The Moment Has Come

There has been so much written word circulating about our clash with Chelsea.  That tends to happen when two members of the “Big Four” play each other, but with the majority of the other “Big Four” being duds in terms of football excitement, the media really enjoys covering any match we’re a part of.  That’s not me being partial.  I’m convinced Arsenal v. any of the other three clubs are infinitely more intriguing game, on footballing terms, than any other match up.

So with that, the multitude of information to absorb, including the late breaking news that Robin van Persie is most likely finished for the season, I’m just going to free form the preview with a lot of points instead of a coherent whole.

– Wenger has stated that the “moment has come.”  He has used this type of language before, during the Champions League semi against Manchester United last year.  We know how that one turned out, as a Kieran Gibbs slip negated any chance of us progressing to the final.  He is saying it, because he thoroughly believes it.  We’re a point in the season where we’ve been devastated by injuries, suffered lapses of concentration, and in the process been written off.  Believe me, after today’s news, nobody will be pushing us for the title.  That is when you either take a stand or you shrivel up and die.  Make no mistake, this is at the least a “must not lose game.”  We must, as a team, as fans, refuse to lose.

– Fixtures between relegation candidate teams are usually referred to as “six pointers.”  All matches for Premier League title contenders are six pointers, especially so when facing a direct rival.

– We defeated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last year with a shock Robin van Persie double, one of the goals being blatantly offside.  What we’ve seem to forgotten is that Chelsea humiliated us at the Emirates in the return fixture.  That match saw us concede the most goals we’ve ever conceded at the Emirates.  I have not forgotten.  Just like I have not forgotten that Nicolas Anelka refused to celebrate his goal against us.

– Which brings us to Nicolas Anelka, one of the few Chelsea players who I do not hate with a passion.  The other player I feel that way is Michael Essien.  Anelka has aged gracefully in all facets.  He’s truly a class player, and he will be a deadly link up outlet in the game.  The reason why the diamond formation has worked at all is not because Frank Lampard is a classic no. 10, it’s because Anelka makes the attack click.

– Michael Essien is the only player I really covet from any other team in the Premier League.

– Didier Drogba has played 10 matches against us.  They have won 8 times and drawn 2 times.  Some of this is down to Philippe Senderos.  Some of it is down to the fact that he’s a big time player, and he fancies playing against us.  Tomorrow will be the first time he plays Thomas Vermaelen.  We will see if Vermaelen is truly a world class defender or a class below that.

– It will also be the first time that Chelsea face us with Alex Song as our lockdown midfield enforcer.

– John Terry has been walking around with his chest out, feeling as though the team is back to their Mourinho days.  Well, the first year Chelsea won under Mourinho, they conceded only 15 goals.  They’re halfway there already.  They lost to Wigan Athletic, and no offense to Wigan, close call aside, Mourinho’s sides did not lose to sides like that.  But that’s fine by my book, I like arrogance as much as the next professional.  They’ve done nothing to merit their status as front runners, others have merely faltered.

– On good and bad luck, Chelsea were outplayed, fairly comprehensively in my eyes, by Manchester United and still got the three points.  We outplayed Manchester United and they snuck out with three points at Old Trafford.  That’s football.  Name another sport where you can dominate a match and lose.  There is none.

– A couple of weeks ago, I spoke about how Chelsea were having injury problems.  Well, Drogba and Lampard recovered and we lost van Persie and Gibbs.  I guess it’s my fault for tempting the gods.

– Carlo Ancelotti was not a good league manager in Italy.  He won a title, but his main accomplishments are in Europe.  From what I can tell, his European touch has rubbed off on their side.  We’ve yet to see if he’s carried over his league form, but methinks the funeral parlor man will have real tests in the upcoming months, starting with the next two weeks.

– The African Cup of Nations will not affect Chelsea while their players are away.  Look at their cream puff schedule.  They can easily handle those teams without the African quartet.  However, it will affect their side when they return.  Players have a difficult time coming back from that tournament, just look at Kolo and his malaria.  But likewise, we’ll be losing Song and Eboue when we actually need them and they’ll return fatigued.  Clearly, it’s worse for us than it is for them.

– Chelsea’s transfer ban will do nothing to the club, as Wenger categorically stated. All it did was bring attention to a young player who may or may not have been worth the fuss. With rumors that Chelsea will be signing Kun Aguero for 50 million pounds, just what was the point of the ban? Aguero, on his day, is a super player. Not sure that he’ll make it here, but at least his progeny will have super genes.

– William Gallas is a warrior.  And unless his eye is completely shut off, he will play tomorrow.  He relishes the big games, and he will want to play against Chelsea.  Kolo’s pot shot at him was both disrespectful and unnecessary.  How many ex-Arsenal players have to go down that route?  And where are all the pundits who were writing that Arsenal was wrong to sell him now?  Eating that nasty bird.  That’s where.

– Armand Traore struck me as being a useful player last week against Sunderland.  Despite words to the contrary, I felt as though he could be a decent understudy to Clichy.  That being said, Gibbs seemingly helped neutralize the left side of Standard Liege, so his loss will also be felt.  But let’s not forget that Armand Traore is a devoted professional and was once and still is a highly rated prospect.

– The diamond formation for Chelsea is far less effective when Frank Lampard holds the keys.  In that respect, maybe it is better that he has recovered.  Deco and Joe Cole can operate on the tip of the diamond, but Lampard is struggling with it.  That does not mean we can discount his work rate and his affinity for shooting missiles from middle range.

– Then again, clashes between the Big Four rarely come down to offensive brilliance.  They come down to the small moments.  I find it somewhat laughable that Manuel Almunia is talking about ensuring that “we” don’t make any small mistakes.  His rash throw 18 months ago during a match against Chelsea started an attack which led directly to a goal.  If he doesn’t make a mistake against United, we could have walked to victory.  He has been okay since he’s come back from his chest infection/family bereavement.  I suggest that he is the one who should not make a mistake.

– As much as I’d like not to see Cesc associate himself with Gerrard, I can’t help but think his statements about our club are 100% genuine.  Let’s never think about his future while his present is so thoroughly with Arsenal.

– Theo, I’m looking at you.

– A few months ago, we were deprived of having Gallas (through injury) and Arshavin (through ineligibility) in the Champions League semi.  Now, it looks as though Robin will miss out.  When will the stars align for us?  These injuries are taking a toll.

– With Robin van Persie’s devastating injury news, an alternate formation may need to be developed over the next few weeks.  I can’t say something like that for sure, but now, more than ever, somebody needs to step into that breach.  That player has to be Andrey Arshavin.  There have been numerous reports about his depression following Russia’s exit from the World Cup.  I sympathize.  But this is the moment where he proves that he can be one of the all time greats.  I believe he has that potential, and he must prove me right for our season to stay on track.

– I love this club, and I will support it until the day I die.  

Victoria Concordia Crescit.

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