It's been a month and a few days since Chelsea sacked Jose Mourinho (again). Like a slow drawn-out death, it was equally expected and shocking; 36 days later it's still hard to make sense of things.
Since then, we've replaced our habit of losing games with a habit of drawing even more games, which, in some respects is progress, and in other respects just further frustration. Then again, the players are the players and unlike our previous interim managers, Hiddink has not instituted much of a tactical shift at all. Hiddink himself curbed Scolari's disorganized attacking side back in 2009, similar in tune to what Di Matteo did to AVB's ideas in 2012 and what Benitez did to Di Matteo's attempts to create an all-out attacking show a few months later. Back in 2008, Avram Grant basically continued Mourinho's strategies but the team then didn't really need any adjustments. Hiddink has not been able to get away with maintaining the status quo and magically turning losses into wins.
The one change he has made is elevating John Obi Mikel to a level of importance not seen since the tail end of 2012. Unfortunately, despite his Ballon d'Or, Nobel Peace Prize, and Time's Man of the Year credentials, Mikel has not been able to single-handedly turn our season around. What a chump. Still, I expect he will continue to start over the barely functioning Nemanja Matic. And it better be 'over' rather than 'next to', if the Everton game's anything to go by.
If I were in charge, the person I'd start next to Mikel would be none other than Ramires, who has, in a small way, replaced Didier Drogba as Arsenal's scourge. Hiddink doesn't seem too keen on him, but Ramires' special brand of midfield energy is especially suited for (away) days like this one; his ability to get away with tackles like against Coquelin in 2013 can often lead to crucial goals. With Ramires dropping deeper, the resurgent Cesc Fabregas can play a bit further forward; though if there was ever a game that called for a true three-man midfield, it would be this one.
Up front, the selections will depend on injury status and availability. Willian is certainty on the right, while I'd assume Diego Costa and Eden Hazard both will start if fit. If not, Rémy and Pedro are probably next in line. Pedro may not be able to get it done against plucky minnows, but maybe he just needs the big occasion of an Arsenal.
The defenders and the goalkeeper should pick themselves — Hiddink assures that the individual mistakes have been addressed in training — which gives us the following:
Courtois | Azpilicueta, Terry, Zouma, Ivanovic | Mikel, Ramires | Hazard, Fàbregas, Willian | Costa
The community's preferred choices are quite similar and, actually, even more "standard" than my prediction.
Courtois | Azpilicueta, Terry, Zouma, Ivanovic | Mikel, Fàbregas | Hazard, Oscar, Willian | Costa