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All Things Footie | Tuesday, April 20 | Jordan

Top (of the) Class

Maybe you were all expecting this on Monday? Well, I delayed putting pen to paper yesterday because I wanted to calm down properly before writing anything.

Arsenal’s performance last Friday, beating Leeds 5-0, was one of the most electric team performances I’ve ever seen. It’s easy to say that it’s all about Thierry Henry, and in many ways it is, but to ignore the part that the other 10 cogs in the Premiership’s most well oiled machine played is ignorant at best. Of all the goals, my favourite was probably Robert Pires’ early strike, the breathtakingly precise one touch passing from Pires, Bergkamp, Henry and Gilberto was absolutely incredible—and the finish wasn’t bad either. Henry’s four goals were all built on the backs of his teammates; the movement, the passing, the touch and the athleticism of every other player in the Arsenal line up—from Gael Clichy to Dennis Bergkamp—all contribute in equal measure to making this team great.

If Thierry Henry is a great footballer, but not as effective a striker as he could be, how come he’s scored 29 goals so far this season in the Premiership (eleven more than Van Nistelrooy)? If he’s Arsenal’s only player who scores goals, how come Robert Pires has 18 in all competitions (13 in the Prem)? If they can attack but are a bit dodgy at the back, how have they got the best defensive record in the Premiership?

If Arsenal manage to go the whole season unbeaten and lift the Premiership title it will be a more remarkable achievement than 99% of fans will give them credit for. Think back to August, when everyone wrote Arsenal off after United and Chelsea had spent the best part of £150m between them on players, and Arsenal had signed Jens Lehmann and Gael Clichy, and remind yourself how likely you thought Arsenal winning the Premiership was?

Have you ever seen a better team play football in this country? Because I haven’t.

Today is all about Chelsea. The Blues travel to Monaco tonight for what should be a fascinating battle with ex-Chelsea midfielder Didier Deschamps’ vibrant young side. Initially I called this match as a gimmie for Chelsea, Claudio Ranieri’s tight Italian back-line and Frank Lampard’s ruthless midfield will easily handle Monaco. Then I got thinking about the times I’ve seen Monaco play this season (which totals around four, all in the Champions League), and I can’t see it being so easy for Chelsea.

Fernando Morientes and Ludovic Giuly have the nous to open up any defence, and if anyone knows anything about containing an Italian-style midfield it’s Didier Deschamps. Without Damien Duff and William Gallas, Chelsea have suddenly lost a lot of pace in the side, and both Mutu and Crespo have been out of sorts recently. Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, while being a top class finisher of the ball, is not blessed with a particularly good touch, or the ability to move defenders in and out the way his teammates can. For me, like much of Chelsea’s season so far, it’s all going to come down to three young Englishmen—Frank Lampard, Wayne Bridge and John Terry. If they can all perform tonight, I fancy Chelsea to get a win, otherwise I think an Away Goal must be considered a triumph.

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