The way I see it - Chelsea v Arsenal

Last updated : 24 March 2004 By Jason Hogan

I know from bitter experience as an Arsenal fan that what you want and what you actually get are often two very different things. I wanted to see us give Sam Allardyce's team a right good hiding because although Allardyce is held up as one the darlings of the football media, I personally do not have any time for the bloke.

As things turned out, the game against Bolton was a virtual re-run of our game against Charlton three weeks ago in that we made a pretty rip-roaring start and then conspired to do everything short of throwing victory away. Still, it would be a little churlish to grumble when you consider what we have achieved by way of victory and I'm not talking so much about the records we have equalled or bettered but the fact that we have seen off the two teams that put the biggest dents in our title quest last year in successive matches.

These successive victories cannot be understated in terms of their value. Whilst it would be true to say in broad terms that games against the likes of Bolton and Blackburn are no-win situations for the Arsenal, the fact is that you only have to go back to this time last year, when we only picked up a point from both, for proof of how confidence can be affected when you fail to get the results that are generally expected of you.

With another win on the board and another set of records already in the bank, the Gunners, effectively in football terms, now have to run the gauntlet. We have to face United in two back to back games but first of all, we have to play Chelsea - AGAIN.

You know something, after I had got over the initial sense of exasperation I felt at seeing the Gunners draw Chelsea in the Champions League I was determined to try and look at this tie objectively- but not any more.

It all started just over a week ago when I read an article by Jonathan Pearce in the Sunday Mirror. Now there are plenty of pious, bigoted journalists that also do a mean job when it comes to being two faced and disrespectful. Having read the article in question, Pearce well and truly put himself into that particular Hall of Fame.

I will be making further references to that article over the next couple of weeks but for now, to cut a long story short, this guy made it perfectly clear that he didn't give tuppence for Arsenal's chances of winning anything earlier on in the season. He was one of the many that were claiming that Arsenal had neither the financial clout off the pitch nor the squad depth on the pitch to do anything and he proudly tipped Chelsea to take all before them this year.

Then, having found it hard to stomach watching Arsenal threatening to confound every word he said, Pearce suddenly produced a piece giving everyone his "learned" opinion on what Arsenal now need to do in order to join "the pantheon of the true greats" in the game!

I couldn't believe what I was reading in large doses. For example he said and I quote "only if Arsenal beat Chelsea again, win the big one in Europe and can consistently leave their Premiership rivals behind them can they join the pantheon of the greats".

Now, I know a couple of Gooners that actually agree with what Pearce said on the face of things but I think that his sudden high minded sense of perspective reeked of a hypocrisy derived from the fact that we have gone a long way to proving him (and many others) wrong against considerable odds.

Let's look at what he said a little closer. Why, for example, did he make a specific point of saying that we have to beat Chelsea again? After all, if we have any chance this season of joining "the pantheon of the greats" as he puts it and winning the "big one" then surely the Arsenal have to look at a far bigger picture, a picture that extends way beyond playing and beating Chelsea again.

I suppose that you are always asking a lot if you expect a journalist/broadcaster like Pearce to eat a little humble pie. Mind you, this is a man who for years has often romantically referred to Chelsea as being the Manchester United of the South and this is a man that openly considers Ken Bates as a friend. And when you consider the fact that Bates was not exactly someone that respected the Arsenal I suppose that it's hard to expect certain like minded "friends" to do the same.

Ah, but there is a sting in that tale, you see. Pearce and many others in the media have effectively given a Chelsea a clean slate going into this game. Even Peter Kenyon, their new chief executive, has been shouting his mouth off to this effect claiming that all that has gone before this season will mean nothing come Wednesday night.

This, my fellow Gooners, means that the Arsenal are effectively right back where they started when we first met this lot in the league at Highbury last October - in yet another no-win bloody situation.

Chelsea already have the sympathy vote from the press and the media because if Arsenal win this tie, everyone in the media will say "So what? Chelsea were affected by all the uncertainty surrounding Ranieri and the unfair treatment he is getting". And, if push comes to shove, Chelsea can always scuttle back under their stones using the old chestnut about the need for time and for the team to gel.

However, if Chelsea win the first leg on Wednesday night, the press and the media will have a field day and if they happen to win the tie outright, the press and the media will declare a national bank holiday.

All that the Arsenal can do is remember how much we were built up last year only to be knocked down, how people like Pearce used this lot as a tool to slate us in the summer and, above all, what our OWN objectives are in all of this.

I don't see games like this as a test for Arsenal; I see it as an opportunity. I personally believe that if Chelsea are going to beat us over all in this tie they will have to not only win the first leg but stop us scoring in the process.

On the other hand, I think that the Arsenal have a chance to put conjecture aside by getting a result down at the Bridge on Wednesday night. We have got some pretty sweet results over this lot this season. What I would give for us to get another one.