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Arsenal should be too strong for Chelsea, but...
23 March 2004
And so we enter the serious stuff.
Exciting, stressful, and why we all love the game.
But no matter how well your team are playing, when you get to this stage of the season, it gets the nerves going. We did indeed watch Arsenal throw away the title last season, but this season it IS different. The hunger to put last season right is there for everyone to see. Adding that grit to football that is just clouds above everyone else, has so far left us so far ahead of everyone that it's almost impossible for anything to go wrong. When it gets to the stage when you don't even see Man Utd as a massive hurdle in the forth coming FA Cup Semi Final, you know it's been one hell of a season.
But of course, we all keep telling ourselves, we have won nothing yet.
And there is that small matter that Chelsea will break this so called jinx we have over them at some stage. They have to and will beat us sooner rather than later. They have too much quality for this amazing run we have had over them for so long to last much longer. That is what I think anyway. Of course if you look at the three games in which we have played them already this season, the sensible arguement is we really should have far too much for them in the next two games as well.
But it doesn't stop that thought going away.
They have to beat us at some stage.
Now I am not trying to get everyone worrying. (I hardly doubt I have that kind of power).
And if you look at everything that is happening during the build up to what is by a mile, the biggest set of games between our two clubs, then the signs are that we will fight our way through. The games will be closer than the league games and the FA Cup game. But going on current form we should still out play them in areas of the game that matter. Chelsea have had their moments in all the games so far this season, but we have always hit them right at the times when it hurts most, just as it's looked like the game was turning in Chelsea's favour. And each time you have seen it punch the air right out of them.
The other reason it's looking good for us going into the game has been the noises coming out of each camp.
While the press and Chelsea remain tangled in the argument about who will be their manager next season, our players and manager have been talking about how they must remain focused, how they have faught hard to be here at this stage in the cup and how they are scared of throwing away everything they have worked so hard for. All we have heard from the Chelsea camp has been Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink shouting about how Arsenal have become arogant in a season when we have gone out of our way to make sure we are anything but.
It is of course one last desperate mind game thrown our way by someone who knows Chelsea are at the moment just totally out of ideas as to how to beat us.
So it all points our way.
But it still leaves that thought..."They have to beat us sooner or later".
Some people I know are totally confident that it's just not now, that we have nothing to worry about, the time for them to beat us isn't anytime this season.
But I admit, I am worried.
How hard would it be to take them knocking us out of the biggest cup of them all. After all that hard work in coming back. After finally thinking (yet again) that this could be the season. We really are so close.
Once we got out of the group stages I firmly believed (and again I was very much on my own on this at the time), that there was only one team who could knock us out. Chelsea. Even with the likes of Real Madrid and AC Milan still in the cup, I only really feared ever getting drawn against Chelsea.
I could take going out to any European team better than the sheer depression that could arise if we go out to Chelsea. We have knocked them out of the FA Cup in the last 4 season, law of football averages says that one day they get their own back.
Of course this is all part of the fun of being a fan. The day a 1/4 final of The Champions League becomes easy, boring and a sure bet is the day we all lose interest. Going through these kind of thoughts is what makes getting through all the more fantastic.
If I was pushed for an answer I would say Arsenal will go through and will do enough damage in the first leg to stop Chelsea having any strength to do anything at Highbury.
I don't think Chelsea have a clue how to enter into this game. This can't even be viewed as a European game for them, it's not like they can adjust to their European style for this one. This will be a Premiership style game, and they must be more than sick of the sight of us this season. They have tried everything they could think of to beat us this season and failed all three times. Next season could be different, but right now I would say they are just so not looking forward to this game.
But that little thought in my head still remains...