Chelsea (Stamford Bridge, London)
Premier League Fixture – Matchday 25
Sunday 7th February 2010
Kick Off: 4pm – Live on Sky Sports 1
Football is a funny old game.
In 2008, Arsenal were on fire and had every chance of winning the Premier League Title. Then that horrible injury to Eduardo de-railed our season and we slumped into second place.
Then this year, our player of the season Robin Van Persie was taken out for the rest of the campaign and it’s obvious we’ve struggled with his absence. His goals, assists, intelligence and power in the central striker role were invaluable and we’ve had big problems trying to replace him ever since November. Since he’s been injured we’ve dropping silly points against West Ham, Burnley, Everton and Aston Villa, and haven’t look convincing or deadly as we did with the Dutchman in the side.
Has another major injury to an influential striker cost us the title?
Well strangely enough, not quite yet.
But even after big defeats to Manchester United (twice), Manchester City and Chelsea and our relatively poor form recently (we’re currently 6th in the form table behind United, City, Everton, Chelsea and Liverpool) a win over Chelsea on Sunday means we’re somehow only 3 points behind the league leaders.
How did that happen?
We haven’t played like Champions yet we’re still in with a shout. And that is the annoying thing about this season.
If Arsenal had strengthened in a couple of key areas who knows where we could be in the league right now? That little bit extra experience and power against the likes of Burnley, West Ham and Everton could have seen up top of the league! And how about if we had a top class goalkeeper? Jesus, we’d probably be 10 points clear…
No-one is taking taking advantage of this strangely weak season and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked at the Premier League table today.
Liverpool, who have been in complete meltdown losing a massive 7 games and (if you read the newspapers) in crisis are only a single point off 4th place! A team like Liverpool who are massively struggling are still in with a big shout of claiming that final Champions League spot. They’re only 8 points behind Arsenal, and on current form they might even threaten our 3rd place.
So it all comes down to the massive game on Sunday.
Defeat really would signal the end of our title challenge. I know I’ve said it several times (after the crushing defeats against Chelsea and Manchester United) but this really is the last chance saloon for the Arsenal.
A draw isn’t a complete disaster but doesn’t really help our situation and if anything it’s a result Manchester United would love to happen.
The problem with Arsenal this season is that they’re always got to the point where they are ‘just about back in the race’ and when it comes to a time in the campaign where they need that extra push to really close the gap we’ve stuttered. The was a time over the winter period where we were 3 points behind Chelsea with a game in hand, but ended up drawing against Burnley. We haven’t taken advantage of any decent position we’ve found ourself in.
The only positive we can take from the Manchester United game is that Arsene witnessed his Arsenal team get completely ripped apart.
It was a lesson in football.
They were better organised, had more desire and I hate to admit this but completely deserved the 3 points. And one of the most hurtful things about the match was it was effectively over in half an hour.
But it was clear that while United were sublime, Arsenal were equally inept defensively.
The first goal was great skill from Nani’s point of view but he should have never been able to score from where he was. And the second and third were terribly defended – talk about standing off and letting them walk the ball into the net.
So hopefully, the embarrassing defeat will have woken up Arsene and made him realise you can’t neglect defensive responsibilities. Hopefully, he’ll play a more cautious game with 5 in midfield so Chelsea can’t score at will. I don’t care how Arsenal win – if it’s a scrappy 1-0 victory with a goal from a deflected set-piece then so be it.
The most important thing is the 3 points.
What shape are Chelsea in?
Well despite drawing against Hull midweek they are still the in-form team with 4 wins and 2 draws in their last 6 games. They’ve struggled at times during the season but no-one has capitalised and the fact is they’re still top of the table.
If you look at the game objectively, Chelsea just have far too much power and guile. Their direct game is more powerful than Manchester United’s so if we crumbled last week then who says Chelsea won’t find it just as easy to score?
Our recent form has been poor and too many players haven’t performed. Arshavin is not clicking, whether that’s down to attitude or application, and our other main man Cesc Fabregas has struggled with the poor displays from Denilson, Rosicky and Nasri who are supposed to be the supporting cast.
Abou Diaby’s physical presence and attacking guile has been sorely missed. Despite his nightmare start to the season at Old Trafford it’s clear that he is a vital part of the first team. He is useful when defending set-pieces, and unlike several other midfielders has an eye for goal and can finish when required. If he can get fit in time and we start with a midfield of Cesc, Diaby and Song then I’d be a lot more confident.
The smart money would be on Chelsea, which makes our task even more difficult. If we can somehow completely transform our performance from last Sunday and win then it would be one of the best and most impressive results of the whole season. Every single time I watch Arsenal I believe that we can win, but whether it happens or not is another matter.
Something special on Super Sunday would surely be the catalyst to knuckle down and get a good run going up until May. So this game is massive.
We all know about the John Terry scandal, but that could work against us. Against Burnley, Chelsea were struggling and who pops up and scores the winner? John Terry. And you all know that wasn’t the first time he’s scored away from home, so don’t be surprised if he goes and scores at The Bridge.
Update: Well it looks like Capello has finally decided and Terry will no longer be England captain.