I said before the game last week that, if we continued to play as we were, we didn’t deserve to win the league. Here we are, three weeks after being five points clear at the top, with the league no longer in our hands, with Chelsea now a genuine threat to our automatic Champions League qualification. Even after drawing the third game in a row, the title was still in our hands if we went to Old Trafford and pulled a victory out of the hat. Now we have to do that, and hope that United drop points elsewhere. However, I don’t want to seem too dooming. The next six games define our season. Win them all, we’re in the semi finals of the Champions League and probably top of the league with four games to go. I don’t expect it’ll go that swimmingly, but we can hope. If the players can’t get themselves motivate for this next months worth of games, then they’re never going to be motivated for anything and we can flog them all in the summer. But it HAS to start with a win on Sunday. Anything other than a win is only acceptable if Bolton and Liverpool happen to batter United before 4pm Sunday. A win kicks off this run of games on a high note, Chelsea have been slain at the bridge for the first time in 84,596 games, the media start salivating over us again, the players are on a high going into 24 matches against Liverpool before we travel to Old Trafford. The players can’t think that the title race is over, nor can we. There is bound to be another twist in the story before the end of the season. Hell, United could stumble to a draw against Liverpool, and we’re only a point off the top if we beat Chelsea with seven games to go.
We’re going to need big performances from everyone in these games. The game at the San Siro aside, the players seem to be in a bit of a rut. Adebayor was fairly terrible against Middlesbrough, every pass into him he tried an elaborate flick that went straight to a white shirt. Hleb was having very little impact and his passing was off. Cesc is missing good chances, and seems reluctant to shoot from outside the area, which seems odd given the success he’s had at doing so this season. Van Persie needs to shake off the inevitable rust that comes from being injured for entire seasons at a time and get match sharp. With Adebayor’s goals drying up (fifteen goals in fifteen games, followed by one goal in six), Robin will need to start scoring, and quickly. At the start of the season, Arsenal won all eight games where Adebayor and van Persie started up front together. While the partnership didn’t quite gel seamlessly, it seemed to work for both players. Some more form like that would be nice. It’s worrying to think that anything other than a win at a ground that last saw Chelsea lose over four years ago is unthinkable, but that’s how we’ve got to look at this match. Spurs did us a favour midweek, and showed that their defence isn’t impenetrable, although they’ll be a different proposition at Stamford Bridge.
In twenty one league meetings between the two sides since Wenger took over, we’ve won ten, drawn nine and lost two, both losses coming in the 2005/2006 season. In twenty nine meetings in all competitions, we’ve won fourteen, drawn ten and lost five. The victory at Ashburton Grove in December was the first time we’d beaten them in ten attempts. We were the last side to win at Stamford Bridge.
Rosicky and Diaby are the absentees, neither have a return date in site. That concludes the injury news, now for the weather.
The same side that stuttered to a draw at home to Middlesbrough will probably start again at Stamford Bridge. I doubt Arsene will surprise us by playing Walcott or anything. Although I would like to see him starting ahead of Eboue.
Subs: Lehmann, Senderos, Gilberto, Walcott, Bendtner.
They have no injury concerns other than Petr Cech, who will probably be available for this game.