The way I see it - Arsenal v Chelsea

Last updated : 13 February 2004 By Jason Hogan

Thierry Henry already had a guaranteed place in Arsenal's Hall of Fame long before Tuesday night had come around. Now, as a result of the two goals he scored against the Saints, he has become a fully paid up member of another elite club - the 100 Club.

To be precise, Henry has scored 101 Premiership goals in 160 Premiership outings and when I tell you that it took the great Ian Wright 173 Premiership games to reach his ton, it speaks immeasurable volumes for a lad that has not always been a conventional striker by trade.

It's absolutely fitting that he reached this milestone against the same club that bore witness to his first Premiership goal back in 1999 though given the way they played on Tuesday, Southampton will be wondering what they did to deserve the punishment Henry dished out to them.

The Saints proved to be stern opposition and as I suspected beforehand they showed that they had no fear of being on a big stage. Phillips and Ormerod made sure that Kolo and Sol never had an easy ride and they were backed up to the hilt by some willing and highly committed teammates.

Nevertheless the Gunners, by way of attrition, gained three points and if anything, the happenings at Old Trafford on Wednesday night made our victory all the more satisfying.

Now, my fellow Gooners, time to switch the focus on to Sunday and our little meeting with Chelsea.

The winds of change that have been flowing through Stamford Bridge over the last six months gathered a little bit of pace over the last ten days or so.

Fresh from his spell on "gardening leave", Peter Kenyon took up his post as Chief Executive at Chelsea and he wasted little time in making his presence felt. Not only has he effectively put Ranieri on notice by stating that it would be considered a failure if Chelsea didn't win anything this season, he has also taken the first steps in levering Old Captain Birds Eye (aka Ken Bates) out of the club.

The comments Kenyon made have caused uproar in the press and amongst media pundits. Take last Sunday for example. I don't know about any of you out there but I am avid watcher of Jimmy Hill's Sunday Supplement on a Sunday morning.

The subject of Kenyon and Chelsea was on the agenda and to a man both Hill and his guests from the press condemned Kenyon for his comments stating that it was grossly unfair for a nice guy like Ranieri to be put under such pressure.

Well, well, well, what is going on here, I thought? Am I missing something here, I thought? I normally expect the press to be ignorant and two-faced but downright naïve? I never thought I would see the day.

It's time to start pointing out a few facts here. First of all, cast your minds back to just before Abramovich arrived last summer before for a minute. By that time Ranieri had been in charge for the best part of three seasons at Chelsea.

In those three seasons Ranieri was working with a squad that was built for one ultimately specific aim in mind - no, it WASN'T just to scrap for third or fourth place in the league every season and no it WASN'T built just to win the odd cup either.

The ultimate aim at Chelsea, even BEFORE Ranieri took charge, has always been, first and foremost, to win the Premiership. In pursuit of that aim over the last three seasons, Ranieri himself was given £40 million to spend and before Abramovich arrived and so much as flicked open his chequebook, Chelsea (according to their OWN club accounts) had squad with an asset value of just over £87 million.

Despite having all those resources, Ranieri and Chelsea of course failed to win anything never mind a Premiership title in that period. As every season went by, more and more excuses were made on the behalf of the club as to why they failed, media pundits were turning round and saying that Ranieri needs more time to do this and do that.

Then at the back end of last summer, Abramovich arrived. The press and the media loved it and when he splashed out an initial £120 million on new players, they not only made sly digs at Arsenal every time a new player was signed, they hailed Chelsea as London's biggest club.

Yet, whenever things have gone slightly pear-shaped for Chelsea over the course of this season, everyone seemed to be lobbying for Ranieri and Chelsea (in spite of all the resources they have) to be given yet MORE time to fulfil their potential.

Now, as a Gooner, there are words that I could use in reaction to that but they would be unprintable.

If the new batch of players were brought as wholesale replacements for the squad that was in existence at Chelsea back in the summer then fair enough but these new players have not been brought in by way of replacing what Chelsea had, they were bloody well ADDED to what they already had!!

Whichever way you dress it up, the fact is that £170 million has been spent by Chelsea since Ranieri has been in charge and what's more he is in charge of a squad that is worth (allowing for some short-term depreciation) well over £200 million.

Now, I know that if Arsenal had £200 million pounds worth of resources I then couldn't look at someone with a straight face and tell them that it doesn't matter if we fail to win anything major sooner rather than later and I will honestly defy any other football fan from any other club to be any different.

Unlike the press, who clearly do no have a high regards for Peter Kenyon, I have no particular opinion on him as a character but I think that he should be applauded for not coming in and putting up smokescreens or shying away from saying what a lot of fans up and down the country would be thinking.

I believe Ranieri is a nice guy myself but I think that he has to stop hedging his bets. One minute he says that Chelsea are not at the same level as Arsenal or United and it's too early for them to win the title, the next minute he says Chelsea are very serious about doing this and winning that. Either way, Ranieri and his players ARE quite rightly under pressure to succeed and the Italian knows it - nice guy or not.

The other thing Kenyon should be applauded for is taking steps to get rid of a certain Ken Bates. Now this is a chap I DO have an opinion on and it runs along the same lines as that of agent Pini Zahavi - though describing Bates as "revolting" was being almost diplomatic really.

I'm glad that Kenyon has removed his column from the Chelsea programme. So much drivel from his columns found their way into the press and I think that the football world will generally be a far better place when he has gone for good.

Now it's time to step off the soapbox and talk about Sunday‘s game itself. All I can say from an Arsenal point of view is that our approach to this game should be NO different to what it was against Boro in the last round.

I said it before that game and I will say it again now. We ARE the holders of this trophy and we ARE looking to make another piece of history. The last thing we want is for these S.O.B's to waltz into our own back yard and effectively take that all away from us.

Am I nervous about the game? Well, lets put it this way. I have never taken Valium to calm my nerves before any game against anyone (least of all Chelsea) and I'm not going to start now. Make of that, my friends, what you will.