Obviously tonight is massive. Chelsea have been on a bad run, while we have been consistently erratic thus far. It is a game that many say we simply cannot afford to lose, this is true, and if one looks ahead at the next couple of weeks fixtures then there are quite a few of these coming up (Wigan (A), Birmingham (A), Man City (H) ). The simple reason that we cannot afford to lose many more games is that we have lost five league games already, a very poor record for a club that claims to be challenging for the title.
If I try to take a step back from the season so far to have a look from a more objective stance then it is obvious that we have not been good enough. Five defeats in seventeen games is poor by anyone's standards for a top side, we have also conceded more than a goal a game, this defensive frailty is part of what is wrong. I don't like to sound this negative when we still have a lot to play for, but I would be lying if I said that I was confident going into this game, Chelsea have a great record against us in recent times and Didier Drogba seems to score against us as a matter of routine. Various people have had their say on why things have not gone as well as Arsene would have expected and many of these people have had a good point.
Looking at the players available tonight shows the lack of balance we have in our squad. The defensive edge of midfield will have to come from Song, Wilshere and possibly Diaby. Song has been playing in a bizarre free role of late, Wilshere is a great talent but just a kid, while Diaby struggles to impose himself on a regular basis. Cesc may be back but he doesn't address the lack of balance, we simply have too many technical players who do not have enough in their lockers to get in the way of the opposition and make us a brick wall that is a real obstacle to be broken down.
I don't think the 4-3-3 system is good for many reasons, a big reason for it being a failure is the fact that it takes away a bit of responsibility for defending from the wide players and can leave our front man rather isolated. It works well when you are dominating the game but is a useless system when you are playing it with too many attacking players and chasing shadows. Something you have to able to do when playing badly is become an obstacle that the other team cannot break down, our 'Invincibles' were a great example of this, without the ball they were a proper unit, the same cannot be said of the current team.
Having said all that we can still make the best of what we have got and we do have a lot of talent at our disposal. Szczesny and Djourou should both start as these two are far more aerially dominant that those who Arsene regularly selects in their places, the latter young Swiss is the one would does potentially have the game to stop a Didier Drogba type. I would be tempted to drop Arshavin given his recent form, play Nasri on the left and Walcott on the right. While if Cesc starts then there is only room for one of RVP and Chamakh. The most important thing will be keeping things tight at the back and not conceding a cheap goal early on, something we have done against Chelsea with a depressing regularity in recent seasons. Come on you Gunners, it's time to stand up and be counted.