Written by Smith14
In recent years our encounters against Chelsea have tended to be harsh lessons. Aside from the RVP inspired 2-1 comeback against Scolari’s outfit, it’s fair to say we’ve struggled. The time of our yearly examination is nearly upon us. I pride myself on being one of Arsenal’s more optimistic supporters and sincerely believe that we have a visionary in charge of the club and that his plans, which have so tested our collective patience, will come good eventually. Despite all this, I’m still absolutely petrified of 4 o’clock on Sunday.
Arsenal fans, and those neutrals that don’t seem intent on upsetting us, are generally treated to the most attractive Football in the League. When everyone’s fit, which admittedly is as rare as a loose pass from Wilshere, we have a squad which compares pretty well to the elite of the division, the elite of Europe in fact. There is, in my mind, no question that the likes of Cesc, Wilshere, Arshavin, Nasri, RVP and Chamakh could orchestrate the downfall of any side, on their day. The question is why don’t we ever seem to have our day on the biggest occasions?
Our problem is not ability. All summer there were arguments among fans about who we needed to buy but, looking at the squad rationally, Goalkeeper aside, I don’t think there’s great room for improvement. The thing that we lack is not players, its mentality. In recent seasons we’ve taken the lead at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, The Millennium Stadium, Wembley and the Nou Camp and been beaten or drawn on every occasion.
We have had periods of great dominance against the likes of United and Chelsea but occasions on which we’ve turned that dominance into wins are few and far between. Apart from the colossal injury list, which isn’t an excuse but certainly an explanation for a lot of what’s gone wrong in the last few seasons, our poor return comes down to mental toughness. The ability to see a result out or dig in to drag yourself back from a mistake. Add to that games where we’ve squandered periods of superiority, games where we’ve given away the first goal and gone on to be embarrassed.
So, do we have the ability to get a result? We could argue that the age of the squad was to blame and it was a factor for a few years but, by now, they’ve all been together for long enough to have experienced success and failure as a unit. The likes of Clichy, Sagna, Fabregas, Nasri, Rosicky and Arshavin have all felt disappointment in an Arsenal shirt. Wenger was right this summer when he said that age was no longer an excuse. There can rarely have been a team with so much experience at such a young age. The last remaining hurdle for this team seems to be belief in themselves that matches Wengers. The idea that they can truly live up to the talent in the squad and get results we deserve. I’m fed up of arguing that we should have got better results, the time has come to start getting those results.
On Sunday we will be faced with Terry, Essien and Drogba. We will need determination, aggression, skill and concentration in abundance. I personally think we have the Footballing ability to play them off the pitch. We must now prove that we have the self belief to make this count. The fact that Koscielny, Squillaci and Chamakh – all likely starters on Sunday – have yet to face Chelsea in an Arsenal shirt may provide grounds for optimism. They will not so readily recall being put to the sword by Drogba and, if they approach the game with the appropriate professionalism, the centre backs in particular could give us a strong foundation from which to play.
The central defensive partnership must not allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security by Drogba. Consistently he will throw himself all over the pitch, whinge and moan and appear to have given up the ghost. All of a sudden, defence suitably relaxed, he surges back and simply blows teams away. If Koscielny and Squillaci needed an induction to the Premier League, this is it. Squillaci comes with the battled hardened features to match a long career. His experience could be vital in this duel. Firstly we must frustrate Drogba, then we must stamp on him whilst he’s down, figuratively speaking of course.
Ultimately the onus falls on Wenger and the players to toughen up and prove my bold claims to be correct. We as fans can do little but support the side. We may not think that each individual is good enough to achieve what we want them to but as long as they are in an Arsenal shirt they should be backed 100%. A team with whole hearted and unified support will perform better than one who transmits its anxieties onto the players.
Let’s hope that on Monday morning we are celebrating a side who are becoming men, rather than licking our wounds. Honestly, I don’t think Win, Lose or Draw, Sunday will be as decisive as Sky will portray it. At the very least though, it will confirm our worst fears or make a bold statement that we are at least up for the fight.
Keep The Faith.
You can read other articles by Smith14 at http://tbwttihs14.wordpress.com/