Another away London derby and one which has always been special to me.
When I was “maturing” the Chelsea side were terrific, no, not just terrific they were Glamourous. The Kings Road, Osgood, Tambling, Charlie Cooke etc etc they were seriously cool and going to their ground had a certain frisson which was very different to going to Highbury (Fulham Rd v Holloway Rd – you get my drift?). I can still recite that Chelsea side from Bonetti to Houseman. Plus there was “The Shed”. In these blissful days of seats and bagels it is hard to conceive of how dangerous it was going away to Chelsea and wearing your colours. Packed standing terraces, a running track around the pitch, violent meathead fascists, few stewards and hardly any police, no segregation on the terraces – just “ends”; it was a recipe for the violence which inevitably occurred. Yes, Stamford Bridge was a frightening place and as a lad that violence was titillating.
It remains a glamourous club with a squad of big name players who would walk into any CHelsea team of the past. Let us not forget that Chelsea will play the most expensive player ever in English football today.
This is going to be controversial on an Arsenal site but hey, I am writing it, so here goes. I watched the Chav/QPR game last week and what really hit home was how fantastic Chelsea’s superstars really are – deeply unpleasant men but what spirit they have on the pitch. Lampard, Terry and Cole led from the front, they covered every blade of grass and gave everything to their team to avoid defeat. JT was getting forward on every possible occasion to find an equaliser, Fat Frank showed energy that Arshavin (a younger man) certainly cannot, and Cole showed why he is the best English full back ever – yes, ever. They wanted it so much that 6 of their 9 players remaining on the pitch got yellow cards. They do not lie down and that is why they are brilliant footballers.
As to today, Chelsea have such a big squad they will not be affected by suspensions. Drogba is out but Torres returns as does Ramirez. We know their strengths and Chelsea have a 100% record this season at SB. In our last 6 fixtures at SB we have won 1, drawn 1 and lost 4 , losing 2-0 last season.
My chief concern is Mata, a lovely player and one who cuts in from his left sided position to create a midfield 4. If he stays out left he will be up against Djourou … frightening.
Will Mr Wenger give Vermaelen a start? Surely not. We have started to look more secure in defence and BFG and the superb Koscielny are developing a good understanding. How they cope with Chelsea’s pace will be the key to the game. We match them in midfield though the return of Ramirez is a blow – he is a much better player than Mikel.
Gervinho was very good against Stoke but he will find Ashley a different kettle of fish, how he copes could determine our attacking threat. Robin will attract all the attention which will hopefully create some space for the Gerv and Theo. Theo owes us and Mr Wenger a goal or two, he has been anonymous in recent weeks and in such a tough game has to show his quality.
We can expect a battle and self-discipline will be important; it is no surprise that our improved form has coincided with the ability to keep eleven players on the pitch.
Inventor from Chelsea – there must be one – how about John Gamgee who built the world’s first artificial ice-skating rink just off the Kings Road. It was called the Glaciarium.
So a tough game today and a rigorous test of our new found fighting spirit. I have a sneaky feeling that Arsenal will give good account of themselves today.