Chelsea collapse opens Arsenal a dangerous door

Being last up on the fixture list can be a blessing or otherwise depending on the individual. Arsenal can watch the rest of the league more freely, just as their rivals could pile the pressure on them ahead of Monday’s fixture.

Heading into this matchweek, the results that Arsenal were concerning themselves with were Manchester United and Tottenham. Not Chelsea.

The Crystal Palace game is a chance for Mikel Arteta‘s side to maintain their light grip on the top four places, with that precious fourth spot the one and only goal remaining for the rest of the season. Get it and this project will have truly gone ‘bang’.

Stunning Chelsea collapse against Brentford opens Arsenal a dangerous door into third, one they need to avoid

Away from matters at Old Trafford and in north London, something rather remarkable happened in the west of the capital. Brentford, embarking on their first ever Premier League adventure, outclassed Chelsea 4-1 having even come from behind in the game with 40 minutes left.

Another Christian Eriksen masterclass – you can’t help but be overjoyed for the man’s incredible comeback – helped the visitors beat the Blues for the first time since 1939. A result that has nothing to do with Arsenal, right?

This is where it enters dangerous territory. Nobody can afford to get ahead of themselves, so one mustn’t allow it to happen.

Chelsea’s shock home defeat leaves them on 59 points with 29 matches played. Arsenal trail that tally by five points, but can reduce it to just two with the same amount of matches played if they beat Palace on Monday. An inviting door has been opened for Arsenal.

Or has there?

While on the one hand it’s always positive to be looking up and not down, it should be the case that whatever Chelsea does is incurious to Arsenal. Fourth is what matters, not third, and allowing the mind to wander may cease only to be to one’s detriment if for whatever reason Arsenal don’t pull through. This is where complacency can rear its ugly head.

To hell with what Chelsea do. Arsenal shouldn’t care.

If it ends up that Arteta’s side head to Stamford Bridge and a win sees them leapfrog them in the table it would be marvelous. Massively so. But more marvelous in the sense that it keeps Arsenal firmly in the hunt for Champions League football. That is the aim.

Focus has to be on the Arsenal garden. Not their neighbours’, one which has plenty of beautiful and expensive water features but still suffers from a weed problem.

Referee named for Champions League match between Chelsea and Real Madrid

UEFA have appointed French referee Clement Turpin as the man in charge of the first leg between Chelsea and Real Madrid in the Champions League Quarterfinals. This will be the fourth time he oversees a game involving Madrid.

Clément Turpin will oversee the Champions League quarter-finals first leg match between Real Madrid and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (Wednesday, 9pm CET). The Frenchman will referee our side for the fourth time in this competition.

The first time was in the 2014/15 Group Stage against Ludogorest, which Real Madrid won 4-0. The second came against Roma in the 2018/19 Group Stage with the Whites winning 2-0 away from home. The last time was in the game against Inter Milan at the Alfredo Di Stéfano in matchday three of the 2020/21 Group Stage, with Real Madrid winning 3-2.

It will be crucial for Madrid to match Chelsea’s intensity and physicality, something they weren’t able to do the last time they met, which happened a year ago in the Champions League Semifinals. Could Ancelotti use a fourth midfielder like Fede Valverde or Camavinga to help Casemiro, Kroos and Modric?

Real Madrid were tactically outclassed last season, and the themes still remain. Here’s how they need to change their ways in order to avenge last season’s loss These observations — where I look at Real Madrid’s history, its players on loan, Castilla, tactical tidbits, and other relevant thoughts — are now a regular thing.

Neither Chelsea nor Real Madrid are currently at the peak of their powers as we head into a rematch of last year’s Champions League semi-finals. Thomas Tuchel’s men are not as dominant as they were last season, and are coming off the back of a 1 – 4 loss at home to Brentford. Carlo Ancelotti’s men, meanwhile, are walking wounded to La Liga’s finish line. Results are still coming (so long as you ignore the Clasico bloodbath), but performances have been laborious and concerning.

It’s hard to see how Real Madrid can magically fix their press, defensive structure, lack of production from the entire right flank, lass of press-resistancy, positional chaos, and lack of efficiency on the counter-attack overnight. Old demons remain from the Casemiro – Kroos – Modric trio which will likely start in Stamford Bridge. Once dominant; now collectively they struggle to keep up with more nimble, dynamic, technically-gifted midfielders who are supported with better tactical structures.

Chelsea obliterated Real Madrid over two legs last season, and despite the performance against Brentford, still have a +35 goal differential in the Premier League, and have the ceiling in these knockout games to get things right tactically. Where Real Madrid have European DNA and individual brilliance up their sleeve; Chelsea have structure, cohesiveness, compactness. Will this come down to a Courtois save? To Modric dropping his shoulder, carrying the ball 30 yards and slinging a through ball on his last legs? To Karim Benzema carrying the offensive burden on his shoulders again? Will Vinicius regain his scoring form? Will Chelsea melt the way PSG did or will they repeat their masterclass from last season?

Maybe Ancelotti will surprise us all — Chelsea included — and shake things up in favour of a more athletic, two-way team that goes toe-to-toe with Chelsea physically. Doubt it. He hasn’t changed things much this season, and curve-balls were more of Zidane’s thing. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are often seen these days chasing shadows in a low-block, in a scheme that suits neither of them. Some teams, like Atletico Madrid, are in control when they don’t have the ball. When Real Madrid play that way, you can see it in their body language: The bounce and swagger are gone, they get cold and demoralized — never in position to put together three passes to escape their half. It worked early on in the fall, but the team was more fresh then, and the scouting report eventually came out: Press and counter-press Real Madrid and you’ll stop them from reaching attacking zones.

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