7 out of 12, 38 out of 42

I could care less about John Terry’s feelings. Footballers can do what they like in their private lives, but operating as if they can get away with anything all of the time is an increasingly foolish assumption to make. If it were any other week, I wouldn’t even be writing about John Terry.

We play Chelsea tomorrow at Stamford Bridge. I don’t believe a tight defeat would completely knock us out of the race, but a comprehensive loss may signal the end of our chances. Victory, though, would mean that we’d only be four points behind United and three points behind Chelsea. With our kind run-in, anything is possible.

At the end of last year, Chelsea breezed to a 3-0 victory at the Emirates. After the match, I didn’t feel overwhelmingly depressed (as I was last weekend when we lost to United). I felt resigned to the fact that the result could not be overturned, but I wasn’t impressed by Chelsea. They seem to have a winning mentality, but they didn’t humiliate us, no matter what the score line said. It’s often cited that Didier Drogba has a phenomenal goal scoring record against us, and that is very true. However, I believe the key player for Chelsea when they play against us is Michael Essien. I don’t think we’ve ever beaten Chelsea when they’ve had Essien in their side. He will not be playing tomorrow.

There was a time when we practically owned Chelsea. That shield of invincibility ended when Wayne Bridge (of all people) scored the goal that knocked us out of the Champions League during our Invincibles season. When we drew Chelsea, must of us were giddy. We saw an open route to the Champions League final, and we were clearly the best side in Europe at that point. But, we know how that turned out. Jose Mourinho won the Champions League, and then he left Porto for Chelsea. Our form against Chelsea took a turn for the worst.

I think when we go to watch the Arsenal, most of us expect us to win. I need to start seeing that from our players. The Invincibles team defeated opponents before we even stepped onto the pitch. We’d go from back to front in blazing speed and kill off teams before they had a chance to breathe. The move to the Emirates seems to have changed that aura. Once known as a slick footballing side with a devastating counter attack, we’ve turned into a possession side particularly vulnerable to counter attacks. Wenger knew what he was doing when he designed the playing pitch of the Emirates. He wanted the largest pitch possible, so he can pack our team with technique plus players who can control the game. He wasn’t copying Barcelona, as George Graham has suggested, but he was implementing a more complete game plan for the type of players he likes to select.

However, that game plan requires precision. And precision is what we’ve been lacking in the big games. How many times have we seen the first big chance fall to our team and it being squandered? Had Andrey finished off his chances (or even passed the ball to a better positioned teammate), the game against United would have been far different. When teams go up 1-0 against us, they set up to play counter attack football and attempt to add to their tally that way. When we go up 1-0, we continue to play the same way. That is why there is a perception that we can’t finish off teams when we have to. And they do have a valid point if you observe all the points we’ve dropped in these big games after being ahead.

After listening to Wenger’s press conference, I’m not sure whether Diaby or Bendtner will be available from the start. That changes (or rather, doesn’t change) our approach to this match. With Diaby and Bendtner, we’d have a team capable of attacking in a variety of ways while coping with some of Chelsea’s brute power. If neither can start, a similar lineup that played against United may be fielded. If that is the case, what we need to see is precision. We need to take our chances when they come. We need to play as a tight unit. We need to play as a team that believes they can actually win this game. I did not see any of that last Sunday.

When people looked at this string of fixtures, they decided it was the make or break period for Arsenal. That could be true, but if we win the next two matches, we’d have 7 points out of 12, a good return from those four matches.

Moreover, the way I look at it, if we gain 38 out of 42 points in our remaining fixtures, we can win the Premier League. That means 12 wins and 2 draws. This season, we’ve had periods where we were flying, then suffered two bad results back to back, and rebounded. We’ve had our two bad results once again, now it’s time to buck up and show that Arsene Wenger was right to back these players.

Now that the curse of Senderos has officially left our side, we need to reverse everything tomorrow. Chelsea’s positive form against us. Drogba’s scoring streak against us.

When Fabio Capello stripped the captaincy from John Terry, I’m sure he was wounded by the decision. It probably won’t affect his play tomorrow. But what I would like to see is for Andrey and Cesc to strip John Terry’s pride from him tomorrow and turn him into a crying mess once again.

We have all to play for. It’s time for the players to bleed for Arsenal and to step onto the pitch knowing that they’ll get the three points that we desperately need.


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