It’s all well and good wanting to win, but I sometimes wonder who gains the most from saying things like “we want to make Chelsea suffer” and “I do not really like the way Chelsea have played this season”. It can spur the opposition on, not yourselves, Mr Lauren, don’t you know. Not that they need that, of course. Still, there’s no doubt there’ll be some more choice words in print between now and tomorrow night from both sides, as there always is for a 1st v 2nd clash.
It’s a biggie alright, but for Arsenal fans it doesn’t have the same nailbiting edge as, say, the game in 1998 when we went to Manchester ‘Not For Sale’ United and won 1-0. Nobody possessing their full complement of faculties thinks that a win for us will do anything other than delay the inevitable. CSKA Chelski have the bit between their teeth, and when that happens – as happened to ourselves in 1998 and 2002, and the Mancs in 2003 – there’s really nothing that’s going to stop them.
That’s not to say that it’s not important. The race for second place is on, and we need to win. There’s also the delicious sub-plot involving our very own Guide To London Hotels, Ashley Cole. If the Chelski fans haven’t come up with a witty ditty for our number three, I’ll be disappointed. They’ve had several months to finetune something.
With Gilberto and Vieira in the midfield, I have no fears about being outmuscled in the middle, and nor do I have any concerns about a defence that has tightened up no end recently. The big thing, of course, is no Thierry Henry.
But I wouldn’t rule him out just yet. You know how these things work…