Quietly ecstatic having co-commentated on the weekend’s most momentous victory, former Chelsea star Pat Nevin had no difficulty when it came to writing this week’s column…
Before the Arsenal game started on Saturday morning I felt a strange confidence on the team’s behalf. Having been to the Spurs v Arsenal game the week before I felt the Gunners were a long way off their best form. They did win 1-0, but Spurs were the better side and Arsene Wenger’s men had seriously ridden their luck throughout. On top of that they were turning up at Stamford Bridge without Walcott, Wilshere, Ozil and Ramsey, arguably their four best creative players this season.
On the team notes in the matchday programme I said I thought it was a certainty that Flamini would start alongside Arteta, an obvious ploy to stop Chelsea’s marauding attacking midfielders. When the team sheet showed that Oxlade-Chamberlain was the player likely to play in there I thought it an incredibly cavalier move. He isn’t a specialist in that role and this is Chelsea at Stamford Bridge; it was brave bordering on foolhardy in my opinion. I said as much on BBC Radio 5 Live before the game and it turned out to be one of Arsene’s worst decisions in his 1000 games in charge.
The rout in that area was apparent in the first few seconds when Arteta was dispossessed by Oscar and by the time the game had settled down we had scored three and made innumerable chances, utilising the knowledge of that particular weakness. I was further astounded that it took Arsenal until half-time to rectify the problem by bringing on Flamini and of course by then it was too late, they were down to 10 men and the score could well have been even more embarrassing than it was by the time the referee blew the final whistle. There was even a time when you thought this could go as high as eight, and maybe it should have.
In actual fact I doubt there was much Arsenal could have done to beat Chelsea on the day, but the fact that the team sheet read more like a football suicide note made it that little bit easier. I could never imagine Jose making such basic errors, or more pertinently being so slow to rectify them. All of this however should not hide the fact that Chelsea were tremendous in the way they tore into the opposition.
Arsene Wenger is a fine manager who had a bad day at the office, few of his players played close to their best and even the referee had a shocker with the sending off, but these should not be the headlines. The main points were that Arsenal surely will not now win the title and Chelsea reacted perfectly to the improbable and unfair loss to Villa the week before.
On this page seven days ago I said that if we won against Galatasaray and Arsenal that blip would be put into sharp relief for exactly what it was, a blip. The form was and is fine, the run should be intact and the pressure on Liverpool and Manchester City will be sustained yet again. It was however a great day to be a Chelsea fan and a fantastic day to be at the Bridge.
Before the game the approaches were with alive with people trying to buy tickets, so much was expected of the occasion. Even the most devoted Chelsea fan could not however have expected such a comprehensive and historic victory. There was also the chance to sing one of the favourite Chelsea songs, which was on this occasion literally true, ‘Who put the ball in the Arsenal net? Arfur, Arfur…’
It was hard to pick out anyone as man of the match as there were so many fine performances. There would have to be I guess when you beat a title rival 6-0. I do think however that Oscar and Andre Schurrle set the tone in how to dismantle the visitors. Closing down at speed high up the pitch was obviously the game plan but they did it with such enthusiasm and relish from the start that the Arsenal midfield, or to give it its correct title, Mikel Arteta, was totally overwhelmed.
There is a risk that I sound as if I am gloating, so I will leave Arsenal alone now, or I’ll try to anyway. It is difficult though because there was so much pent up emotion for me during the actual game. If you are co-commentating for the BBC it is only fit and proper that you should be professional, show no bias and be as fair as possible throughout. Oddly I find it easy to do during the game, but afterwards I have a desperate urge to walk away, politely thanking my colleagues in a genteel manner en route, before getting round the first corner and immediately jumping in the air, pumping both fists screaming ‘Yeeeessss, Get in there!!!!’ We British can be so restrained, up to a point.
So Arsenal aren’t officially out of the race yet but it is hard to see them recovering in time, especially as Man City and Liverpool also decided to put their collective feet on the gas at the weekend. Maybe this is the point, three teams seem to be gaining momentum in the run in and one has been gently losing it for weeks.
As the title contenders thin out it and the chase to the line heats up, it will arguably be that little bit more difficult for Chelsea because we have the Champions League to cope with. Maybe having played a few more games than our title rivals already will negate that however. It all depends how far we progress in Europe and once more we find ourselves underdogs, but underdogs with a very good fighting chance. Paris St-Germain are an up-and-coming super power in football and I guess it is only a matter of time before they actually win the Champions League trophy.
They are very strong, are in great form and have the mighty Zlatan up front, but we have the home leg second which allows the opportunity to try stifling them in the first leg. It will not be easy and not many people could organise a side that could deny them in the French capital, but I think I know a man who might just be able to do that.
Not for the first time all the other English clubs are looking jealously at Chelsea in European competition while they have fallen by the wayside, which gives me a pretty good idea for this week’s quiz, which I will get on to in a moment.
In the meantime we can relax and sit back until the weekend and watch how Manchester City and Liverpool cope with the pressure of having to keep on winning. City in particular have a very challenging little run with Man Utd, Arsenal, Southampton and Liverpool as the next four games. As for Liverpool it may well be that the visits of the blues of Manchester and Chelsea are already playing on the minds of everyone from Brendan Rogers down, even if they will not admit it.
There is actually a part of me that hopes they keep winning until then so that it is still a shoot-out between us, I would love the shear drama of it all.
Last week I asked who was the first Chelsea player to score for us in an actual Champions League match at Stamford Bridge, not including qualifiers? It was of course back in 1999 when Dan Petrescu scored against last week’s adversaries Galatasaray. Those who answered Frank Leboeuf and are confused, that was not at Stamford Bridge, but away at Hertha. There is only one lucky winner and this week it has been randomly chosen as Danny Jackson from Edgware, Middlesex.
This week to have a chance of winning a prize signed by one of the players, could you tell me how long is it since any English side lasted longer in European competition than Chelsea? Answers as ever to me at email@example.com