As Chelsea are due to clash with Arsenal at the Emirates on Monday night I thought I would speak to Tony Merakli, editor of Gunnersphere.com, to see what his thoughts were on the upcoming derby.
Here is what he had to say:
The title race seems wide open at the moment and some would suggest it is Arsenal’s best chance to win it, do you agree?
Arsenal always has a chance of winning the title as they are one of the best teams in the Premier League. I think this season is probably our best chance in a long time. A lot of our rivals have dropped points, as have we, but we are still in the mix. We have come out of our ‘nightmare’ month (November) in good fashion for once and look to be in good shape in regards to injury problems. I’m confident we can win the title this season, but we need to acquire some reinforcements in the back-line. Is it our best chance to win it since 2003? I would say so.
However, some cite your form against the bigger teams as a potential stumbling block, why do you think you’ve struggled in high profile clashes in recent years?
You’re right we always seem to struggle against the bigger teams in the league. I think this is occurs due to our players not stepping up. Some of our top players like Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Perise and Samir Nasri seem to go missing on the bigger occasions, I don’t know why, but they do. I also think some players should focus on the match rather than stir the pot in the press. Some fans may say we are not good enough to compete with the likes of Chelsea’s and Manchester United’s, but I don’t see it that way. We usually play all the football, but evidently, come out short against the big boys which is frustrating.
Do you think you can turn it around against Chelsea?
Yeah of course we can. At Stamford Bridge this season we played really well, but lost to a lucky flick goal from Didier Drogba, and a superb free-kick from Alex. Fortunately for us, it was early in the season, so it didn’t have much impact in terms of winning the title. I feel we have the quality to beat Chelsea, especially at the Emirates this Monday.
Is your squad good enough to continue a title charge for the remainder of the season, or do you think you need to strengthen in January?
Our attack force is second to none and possibly the best in the Premier League, but this can’t be said about our back-line. It’s obvious to fans and pundits that our defence has let us down this season and is no doubt the weakness in our team. I think we have done well up to this point considering we lost Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie and Thomas Vermaelen for long periods already this season. We have a great squad, but do lack a dominant centre-back and goalkeeper within our ranks. I would like to see Wenger strengthen the back-line this January, but doubt very much he will.
Thomas Vermaelen, arguably your best defender, has suffered yet another injury setback and will be absent on Monday, how big of a miss will he be?
This is a massive lost to us, which in turn, is a big gain for Chelsea. Unquestionably, Thomas Vermaelen is our best defender and without him our defence has looked shaky over the past couple of months. I feel Vermaelen is our only defender that is capable of containing Drogba, so to lose him is detrimental to our back-line and hopes of keeping a clean sheet.
Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas could be back for the clash against us, how important could they be for this game?
Very important. Fabregas is our talisman, whilst Robin Van Persie, on his day, has to be considered one of the best strikers in the world. It will be a huge boost to the fans and team to see these two in the line-up against Chelsea. I just hope they are back to their best and can deliver what they are capable of on the day.