It's been a few days since I wrote anything about Arsenal, and I suppose it's about time that I did something to change that. After the disappointment of having the game against Stoke RFC cancelled on Saturday, it meant that there was a nine day break before Arsenal's next game. It means that the players will have had two weeks to rest and regain some strength and fitness between their games against "Manure" and Chelsea.
It also means that Arsenal will have played their two biggest rivals back to back, and the outcome of both of those games will give us an idea of exactly where they stand. The game away to "Manure" was a pretty poor affair, but it ended in defeat, and a victory over Chelsea would go a long way towards healing the hurt that it caused. Chelsea have beaten Arsenal time and again over the last few seasons, and it certainly won't be easy for Arsenal to get a result. However, they are certainly capable of doing just that, and the only thing standing in their way is a lack of belief in these big games.
I thought that Arsene Wenger tried to keep the game against "Manure" tight, and hoped to nick a draw or even a win. Either result would have kept Arsenal on top of the table, and it might have given the players the confidence boost that they needed. The chance to get the season back on track against Stoke RFC was lost last Saturday when the game was cancelled, and it's hard to know if that was a good or a bad thing.
They would have come to the Emirates and tried to rough up Arsenal with their long ball and physical approach, but a victory over them would have at least put paid to the sequence of losing games in braces that Arsenal have developed. Now that sequence has to be broken against a team that Arsenal have seemed unable to beat over the last few seasons. The last victory that I can remember against Chelsea was a couple of seasons ago when a Robin Van Persie brace turned around a 1-0 deficit to record a 2-1 victory for Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.
The weather in England meant that all but three of the Premier League games were cancelled last weekend, and the real losers were Man City as they lost 2-1 at home to Everton to miss out on a chance to move to the top of the table. It means that any one of four teams can go to the top of the table in the games directly after Christmas, and the most likely scenario is that "Manure" will beat Sunderland on Sunday to increase their lead over Arsenal to five points.
It makes the Chelsea game very important for Arsenal, as a defeat would leave them five points off the top having played a game more in that scenario. However, Sunderland have been impressive so far this season, and they are sixth in the table. They won 3-1 away to Chelsea last month, and they have performed very well against the top teams in the league. The only problem with placing any hopes in the hands of Sunderland is that they are managed by ex "Manure" player Steve Bruce, and he has been very generous in dishing out points to his previous employers when they have met previously.
Man City could go on top with a victory away to Newcastle as well, and their away form has been much better than their home form. With the Carlos Tevez saga looking like it has been sorted out they should be back to their best, but that should have been the case against Everton on Monday night too. I watched the highlights of that game, and to be honest City were a little unlucky to lose, but they paid the price for some defending early on.
Things are about to get very hectic in a footballing sense for Arsenal with four Premier League games in 10 days, which will be followed very quickly by FA Cup and Carling Cup games. They are going to need as many players as possible available for those games, as players are bound to get injured, or need a rest. With that in mind it's good to hear that Abu Diaby is available again after injury, and so too is Lukasz Fabianski.
I'm sure that Wojciech Szczesny would have played that game against Stoke RFC, but the chances are that Fabianski will walk straight back into the team. Arsene Wenger also said that Kieran Gibbs will be available early in the new year, and that Thomas Vermaelen should hopefully be available towards the end of January. He's very cautious about welcoming Vermaelen back to the squad, as he has had so many setbacks since he last played for Arsenal at the end of August.
With both Cesc Fabregas and RVP almost back to 100% I really hope that they will both play from the start against Chelsea, and possibly they will be on the bench for the trip to Wigan Athletic only two days later. A six point haul from those games would be ideal, but it won't be an easy task at all. If Chelsea are beaten the game against Wigan will be a game that Arsenal need to win to show that they have the consistency required, while a defeat to Chelsea would leave the Wigan game as a must win game in my opinion.
As long as Arsenal continue to keep winning games, and not drawing they will stay in contention, but a run of a few draws could seriously damage their title hopes. I am still not impressed by either Chelsea or "Manure", and I believe Arsenal are good enough to take their title challenge all the way to next May. They may have lost five games already, and common sense would say that is too many at this stage of the season, but common sense seems to have gone out the window this season.
I'll be posting my usual Premier League Prediction on Friday, and previewing the Chelsea game on Monday, but I'm not sure if there will be anything else in between, due to the time of year, and my family commitments. Don't forget to keep your fantasy teams up to date during four very quick rounds of games coming up, and also you have to keep in mind that there is another transfer wildcard coming up in January. After that there are postponed games to be played by a lot of clubs, and you should look out for players who play twice in a week, as they can score an awful lot of points.
That's it for today.
Here's a good goal by Lauren against Chelsea a few years ago.
See You Tomorrow.