Arsenal v Chelsea: Goal.com’s Blues correspondent Naz Kinsella shares his expert view on Eden Hazard, Gary Cahill, Callum Hudson-Odoi and former Gunner Olivier Giroud
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Ahead of the eagerly-anticipated London clash between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Goal.com’s Chelsea correspondent and Blues expert Naz Kinsella speaks in-depth about the game to the Islington Gazette’s Gunners reporter Layth Yousif. Read on for their comprehensive Q&A.
Layth- I’m here at Stamford Bridge with Naz Kinsella, the very excellent Goal.com Chelsea correspondent. We just witnessed the Blues beating Newcastle 2-1. What are you views on the game?
Naz- Thanks for the kind words first of all. I thought Chelsea were pretty underwhelming against Newcastle. There were a lot things that could’ve gone better but the positive thing is they are six points clear of Arsenal going into Saturday’s game as well as Manchester United.
Pedro and Willian stepped up against the Magpies which helped the team because Eden Hazard is a player Chelsea are over reliant on.
He’s been playing in that central role, that ‘False 9’ role - and I don’t think it really suits him. What will make things better for Chelsea is if the wingers step up and start providing goals. Goalscoring has been a massive problem for Chelsea in the past few months and they’ve not won a game by more than one goal in the league for a long time - they’ve not won a game by more than one goal in the league since they beat Man City 2-0 at the start of December.
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That was a game in which they hit on the break, they weren’t really in control so in terms of players such as Willian - who is barely scoring – we are seeing fans getting on his back. He needs to scoring, he needs to start getting goals. Contract renewals are coming up for both these players who scored. There’s loads of context around that, the wingers need to step up with the ‘False 9’. You’ve also got Alvaro Morata who is barely in the team and Olivier Giroud doesn’t really score goals on a consistent basis. Chelsea need goal scorers to solve this problem. Pedro can do it and against Newcastle that was a huge positive I thought.
Layth- In terms of Chelsea dangermen for Arsenal fans to be wary of on Saturday, who would you pick?
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Naz- Hazard got fewer touches of the ball than any of the other outfield players which is an issue - but he’s still a dangerman. We know that there was the game against Watford where he was the match winner, he is the main matchwinner for Chelsea and it’s rare for someone else to be a match winter at the club. It’s quite clear that there’s one player head and shoulders above the rest of the team and that is Eden Hazard.
Who else is a danger player? I wouldn’t say he’s a dangerous player - he actually got a fair bit of criticism against Newcastle - the fans were on his back a bit but I would say Jorginho. He is central to everything Chelsea do. If you can stop him at Arsenal than you can stop the way Chelsea play. A lot of teams have looked to do it, some have been successful, for example Spurs and Everton have done it at Stamford Bridge.
They are teams that maybe Arsenal can look at and think: ‘That’s how we can stop that guy’. Often sides put a striker on Jorginho coming back in and nicking the ball away. He touches the ball 100 times a game so you know if you stop him you can win the ball back high up the pitch and hit this team on the break - and Chelsea don’t like to be hit on the break, they’ve got very slow defenders.
Layth- Speaking of defenders Gary Cahill was mooted at being a transfer target for Arsenal. What’s your view on Cahill this season?
Naz- Cahill has fallen out of favour because Maurizio Sarri plays on the ball, he wants ball playing centre-backs. I think it’s a bit harsh on Cahill but Sarri thinks he’s the worst ball player out of all the centre-backs that Chelsea have and he’s just thought he’s expendable. Cahill is in the last year of his contract and he should be treated as a Chelsea legend. He’s won everything, literally everything. Champions League, Europa League, Premier League titles, FA Cup. He’s an unfashionable guy but he’s won it all so I think he’ll have a good end to his career. I think he’ll contribute to another club but Maurizio Sarri simply doesn’t fancy him.
There’s always winners and losers when you change managers. He’s done a great job in the past and he can do a great job for someone else in the future - but that won’t be Maurizio Sarri. One positive about Cahill leaving I would say is that Ethan Ampadu is going to step up and Chelsea aren’t going to sign a replacement. Chelsea fans might say: ‘We’d love a new signing in every position’ but Ethan Ampadu is 18 years old.
The phrase ‘wonderkid’ gets batted around a lot these days but he could be a wonderkid. I’m unbelievably impressed with his ability and he’s a great footballer.
Layth- I think you’re absolutely right for what it’s worth. I saw Chelsea-Norwich last season in your FA Cup third round replay at the Bridge and I thought he had a fantastic game – but I’ve got to ask, you’re a Chelsea expert, you watch them every week, you know the club inside out - he’s Kwame Ampadu son, who’s an Arsenal man. He was Arsenal U18 boss and he’s at Monaco now under Thierry Henry. Why do you think Ampadu junior chose Chelsea over Arsenal?
Naz- I think that Chelsea’s academy is seen as a place where you just get the best coaching. Sometimes you get a lot of players coming through, picking between a few different clubs and they choose Chelsea just to get that level of coaching. It’s really seen as a place with the top level of coaching.
Look at Declan Rice at West Ham [who scored the winner against Arsenal at the London Stadium] even though he got let go he’ll be really thankful for the time with the Chelsea coaches and alongside the youth players who are just a cut above even Arsenal.
Arsenal have great youngsters of course but the only the problem with Chelsea is the pathway once you try and get from that coaching set up to the first team. It’s difficult. Ampadu has been lucky, but you know he came from Exeter which Kwame he worked at didn’t he? So I reckon he might have had a little word and said ‘You might be better off at Chelsea than Arsenal’ but it’s a tough one, it’s a tough one.
Layth- In terms of the academy youngsters I was at both legs of the Youth Cup final back in May when Chelsea deservedly beat Arsenal over two legs. For me in all the games I covered last season at U18, U21 and U23 levels Callum Hudson-Odoi was the best young player I’ve seen. What’s your view on him?
