It's Monday afternoon, and Arsenal sit proudly on top of the Premier League. I have to ask myself if things could get any better at the moment from a footballing perspective. The recent complaints about Arsenal have been that they haven't taken their opportunities when their rivals have slipped up. With Chelsea now two points behind Arsenal that can't be claimed quite so easily today.
At the weekend Chelsea could only manage a rather fortunate draw at home to Everton, while Arsenal just about scraped past Fulham. I saw quite a lot of the Chelsea game, and I was completely and utterly unimpressed with them. I know some people will say that Everton's keeper Tim Howard should have been sent off when he conceded a penalty for an alleged foul on Nicolas Anelka.
If you watch the incident carefully you will see that it was in fact a free to Everton, as Anelka knocked the ball to one side of Howard, and then jumped into the Everton keeper who was kneeling right in front of him. There was nothing Howard could do about it, and both of Anelka's feet were off the ground when he made contact with Howard.
In the second half of that game Everton outplayed Chelsea, and this was a Chelsea team with John Terry and Michael Essien back in it. They were only missing Alex and Frank Lampard from what would be seen as their strongest line up. Didier Drogba looked disinterested to me, and Florent Malouda was again lucky not to be sent off.
In a clash with Phil Neville he clearly struck the Everton player in the face in retaliation for being kicked twice. I can remember him getting away with a deliberate stamp on Bakary Sagna when Chelsea beat Arsenal earlier on the season. At the time the FA took no action against him, and I fully expect them to do nothing yet again.
There are real problems at Chelsea as they have only taken five points in their last six games, and they have a very tough schedule coming up over the next few weeks. Their squad is almost wafer thin, and with only a couple of injuries they look threadbare at times. As their squad stands at the moment, it will need some serious investment in either January or next summer, or they will find themselves becoming also rans in the Premier League. Their best players are almost all in the later stages of their careers, and since the sacking of Ray Wilkins they seem devoid of team spirit. I sincerely hope that things have taken an irreversable turn for Chelsea and this is the start of a downward spiral for them.
Even with Chelsea struggling there is still the threat of "Manure", but with their game getting cancelled due to the weather it was vital that Arsenal took advantage. Arsenal did just that, and with their next league game being a trip to "Manure" it will be a real test for both teams. If Arsenal can get a win in that game it could be the result that will give their players and fans the belief that a first league title in seven years is on it's way to the club. It won't be an easy game by any stretch of the imagination, but with Arsenal's away form this season it is a real possibility.
One of the biggest factors in that game is bound to be whether Cesc Fabregas plays or not. The current reports would seem to indicate that he will be available for selection, but I have a feeling he will sit the game out. Samir Nasri is Arsenal's in form player at the moment, and I think he will keep his place as the attacking playmaker in the team. He has already beaten his best goals haul for a season, and he has now managed 11 goals in his last 13 games. His footwork and speed of thought are something to be admired, and he is starting to live up to the reputation he had as a youngster.
Before that game Arsenal have to play Partizan Belgrade in their final game in their Champions League group. It's a must win game for Arsenal, if they are to qualify for the last sixteen of the competition. Partizan have lost all five of their games in the group so far, and only have their pride left to play for. Arsenal managed a 3-1 win away to them in September, and Partizan have conceded 10 goals so far in their five group games whilst only managing to score that solitary goal against Arsenal.
Thankfully for Arsenal the "Manure" game is five days after the Partizan game, and it means that Arsene Wenger should be able to play his strongest team available in both games. Their is no room for error in either game, and in my opinion Arsenal cannot afford to take any chances against Partizan. I know that Arsenal can still qualify if they lose or draw, but that leaves their fate in the hands of other teams, and that's far from a desireable situation.
I'll preview the Partizan game on Wednesday morning, before the build up to Arsenal's biggest game of the season so far starts at the weekend. This is a week that could really point the way forward for Arsenal this season, and I am really looking forward to it, despite also feeling a little nervous.
That's it for today.
See You Tomorrow.