Arsène Wenger is eager for Arsenal to capitalize on their good form and take the opportunity to close the gap to Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table when the two London rivals clash at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. Chelsea lead the Premier League by 10 points with just six games of the season remaining, but Arsenal head the form table in 2015 and have won their last nine matches in all competitions. And Wenger is eager to not only keep the title race, at least theoretically, alive, but to show what his team is capable of achieving.
“Chelsea has the championship in their hands, what we can do is to get closer to them and we have an opportunity to beat them at home and we want to take it,” he said in his pre-match press conference.
“From a good run of form you get a good belief and we have good solidarity. We know that we have passed many tests recently where we were questioned. It’s the first time we’ve won away from home against Manchester City [in a long time] and things like that. We have passed many tests and we have another test on Sunday that we want to pass.”
For Wenger it also presents an opportunity to end a most unwanted record of never having come out on the winning side against Chelsea boss José Mourinho in 12 attempts. The two have often traded barbs in the media and in the last meeting between the clubs earlier this season Wenger shoved his counterpart on the sideline. Wenger, though, was eager to dismiss the history and rivalry between them.
“We have not always lost, first of all, in 12 attempts,” he said. “We have come close to beating them a few times and they’ve always had very strong teams.”
“It’s not a confrontation [of managers] it’s a confrontation of two clubs and of two teams. I’m not a great believer in history. I just think football is down to the fact that the performance on the day will decide the game and the result, so let’s focus on that.”
Mourinho famously refereed to Wenger as a “specialist in failure” last year, but even he was keen to play down the significance of their often fraught relationship.
“The only thing that matters is the football game,” he said, according to BBC Sport. “Chelsea For me, he is not my rival. He is the manager of a big club in the same city where I work. It is a big club with the same objectives we have.”
More of a concern to Mourinho may well be the fitness of striker Diego Costa. The Spain international has missed the last two matches through injury and was initially predicted to only be fit for the final four games of the campaign. But Mourinho has said he will make a late decision on his top-scorer’s fitness ahead of the trip to the Emirates Stadium. Still, despite being without Costa and another fitness doubt for Sunday, Loic Remy, Chelsea have found a way to win their last four Premier League outings, all by a single goal, to maintain their advantage at the Premier League summit.
“He’s a very important player for us but the reality is we are coping with the difficulties of every match without him,” Mourinho said of Costa. “I would love Diego to be back but I trust the other people.”
Chelsea G: Courtois
D: Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta
M: Ramires, Matic
Oscar, Fabregas, Hazard
Arsenal G: Ospina
D: Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal
M: Cazorla, Coquelin
Ramsey, Özil, Sánchez
Kickoff time: 11 a.m. EDT
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra