Arsenal travel to Stamford Bridge to take on London rivals Chelsea on Sunday afternoon. The Gunners should fancy their chances given Chelsea’s poor home form since Rafa Benitez took charge at the club earlier in the season. Chelsea’s most recent blip at home was in midweek at home to Southampton. Seemingly in control at 2-0, the Blues let that two goal lead slip and drew 2-2. Recent defeats at home to Swansea in the League Cup and QPR in the Premier League for the Blues will surely give the Arsenal players some serious hopes of winning on Sunday.
It is a game Arsenal really do need to be winning though. Not because of Chelsea’s bad home form, but because they are falling behind in the league. Arsenal are currently 6th in the Premier League with 34 points. They are 6 points off of 4th spot with a game in hand. Realistically you can look at this and say an Arsenal win on Sunday along with Spurs losing to Manchester United would leave Arsenal three points off of the Champions League qualification places with a game in hand. If Arsenal win that game in hand (West Ham on Wednesday) they would then be level on points with Spurs. A lot of if’s and buts in there, but Arsenal are capable of beating Chelsea tomorrow given their poor home form, Tottenham are certainly capable of losing against United and West Ham are beatable opposition for our game in hand. So by Wednesday night, the table could be looking completely different.
Arsenal are also 8 points behind Chelsea in the league. Having said that, a win tomorrow puts them 5 points behind the Blues and then if Arsenal win their game in hand, that gap is reduced to 2 points. So it is fair to say that Arsenal have a lot to play for on Sunday. They really need to be going out there hungry for a win. It won’t be easy, despite what Chelsea’s home record suggests. They’re no pushovers. But they’re certainly beatable. A defeat would leave Arsenal chasing one thing… 4th place. Chelsea would appear to be out of sight with a win over the Gunners on Sunday. It would take a Tottenham-esque balls up to finish below 3rd if they do win on Sunday.
Team News: Chelsea captain John Terry is in contention to make his first start since November in this game. The hosts will be missing John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses who are both representing Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations. Oriol Romeu is out long-term with a knee injury.
Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny is available after serving his one-match ban for his red card against Manchester City last weekend. Both Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky remain out with injuries, whilst Gervinho is away at the Africa Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast national team.
Arsenal were of course given the boost yesterday by Theo Walcott signing a new contract with the club. Walcott has a good goalscoring record against Chelsea since his arrival from Southampton in 2006. Hopefully he can continue his good record on Sunday against them. He was a scorer in Arsenal’s last visit to Stamford Bridge back in October 2011. The Gunners won 5-3 in what was a stunning game of football.
Chelsea may have won the game between the two earlier in the season, but there was an element of fortune about their winner that day and it is fair to say that Roberto Di Matteo was a good manager. He was sacked by Roman Abramovich basically because he failed to get them past the group stage of the Champions League, despite leading them to success in the competition the season before. Di Matteo didn’t deserve to be sacked, but he was. Rafa Benitez came in, much to the dismay of the Chelsea faithful and he hasn’t done a lot to please the fans since.
Managers come and go fairly quickly at the Bridge. The fact that (including tomorrow) in the last five fixtures between the two clubs, Wenger has gone up against 4 different managers, is astonishing:
Date: 20/1/13 – Chelsea vs Arsenal – Venue: Stamford Bridge – Manager: Rafa Benitez
Date: 29/9/12 – Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea – Venue: Emirates Stadium – Manager: Roberto Di Matteo
Date: 21/4/12 – Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea – Venue: Emirates Stadium – Manager: Roberto Di Matteo
Date: 29/10/11 – Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal – Venue: Stamford Bridge – Manager: Andre Villas-Boas
Date: 27/12/10 – Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea – Venue: Emirates Stadium – Manager: Carlo Ancelotti
That’ll tell you everything you need to know about being a manager at Chelsea. It doesn’t last long. I can’t see Benitez lasting longer than this summer. Guardiola has agreed to join Bayern Munich next season, so Abramovich will most likely be hiring again in the summer.
Before Abramovich came along, I never had any fear in our trips to Stamford Bridge. We bullied Chelsea for many years and they struggled to get anything against us most of the time, a point was fantastic for them against us. When Abramovich took over, he spent money quickly and made Chelsea a big threat. The first year it was fine. Arsenal were unbeatable for the whole league and Chelsea had Claudio Ranieri. They did manage to knock us out of the Champions League that season though. When Mourinho arrived, Arsenal couldn’t beat Chelsea. I think I’m right in saying he never lost to Arsenal and his record was superb against us.
Since Mourinho left it has gotten a little better. There were still a few years where I didn’t expect us to win at Chelsea or at least pick up a point. We did get an unexpected win in 2008/09 when a Robin Van Persie double helped us to a 2-1 win. Chelsea’s manager that day?. Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Last season was the first time in a while I really didn’t have any fear of a had defeat at Chelsea since about 2005. It was strange. Arsenal weren’t having a good season, but I felt Chelsea were beatable under Villas-Boas. We went out and beat them 5-3. Well deserved too. Our last two wins at Chelsea were as mentioned above 2008/09 and 2011/12. Of course, Robin Van Persie played a huge part in both of those victories and we don’t have him any more. But as mentioned earlier, Theo has a good record against Chelsea both home and away and we have players such as Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski that can also find the back of the net too. We’re not as much of a one man team before as we were with Van Persie last season.
Anyway, I have the same kind of feelings towards this year’s game as I did last year’s at the Bridge. I think we can win and Chelsea fans will start to get frustrated with the team and on the manager’s case too as they clearly don’t like Benitez. It’s not working for Chelsea at home right now, so what I’m saying is, it’s the right time to play them away. If it was at home, I’d be less optimistic. In fact, we’d probably be the set of fans getting frustrated with the players and the manager.
I am excited to see what Arsenal have in them this weekend. I hope they don’t let me down. Only time will tell!.