Naz- Yeah he’s good. Everyone at Arsenal was like ‘Yeah this guy he just stands out’. There are certain players that come by and everyone just has the same opinion of them and has something - and Hudson-Odoi certainly fits that bill.
You talk to the first team at Chelsea and everyone is just desperate for him to stay, they just don’t want to see him go to Bayern Munich. It’s because we all have the same opinion, we all think he’s great. In terms of the way Chelsea have handled him I think they’ve handled him badly. I think a lot of it comes down to history. There’s two problems with Chelsea and Hudson-Odoi, one is history.
You’ve got a case of loads of players who have failed to make it at Chelsea, players that could’ve made it but didn’t. There’s no history of players graduating from this team that won five FA Youth Cup’s in a row and making it in the first team - so I think Hudson-Odoi looks at it like that. Also, Chelsea have been a little bit cynical putting him in the squad now so might be thinking: ‘They just don’t want me to leave, they want me to sign that contract - and then they’ll stick me on loan in a couple years time.’
So I think he’s right to be sceptical – it’s a business world and it could be that Chelsea are trying to get that money in the bank because they’ve got 40 loanees. Yes, it’s so much money in the bank in terms of talent - but they’re not really letting them reach their potential, they’re not letting, say, a Marcus Rashford come through the ranks.
Arsenal are great at pushing young players through as well. You look at Arsenal’s Europa League team and squad and they’re letting Emile Smith Rowe play. He’s got them goals and as you say he wasn’t as good as Hudson-Odoi when we watched the FA Youth Cup Final - so why isn’t he getting those chances like ESR is at Arsenal?
Bayern Munich are trying to make a £35 million bid so the other issue is Maurizio Sarri hasn’t trusted him enough. It just comes down to a coach and a player. I think that Sarri is under pressure like every Chelsea manager to get in the top four or risk being sacked – and sometimes that leaves managers a bit adverse to play youngsters.
I think Sarri has made mistakes in not playing him in the cups because he is good enough to play against Premier League sides, he is good enough to play those terrible Europa League sides that Chelsea were drawn against, and he was good enough to play against Championship sides that Chelsea have drawn in the cup - so I think he’s been handled badly by Sarri - I think it is legacy and history that might see him leave and also the fact Bayern are just a great club.
Layth- What’s your take on former Arsenal man Olivier Giroud - what do the fans think of him and how has he done this season?
Naz- Giroud is very popular at Chelsea. They think he works hard, they think he helps bring the best out of Eden Hazard which is kind of true but I think Maurizio Sarri has been bad for Giroud. He could leave at the end of the season even if he’ll be here in January - he’ll survive this transfer window but his contract is up in the summer.
He’s not done that well under Sarri, he doesn’t get the crosses in that he needs to feed off and the way Chelsea play doesn’t suit him, I think that he might leave the club and you know what I said with Cahill there’s winners and losers. Giroud and Morata, I think Giroud is playing to his best but I think the system doesn’t suit him, they don’t need a big striker, that’s why they’ve gone with a ‘False 9’ for now and that’s why he’s on the bench and Morata’s not even on the squad. He’s doing better than Morata at least, a £16 million striker as opposed to a £60m striker - but yeah he’s a second choice option.
Layth- What’s your take on the Saturday’s big clash between Arsenal and Chelsea then Naz?
Naz- Yeah it’s a huge game because I think - lets be honest - both clubs aren’t going to win the league so there’s a huge carrot, and it’s trying to qualify for the Champions League, which is hugely difficult. It’s not Germany, it’s not Italy. In the Premier League there’s a top six that are really good and don’t forget you’ve got Man United catching up as well. It’s crazy we have such an elite league with so much money involved and you just can’t guarantee a top four finish.
There are never any guarantees. But for Chelsea this game is important because they are not in the Champions League this season and players might start having a perception which might gather pace that Chelsea are a Europa League team - and if they’re trying to gather the top talent this summer they might find themselves getting rejected for other teams and be seen as a team that you’re not really going to the achieve the top things with.
You know you need to be in the Champions League in one of every two years at least. Arsenal are in the exact same situation so it’s a big game. I think Man United are less in danger because they’re in the Champions League this year and they’re a richer club than Chelsea – and Arsenal - who are tightening their belts a little bit.
The money will be important to Chelsea but so will the prestige and this is what this game represents: prestige - and Arsenal and Chelsea can really damage each other in this one.
Layth- I know you’re a busy man and you’ve had a busy transfer window dealing with Chelsea’s in and outs. Can I just ask what you think of what Unai Emery said about Arsenal having to go out to loan signings because they can’t afford to sign anyone?
Naz- Yeah it’s incredible. Such a rich club, a club that I put on level with Chelsea of course, not being able to sign anyone. They’re below Chelsea in the table and Chelsea are scrambling around for signings. Of course Chelsea is chaos and it’s not ideal the way they’re operating I know – but for Arsenal to not even trying to sign anyone permanently and trying to cream a little bit of talent off a top club.
To be a top club that they claim to be and trying to get a loan from Barcelona – well, they might not even be able to get that over the line. Having so little money I think that’s a worry for them. Emery I’m sure is a little bit annoyed about it. But by this summer people will forget about it quite quickly.
The way the budget has gone Arsenal are definitely missing something and they’re not a top, top club at the moment it would be fair to say – of course they could be a top for club but that’s what this game represents.
Layth- Cheers for your time Naz, see you at the Emirates.
Naz- Cheers Layth, happy to help, all the best.
For the latest on the Blues follow Goal.com Chelsea correspondent Naz Kinsella @NizaarKinsella.
Follow Arsenal reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29.