Arsene Wenger has billed Arsenal’s game at home to Chelsea today as ‘must-win’ but said he did not expect the visitors to show any weakness.
Arsenal has consistently struggled to match the top teams and, while the table suggests they are serious contenders, results against title rivals often prove vital at the end of the season.
Arsenal has already suffered defeats at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford this season, but Wenger believes they proved a match for Chelsea and Manchester United and is confident of success at Emirates Stadium.
“Of course this is a must-win game,” he said. “We have mixed feelings because we came out of both games against Chelsea and Man United this season thinking we could have won and that there wasn’t a difference between the teams.
“We have a good opportunity to show that in the coming months and that our improvement is bigger than any other team because we are a very young side.
“It’s about how well we respond to what happened to us at Chelsea and Man United that will be the decider for our season. We have played Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool away, so our home form in these kind of games will be decisive.
“We are confident over taking Chelsea on at home. We face a big challenge. What we want is to produce an intelligent game full of dynamism. That is the only way we can win these big games.”
Arsenal has suffered five successive defeats against Chelsea in all competitions, but they can draw optimism from their opponents’ recent form. The Blues, after holding a five-point lead at the top of the table at the end of October, are now fourth, having failed to win any of their last five games in the league.
Wenger, though, is refusing to read too much into it.
“Chelsea have gone through a period where results are a bit less good but that can happen to anyone in this league,” he said. “We have seen recently that any team, when you think they are on the brink of breaking through, can have a hiccup.
“Maybe it’s just the quality of the league.
“You never know whether it’s the best time to play Chelsea. Every game is specific and a new start.
“They have a little bit less confidence than they had in October but we know that winning will be down to our performance.
“We know that on Monday we will play against a top team and we do not expect any weakness on their side. We want to put a top-level performance in at the Emirates and show we are masters at home.”
Arsenal has also struggled at times this season, but they sit second in the table, a point ahead of Chelsea.
Wenger said: “I’m surprised that we lost five games – three of them at home against teams who are not normally fighting for the championship – but we’re still near the top.
“The good news is that we are still in a good position and have not paid a high price for that. Of course our home form in the second part of the season will be the decider.”
Meanwhile, Everton’s match at home to Birmingham City and Blackpool’s game against Liverpool were postponed yesterday as Premier League fixtures once again fell victim to freezing weather conditions in Britain.
“There are several miles of frozen pipes, many of which burst during the course of Christmas Day night,” Everton said on their website (www.evertonfc.com).
“Our stadium and safety teams worked round the clock but due to the rapidly deteriorating conditions, and in the interests of safety and hygiene, we have reluctantly taken the decision to postpone the game.”
Promoted Blackpool, who do not have undersoil heating at their Bloomfield Road ground, were forced to postpone their third successive home match due to a frozen pitch.
The seasiders, who face a cluttered schedule of rearranged games, said on their website.