Alexis Sanchez has been nominated for Barclay’s Premier League Player of the Year award, which is fully deserved. The Chilean’s first season at the Arsenal and in the Premier League has been fantastic: his obvious quality, combined with a very British willingness to dig in, immediately won our affection, not even mentioning the huge contribution he made to keep our season on track at the very beginning; yes, he faded a little bit during winter but that was totally expected and somehow physiological. No break, no rest and the consequence can only be a dip in form.
I hope he wins that but I am almost sure he won’t.
Anyway, this is not the point.
His main challenger to this prestigious award certainly is Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, whose prouesses will almost surely win him the prize at the end of the season – and here comes the fulcrum of this piece: the Belgian winger will definitely be Chelsea’s main threat when José Mourinho’s men come to the Emirates Stadium next weekend; of course, a fit Diego Costa and an inspired Cesc Fàbregas could definitely do some damage – as they did during the reverse fixture – but Eden Hazard could prove to be the difference between these sides.
Arsène Wenger has a huge task going into this game; he must find a solution to cancel the obvious mismatch Eden Hazard will create on our right flank: Hector Bellerín, Calum Chambers and Mathieu Débuchy all have one weak point the Belgian could exploit.
Let’s play a game then: If I were the manager.
If I were the manager, I would definitely make sure my right-back is fast enough to stay close to the Belgian when his quick feet will get him an advantage: bye-bye Calum Chambers – you are not the ideal candidate here.
That leaves us with Hector Bellerín and Mathieu Débuchy: the Spaniard is quicker and fitter, the Frenchman more sound defensively and more experienced; also, the latter has more strength in his upper-body and a better elevation, which could prove to be handy when Diego Costa will shift to our right side, as he usually does.
It would seem like an easy decision, however Mathieu Débuchy has played the whole game (plus extra time) against Reading in his first game since January – hence I am not sure he could cope with the torrid time Eden Hazard is likely to give him.
To gamble or not to gamble, that is the question!
Personally, I’d stick to Mathieu Débuchy; I know Hector Bellerín has offered some great performances and is fitter than the former Lille and Newcastle man (although he is playing through some pain in his ankle) and I also reckon it seems unfair to drop him, however Mathieu Débuchy’s qualities suit the task better.
His more aggressive style and deeper knowledge could help containing Eden Hazard influence on the game and prove to be decisive in the game.
Of course, it is a huge gamble, I know.
The Frenchman looked shattered at the end of the FA Cup semifinal on Saturday but has seven days to recover; he can play 90 minutes on Sunday, if well supported by his teammates.
In my view, the key to this duel is here: we should not leave our right-back alone.
Either Mathieu Débuchy or Hector Bellerín will need help.
If I were the manager, I would build a very solid triangle around Eden Hazard and make sure he finds life very difficult in trying to escape from there.
Solidarity will be the key to finally get the three points against a team led by José Mourinho, hence Arsène Wenger would need men with high levels of energy and huge fighting spirit: if I were him, I would place Mathieu Débuchy at right-back, Aaron Ramsey in front of him and Francis Coquelin through the middle, making sure that the Welshman tracks back each time we don’t have the ball and the young defensive midfielder closes down when Eden Hazard cuts inside.
Basically, we’d need to put together the kind of performance that won us the three points at the Etihad Stadium and the FA Cup quarter-finals at Old Trafford.
It is going to be difficult to resist the temptation to outplay, outclass José Mourinho’s side and give them a good spanking because there’s nothing more pleasant on Earth than seeing that arrogant egocentric clown’s team get battered – but we must resist. Even if we will be playing at home and we will have the ball for the majority of the game, it would be calamitous to be lured forward and leave spaces behind us – this is what José Mourinho’s plan is all about and it can hardly be considered a surprise call.
Let’s surprise him by playing his own game: nullify your opponent’s strength first.
If I were the manager, I would do this.
Yet, I’m quite sure Arsène Wenger will do the opposite to prove there is some divine justice in football, won’t he?
Of course you are, Arsène, you stubborn, narcissistic idealist 🙂