Clichy Gets Ugly Whilst Wenger Gets Physical
Arsene filled everyone with cheer and goodwill yesterday at his press conference, confirming that the squad which travels to Stamford Bridge will be severely depleted. Injury to the right side and centre of defence would mean that the treatment room has a strong an XI as that which Wenger can field. Still, it is always good for the team to top a table in the early part of the season.
Focus on the fixture is squarely on the presence of Didier Drogba and the fear that he apparently imbues in the Arsenal defence. It is a theme which Rob Beasley picks up on but inadvertantly provides a mini-boost to Gael Clichy in the process:
BEASLEY: Do you know how many goals Didier Drogba has scored against Arsenal since he joined Chelsea?
CLICHY: I wouldn’t know for sure – maybe 14 or 15 – but I know he has been amazing against us. He is the best striker in the Premier League, the complete centre-forward and he doesn’t just score he also makes goals.
BEASLEY: It’s not that bad actually, Drogba’s scored 12 against you guys
In other words, Gael, you are doing better than you thought. Even if it is still an indication of how badly the centre backs fare against him. Wenger noted though that suggestions of individual weaknesses might be overstated with Kolo Toure’s contribution to a ‘Drogba clean sheet’ being held as the example.
The issue is a collective failure to deal with Chelsea. Serial mistakes occur in this fixture, recent seasons doing nothing to challenge the theory that Arsenal just cannot cope with them. Yet this is but one match and to be honest, an away game at a title rival is not going to make or break a season this early on. It is more about not letting the gap expand to the top of the table.
You expect Arsenal to want to win, to play to win; that has to be the expectation of every match. On this occasion a draw will be a good result, not only on the day but also for the season. It is important not to get hung up with the obsession of a win, especially with seven months of the season remaining.
The real truth in Clichy’s interview indicated that the squad might be aware that some of them are in the last chance saloon as far as winning the title at Arsenal is concerned,
We are the new generation and up to this point we haven’t won anything. Is that good enough?
I don’t think so and that’s why I’d be ready to win silverware ugly rather than play amazing football and win nothing.
Whether his manager would agree with that or not is another matter. Indeed, it is questionable whether a team can ‘play amazing football’ throughout the course of the season. There will be occasions when results are ground out from a below-par performance. The majority of the time, each title-winning side proves that they are a good footballing side, that mask tends to drop when the business end of the season approaches and the need for results takes over.
Every week it seems Arsenal has a test, an examination of their title credentials. Until it is won, that will always be the case; it will always be, as Beasley says, ‘The same old Arsenal‘, flattering to deceive. The players must be sick of this. Yet I suspect that even winning at Chelsea will not be enough. The criticism of the performance against West Brom will resurface. The victory, no matter how well Arsenal plays, will be due to a Chelsea slip, mistake or poor performance. The adage about being as good as your last performance, could be changed in Arsenal’s case to ‘as bad as your last defeat‘.
The inference from all of this is that Arsenal succumb to strength, their opponents being physically stronger. There is an element of truth in that, perhaps in the past an Arsenal player or two has been unable to cope with Drogba in that respect. Yet in pointing out the weakness of the argument, Wenger utterly confused followers of certain clubs,
Football is not only down to physique. It’s down to intelligence, technique, mobility.
Some of those near to the Midlands will be utterly baffled by these words, preferring to be professional victims when their utter recklessness halts careers or seasons. But they have the Spirit of John Bull and that is all that matters.