Venue: Emirates Stadium
Date: Saturday, 29 September
Kick-off: 12.45 GMT
I hate playing Arsenal. Seriously, I know everyone gets up for the big games, particularly the derbies, but this is one of the games in a season for me I just don’t look forward to. Ever.
It’s not just that I don’t like anything about them, or that even the mention of their name puts my back up, I just don’t like playing them. It always seems to be controversial, whether it’s handbags, refs taking centre stage or some other nonsense going on – and we inevitably never win as much as should either. So all in all, just not my favourite game.
As much as I hate to admit it, Arsenal seem to be getting on with life without RVP and even having played Liverpool and City so far, are doing ok. We, on the other hand, have managed to stay unbeaten so far without really convincing anyone – and with the circus surrounding John Terry at the minute, I can’t see my hatred of this fixture changing one bit today either – so let’s just get on with it.
Arsene Wenger is never backwards at coming forwards with his opinion and alongside trying his best to wind us up about Drogba’s absence before the game, the Arsenal manager does seem to be able to focus on his own team for a minute, saying “If we do well at home against the strong teams, it will of course have a big impact on our chances in the league. We have played one (big team) where we got some belief, against Manchester City away. Saturday it is another one, but it is a different one because we are at home. You will know more about us after 10 games or 15 games. I believe in our potential, but we have to show that we are capable to deal with all kinds of problems that consistency demands. We will certainly know a bit more about us on Saturday afternoon – but much more about us after 10 or 15 games.”
Whilst on us he says “Chelsea have rejuvenated because they bought some very young players with maybe a more technical style, (they have) gone a little bit more creative. Until now it has worked well for them so it is a good challenge for us to beat them.”
Roberto Di Matteo, once the press left the subject of JT alone, says of today’s opponents “I said at the start of the season they would be challenging for the league. I’m not sure anyone believed me, but that’s the way I saw it. I haven’t changed my mind. They have signed some very good, interesting players. They have been playing the same kind of football for many years, so they’ll be up there with the other teams. But the spirit in the camp is good. We’re in good shape, good form. We are confident.”
For Arsenal, Szczesny (ankle) remains out, whilst Wilshere (ankle), Rosicky (hamstring) Sagna (broken leg) and Frimpong aren’t ready to feature although Vermaelen (virus) is expected back.
For Chelsea, Daniel Sturridge (hamstring) remains out, although Frank Lampard (ankle) should be back and in breaking news – I can’t be 100% sure but someone may have mentioned John Terry being selected today – all rather bizarre Di Matteo would field our captain to captain the side, so you can see why there’d be so much fuss about it but I’m sure there’ll be an enquiry in due course.
ARSENAL (from): Mannone, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Jenkinson, Cazorla, Diaby, Arteta, Gervinho, Podolski, Giroud, Martinez, Walcott, Coquelin, Santos, Djourou, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Koscielny, Arshavin.
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Luiz, Cole, Bertrand, Mikel, Romeu, Lampard, Ramires, Mata, Hazard, Oscar, Moses, Marin, Piazon, Torres, Turnbull.
Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea (21st April 2012)
Predict it? I don’t even want to think about it.