Wembley Round One

This is a massive game.

To most, the FA Cup represents the best chance at silverware for our club. They’ve been saying this for a long time, as if they had zero faith that we could pull off a string of performances to win the Champions League. Now that we’re here, we have fulfilled some people’s predictions.

That being said, I would venture that these people predicted us to win the FA Cup based on heavyweights being knocked out and getting favorable draws. The latter has been true to an extent. We were awarded with home ties in the last two rounds, and that has helped our team immensely. The former has not panned out, and we’re in a situation where if we were to get past Chelsea, we’d have to play Manchester United for the fourth time in six weeks. Quite simply, this is an amazing scenario that might be developing.

Chelsea, as a footballing team, has been going through a revival of sorts. Their team was literally out of ideas when we last played them at Stamford Bridge. They lost to a dodgy call, but they weren’t creating anything and didn’t really deserve anything from their performance.

Guus arrived, and he sorted Drogba out. I hate some of these performances they’re giving, because it gives me the impression that some of these players played poorly to get Scolari out. That kind of stuff always bothers me, but it is what it is. You can’t control how the locker room is, especially if it’s not a team that you built yourself.

Drogba has been motivated. Lampard has been consistent all year. They’ve been playing much better, and their first leg against Liverpool in the Champions League was their most impressive performance all year.

That’s not to say they’re invincible though.

Their defense has been shaky. Petr Cech is not the goalkeeper he once was, and he is susceptible to crosses. He is no longer both brave and intelligent; he is usually one or the other.

Their offense is incredibly narrow. They align with three central midfielders and use two nominal wingers to try to create width. Under Scolari, he used Ashley Cole and Boswinga to bomb forward to provide the width that such a central system denied them. It worked, only until those fullbacks were put under pressure themselves.

To that extent, we need Arshavin and Theo to push them back so their attack remains more one-dimensional. As Arsene put it so bluntly, our attack is the best form of defense, especially considering that 80% of our first choice back four is now sidelined.

If Gibbs is able to recover, it will prevent Alex Song from played in defense. This will help combat the talents of Ballack and Lampard. If not, Song’s strength will help us play Drogba more effectively. Song will be an important player tomorrow.

Moreover, Cesc may be man-marked by Essien. I adore Mikael Essien. I regard him as one of the best players in the world, but if he were put to this task, it would deprive them of his forward drive. That may work in our favor, if we have Arshavin playing on the left wing.

Quite simply, it’s a tasty matchup. It’s a 50-50 to be sure. That being said, my heart bleeds red. I hope to see our club continue to blossom.


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