will score a lot of goals for Arsenal.
The pace of Sanchez and Welbeck could well make John Terry and Co very uncomfortable.
2 STOP BEING PREDICTABLE
This is one weakness Arsenal need to improve on.
Everyone knows just what they are going to get when they play the Gunners.
Regardless of who their opponents are, Arsenal will seek to dominate possession and try to pass their way to goal.
That's a big risk against Chelsea, who are masters of the counter-attack under Jose Mourinho, who preaches an entirely different, win-at-all-cost philosophy - whoever makes the least mistakes wins, and whoever has the ball most is most likely to make mistakes.
A lot of criticism has been levelled at Arsene Wenger because it seems he is tactically limited.
But perhaps the players themselves should make certain decisions out on the pitch, curbing their attacking instincts and keeping things tight.
3 STOP DIEGO COSTA AND CO
Diego Costa has had a great start to life in west London even though there are question marks over his hamstring.
But he wouldn't be as effective without good support.
And Costa has very good support in Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian and Andre Schuerrle, out of whom Jose Mourinho will pick three to start.
Each of them has the ability to penetrate defences in one moment of brilliance.
Yet, in Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal have one of the best centre back pairings in recent years.
Mertesacker has improved tremendously since he arrived in England and so has Koscielny, and they work really well together.
They will need all the help they can get from Kieran Gibbs and Chambers in the wide positions, which means the normally overlapping fullbacks have to be tactically disciplined and avoid leaving gaps at the back.
4 STOP FABREGAS
I never thought one player can make such a big difference, but Cesc Fabregas proved me wrong.
Not only has he improved to be a better player, he also has the ability to raise the game of others around him.
The Spaniard has given what Chelsea missed - the creative spark in the middle of the park behind the front four.
For Chelsea to be stopped, Fabregas must be stopped.
Arsenal have to make sure he doesn't see much of the ball to play his deadly assists to his teammates up front.
Five of the six goals they put past Arsenal in March were from fast breaks, and they need a holding midfielder in the mould of Nigel de Jong or Javier Mascherano to make sure that doesn't happen.
I've been told that Chambers was brought to the club for that role, and he's got good physique and technical abilities.
With Mathieu Debuchy out injured, Chambers will most probably play at right back and Mathieu Flamini will have a big physical part to play in central midfield.
He knows Fabregas from their time together at Arsenal from 2004 to 2008, and he must keep a tight leash on his former teammate.
It's always tough to go to the Bridge and try to take points off a Chelsea side led by the wily Mourinho.
But I think Arsenal are a different side this season and they will at least get a draw. With both team capable of scoring goals, a 2-2 draw is on the cards.
- Dietmar Hamann has played for Bayern Munich, Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester City. He won the Bundesliga in 1994 and 1997, and the treble of the FA Cup, League Cup and Uefa Cup with Liverpool in 2001, besides the Champions League in 2005. The ex-German international is the author of The Didi Man: My Love Affair With Liverpool.
"At the moment, Chelsea are as good as you will get in Europe. They score goals and they’ve always defended very well so it’ll be a very tough test, but it’s one that we’re looking forward to."
- Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny
'Stop criticising my finishing'
Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck is uncomfortable with comparisons with club great Thierry Henry, but fully intends to make his own mark with the Gunners.
The England forward (above) netted his first career hat-trick in the 4-1 demolition of Galatasaray in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Welbeck's clinical finishes, one when racing on to a short back header to slot past the goalkeeper, has led to suggestions the 23-year-old has all the traits needed to follow in the footsteps of Henry, whom Gunners boss Arsene Wenger converted from a winger to become the club's record scorer.
Teammate Aaron Ramsey, currently out with a hamstring injury, declared Welbeck "has everything to make himself an Arsenal legend", reflecting on his "very Thierry Henry-esque goal".
Welbeck, however, is determined to keep things in perspective.
"You can't start making comparisons like that. Obviously Thierry Henry is someone I have looked up to ever since I started playing football," said Welbeck, who was often deployed out wide for United and also sometimes with England.
"Nobody can really criticise my finishing because they don't really see me playing in a forward position too often. But now that I am getting into these positions, I want to be sticking the ball in the back of the net. I am sure it's the same with every other striker.
"Obviously, people can say I have not scored enough goals, but you stick the best strikers on the wing in a four-man midfield and see if they score goals.
"If you are getting goals and getting a run of games in your preferred position, your confidence is going to grow and performances are going to grow as well.
"That is something I am really looking forward to doing, building on those performances."
Welbeck believes feeding off the likes of Alexis Sanchez, who scored Arsenal's third goal on Wednesday, and German playmaker Mesut Oezil can only help his development.
"When I am playing with these players, they are looking to slip the ball in behind. I am always ready for that, looking to make the movement right and get in behind the defenders," he added.
"I am looking to build an understanding with the players and getting to know them better. It is good to play with this calibre of midfielders, they are only going to create chances."
Arsenal head to Premier League leaders Chelsea tomorrow out to improve on their 6-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge in March last season.
Welbeck said: "We are a confident group and, going into Sunday's game, we are going to have to prepare physically, mentally and tactically well.
"We have got a good camaraderie in and around the group. We are all really looking forward to it and are really confident."
- PA Sport.
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