Like the London joke goes, after waiting a while for one bus, four come along at once.
For five straight games, Chelsea failed to win a game since kicking off 2018. Three straight 0-0 games and one 1-1 draw (albeit leading them to winning a penalty shootout), seemed to suggest that teams had figured out a way to shutdown the English champions.
After a spate of absences swept through the first team squad, the West Londoners managed to somehow conjure up sorcery at the seaside game when facing Brighton. What was once a seemingly languid side, was now flicking backheels to one another and breezing past their opponents; something had clicked. Two goals in the first 15 mins seemed to have sealed the game, and amid controversial penalty decisions given against Bristol, a final goal each from Eden Hazard and Victor Moses—assisted by a deadly long pass by baby-faced Charly Musonda—added sparkle to the result.
As if Arsenal didn’t want to be overshadowed, they racked up the same scoreline, but only in about 25 minutes, in their humbling of Crystal Palace later that day. Just as Alexandre Lacazette started to gather doubters over his problems in front of goal, he managed to add the cherry on top with the final goal at home to hopefully kickstart his second half of the season. By the time Crystal Palace managed to pull a goal back via Luka Milivojevic, Arsenal were already winding down and preparing for the coming days ahead.
After plucky underdogs, Bristol City, failed to stop Manchester City’s impressive midfield on Tuesday, we now turn to London and the second shot at glory in the semi-final of the Carabao cup.
With the scoreline from the first leg staying blank, we know everything is up for grabs. Will the touchline be toasty from barbs between the gaffers? Will the Emirates lift the home team or help Chelsea become the underdogs? Let’s just hope that both sides have their shooting boots on.
Backpage bragging rights
Lots of attention will be paid as to who will be wearing the shirts on the pitch on Wednesday, but after weeks of speculation as to who will be wearing shirts off it, expect some chatter to still hover over North London.
Will a Dzeko (likely) or a Barnes be rubbing shoulders with Marina Granovskaia in Chelsea’s executive box? Adjacent, is the Gunner’s new signing, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, going to be chatting with a former teammate, possessing an equally exotic surname?
From what we know so far, there will be some strikers sitting in the stands, but not new ones. Olivier Giroud (hamstring), Danny Welbeck (groin) look to be missing from the Arsenal squad and some doubts remain over Aaron Ramsey (illness) and Nacho Monreal (leg) over if they will play a part in the derby. The previously mentioned new signing from Manchester United, Mkhitaryan, will have to hang on for just one game longer to pull on the boots as he is cup-tied, having already competed for his former club.
After fluid link-up play between Eden Hazard and Willian was showcased at the weekend, Michy Batshuayi will be likely to test the chemistry again, after Alvaro Morata was ruled out with a back injury. Whether Conte will use the same system is up to chance, after Hazard hinted at his desire to play with a partner to interchange with.
Cesc Fabregas is also expected to sit out another return to his former-team, with a hamstring injury. New signing, Ross Barkley, was unable to get on the pitch against Norwich last week, nor against Brighton at the weekend. Does that mean he will play at some point in the game? As a rotation option, he can play in a variety of midfield positions due to being ambidextrous, but equally, Conte would be wise not to tinker too much with a team that finally created chances.
If it gets to penalties, there may be a chance that Mesut Ozil will be staring down Willy Caballero in goal, as first choice keeper, Thibaut Courtois, is still testing the waters to see if he is fit enough after a short injury. Tests are also going to be made for Danny Drinkwater and Captain, Gary Cahill, but Andreas Christensen seems to have shaken off the head knock picked up in his last game.
Arsenal provisional squad: Cech, Ospina, Mertesacker, Holding, Mustafi, Koscielny, Chambers, Monreal, Mavropanos, Debuchy, Bellerin, Nelson, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles, Wilshere, Xhaka, Elneny, Ramsey, Ozil, Iwobi, Lacazette, Nketiah.
Chelsea provisional squad: Courtois, Caballero, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Christensen, Cahill, Moses, Zappacosta, Alonso, Musonda, Kante, Bakayoko, Drinkwater, Ampadu, Barkley, Willian, Pedro, Hazard, Batshuayi, Clarke-Salter, Eduardo, Sterling, Hudson-Odoi.