A crucial week for the Gunners

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
December 7th, 2004 • 3:28 am

It’s a crucial 6 days for the Gunners, whose recent slips have cost them the leadership of the English Premier League and forced them to fight till the end in the Champions’ League, while their EPL rivals Chelsea and Manchester United can afford to field a reserve team and rest key players because they’ve already qualified for the next round.

And then Arsenal have to play against Chelsea, precisely, at Highbury on Sunday.

Overall, Arsenal have a good track record against their London rivals. But things have changed, and Jose Mourinho seems to have built a nearly impregnable fortress with the limitless funds of his Russian boss. They also have the psychological edge, since they now have a 5-point lead in the league and did beat the Gunners at Highbury in their last encounter in the quarter-final of the Champions’ League last year.

As The Guardian‘s Kevin McCarra writes with good insight in a recent article, the Gunners are like no other team in the EPL and, while their refusal to “compromise style for the sake of steel” can be disappointing and infuriating at times, it’s also one of the main reasons why they are so admired.

If they ever manage to win the Champions’ League under Arsène Wenger, it will be a stupendous achievement, because all too often in such major competitions style and technical skill become a secondary factor and the major clashes are disappointing. There are exceptions, of course, but I don’t think anyone would argue that FC Porto or the national Greek team were particularly pretty to watch or even entertaining.

Chelsea are scoring lots of goals these days (after a more than tentative start of the season), but few of them stick in the memory as having been particularly spectacular. The Gunners, on the other hand, have already scored several sublime goals, including the one that Vieira scored in the 2-1 defeat at Anfield last week.

Arsenal’s Champions’ League game will be televised here in Canada, but with a 20-hour delay, which means that I won’t be reading any football sites these evening or tomorrow morning. As for the Chelsea game on Sunday, it’ll be on pay-per-view, which is rather pricey, but it’s hard not to splurge for such an important game.

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